Enjoying Japanese sake is one of the great pleasures of living in Japan and there are a number of spots in the metropolis in which you can easily drink the day away. Here are some of my go-to spots for enjoying sake or having an izakaya-like meal from lunchtime. Be sure to also put the Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center on your radar as a great starting point if you are sake novice.
Small retail stores will usually have the casual tachinomi (stand and drink) option, which is a chance to sample before purchasing. Kimijimaya is an excellent sake shop based in Yokohama with branches in Ginza and Ebisu. The Ginza shop is tachinomi-style. I prefer the Ebisu shop in the JR Ebisu Station Atre building as it is bigger and there is seating. Flights of sake and small sake-friendly bites are available from 10am.
Kimijimaya. 10am-10pm. Closed Sun and Hols. Atre Ebisu West 4F 1-6-1 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku
Dassai is a Yamaguchi brewery famous for its sake made with rice milled down to 23 percent and also its lovely sparkling sake. In Ginza there is a sleek white shop, Dassai Bar 23, to enjoy small glasses of these — an ideal way to try the liquor, as these bottles can be pricey.
Dassai Bar 23. 11am-8pm. 5-10-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Ginza Kengyo Sake Cellar is a retail shop that also has tachinomi available in the store. The list includes sake, shochu, liqueurs and beer. Nomikuraberu (drink and compare) flights are available.
Ginza Kengyo Sake Cellar, 12pm-10pm. 3-8-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Niigata’s Hakkaisan is a brewery with a big portfolio of sake, from sparkling to matured. In Tokyo there are a few Sennen Kojiya retail shops that offer a variety of fermented products, including sake. There is a beautiful counter for sipping sake at Azabu-Juban.
Sennen Kojiya, 11am-9pm. 1-8-9 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku
Some antenna shops have jizake (local sake) bars where visitors can taste a variety of regional sake. In Nihonbashi both the Toyama and the Shiga antenna shops offer local sake at a bar in the retail shop.
(Toyama antenna shop 10:30am-7:30pm. 1-2-6 Nihonbashi-Muromachi, Chuo-ku)
(Shiga antenna shop 10am-11pm.; 2-7-1 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku)
Asakusa is home to the metropolis’ oldest Western-style bar, Kamiya Bar, which opened in 1880. I love it mostly for the ambience and older Japanese who seem to be reveling in the past. Start off with the brandy-based signature cocktail Denki Bran. The second floor is a casual restaurant with yoshoku (foreign) dishes like deep-fried oysters, potato salad, and fried chicken.
Kamiya Bar, 11:30am-10pm. 1-1-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku
While yakitori is mostly only enjoyed in the evenings, Iseya Koen-ten near Inokashira Koen in Kichijoji is open for lunch and is child-friendly. Dishes to complement your drinking include edamame, potato salad, sashimi and a variety of grilled chicken skewers.
Iseya Koen-ten, Tue-Sun 12pm-10pm. Closed Mon. 1-15-8 Minami-cho, Kichijoji, Musashino-shi
Know by Moto in Shinjuku is one of my favorite day-time izakaya for its excellent selection of sake and seasonal sake-friendly dishes like shirako (cod milt) or ankimo (monkfish liver). When I have chefs and friends visiting from out of town, we meet here for lunch. During weekdays there is an all-you-can drink for ¥1,000 (for 50 minutes) deal. Tell the staff what sake style you prefer and they will make great recommendations.
Know by Moto. 11am-11pm. 3-26-14 B1 Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku
Sake no Ana in the evening becomes a true izakaya. While at lunchtime it’s mostly filled with area workers for the lunch sets. What makes this Ginza spot so unique is its sake list, which features sake from every prefecture that makes it. There is also a sake warmer on each table. I love to start a meal here with sparkling sake, that comes in a wooden box with crushed ice and to include a hot sake at some point. Opens 11:30 a.m.
Sake no Ana Mon-Sat 11:30am-11pm. Sun&Hols 11:30am-10pm. Ginza Rangetsu B1 3-5-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku