Sake Brewery Tourism in Kansai

Which area of Japan do you associate with sake production?
Niigata, a famous rice-producing region, or Akita and other Tohoku prefectures may spring to mind.
However, you may be surprised to learn that Kansai is Japan’s top sake production region in terms of volume. Yes, you heard it: Kansai is Japan’s preeminent sake production region, which includes Hyogo Prefecture (nationwide ranking: 1st) and Kyoto Prefecture (nationwide ranking: 2nd). Kansai’s ten prefectures (Shiga Prefecture, Kyoto Prefecture, Osaka Prefecture, Hyogo Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, Wakayama Prefecture, Tottori Prefecture, Tokushima Prefecture, Fukui Prefecture, and Mie Prefecture), including the renowned Nadagogo and Fushimi sake districts, are home to many sake breweries that are rooted in the community. Here, a variety of distinctive styles of sake are brewed by long-standing breweries with a distinguished history, small-scale breweries, breweries creating stylish sake catering for modern tastes, and more.

Sake Brewery Tourism in Kansai

  • 日本酒&観光の楽しみ方
  • The History of Sake
  • The Allure of Kansai
  • Tourism in Kansai
  • People of Kansai

The History of Sake

The history of sake in Japan can traced back to over two thousand years ago, to the time of the Nihon Shoki, one of Japan’s oldest extant chronicles. With the introduction of rice cultivation to Japan, sake came to be made as an offering to the gods. The Harima Fudoki, a written record of the Harima region (present day Hyogo Prefecture) dating to the Nara Period, mentions the word seishu, or “refined sake.” Likewise, the Nara Imperial Court began the first systematic attempt at sake production, promoting a method of brewing using koji (malted rice). This is said to be the origin of the sake we see today. Later, temples across Japan started brewing their own high-quality sake. Interestingly, in other parts of the world, too, alcoholic beverages spread in the same way.
Following this, sake also began to gain popularity among common people, and during the Edo period, was made widely available by merchants. In other words, while various theories exist as to the origin of sake brewing in Japan, the theory suggesting the Kansai region as the birthplace of refined sake is very persuasive. This is because early written records show how sake was being produced in areas of Kansai such as Nara and Harima (Hyogo), where it was offered to the gods in the region’s many temples and at the Imperial Court, which at that time was located in this region.