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Sake brewery tour: Watanabesahei Shoten in Nikko, Tochigi

Sep. 17. 2022
by Kyoko Nagano

I had a pleasure of visiting Watanabe Sahei Shoten (Watanabesahei sake brewery) in Nikko city, Tochigi prefecture last month with my sake friends and I’d like to share my experience.

Some might think Tochigi prefecture is far but it was only 2 hours away and it was not too far from Tokyo and has lots to offer. From a tourist perspective, I highly recommend people to visit the UNESCO world heritage site Nikko (very famous for Toshogu for sure) and Watanabe Sahei Shoten is very conveniently located, only a station away from Nikko and walking distance from either Shimo-Imaichi station or Imaichi station depending on where you are. Their google map is here so you might want to check it out how far it is from your location.

First of all, if you follow my instagram, sakeloversjapan – you have already seen my Instagram post there which I posted immediately after my visit.

Watanabesahei Shoten, photo by Author - the beautiful entrance of the brewery known for it’s brand Seikai and Nikkohomare

Watanabesahei was founded in 1842 and has been brewing sake for over 180 years and we were guided by Yasuhiro Watanabe, the seventh generation of the brewery. For those who worries about not being able to speak or understand Japanese, fear not! Yasuhiro-san studied English in Australia when he was high school student so his English is pretty good so you won’t have any problem communicating with him. In fact, for my foreign national sake friends from Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Singapore – he kindly explained everything in English. Also the sake making process is written in English so it is very impressive to me who has seen many breweries without English description.

Brewing process
After the rice get steamed, it gets cooled.
Showing how it can be temperature managed – Koji making (using the divider depending on the amount of the koji rice making)
Watanabe san explaining to us in front of the sake tanks
Upper level – if you go to the upper level and open the lid, if there is moromi, you will see the fermentation there (during sake making season)

Characteristics about their sake is, 90% of their sake is Junmai.

These 4 sake which we tasted were all fantastic. It took a while to open this Kassei Nigori sake (bubbly and a bit cloudy red, using ancient wild rice) but wow. It was very different from the other ancient wild rice sake which we tasted before. Very different, acidic and tasty. 25 year old aged sake was delicious too.

From left to right, Tokubetsu Honjozo Nikko Homare 25 year old aged sake, Shu – red color sparkling sake is Kassei Nigori namazake, NikkoHomare Junmai Ginjo and Seikai Junmai Daiginjo

For those who are interested in the sake tour, you can contact Watanabesahei Shoten directly and enjoy the same experience we had. 

Special thanks to Nearby Tokyo for providing information and go check it out if you want to know more about!
If you are interested in sake tours around Tochigi, you can check out