3 Sake Brands from Niigata You Should Try

Regarding sake (酒), what has been spotlighted in recent years in Japan is, admittedly, Dassai (獺祭), which became a big hit several years ago.

The sake Dassai is brewed by a sake brewery in Yamaguchi Prefecture Asahi-Shuzo (旭酒造) and was presented to the former president of the United States Obama when he visited Japan.

Because of that, it is no exaggeration to say that, at present, Dassai is the most popular Sake brand in Japan. But concerning the production area, the prefecture where I live, Niigata, is one of the most famous.

3 Sake Brands Niigata Boasts

Niigata's Best Sake Brands

Niigata/新潟 is renowned for its delicious rice and prides itself on sake brands that are well-recognized and highly regarded nationwide. 

Among others, the following three names are best known to sake lovers because of their excellent taste.

Kubota (久保田)

Kubota Manju
First, Kubota is the top-grade sake produced by Asahi-Shuzo (朝日酒造), a sake brewery located in Nagaoka City, Niigata.

It has an exquisite taste said to have changed the image of sake, and few Sake fans don’t know the brand.

Kubota comes in 5 grades: Manju (萬寿), Hekiju (碧寿), Kouju (紅寿), Senju (千寿), and Hyakuju (百寿), and Kubota Manju is the best.

Manju is a Junmai Daiginjoshu (純米大吟醸酒), a type of sake made only with three ingredients: 50 percent or less polished rice, malted rice, and water, characterized by perfectly balanced umami with a mild flavor.

Koshi no Kanbai (越乃寒梅)

Koshi no Kanbai Kinmuku

Brewed by Ishimoto-Shuzo (石本酒造) in Niigata City, Koshi no Kanbai is one of the most renowned sake brands in Japan. It was a phantom sake before, and it since has been highly regarded.

Even now, the sake is difficult to obtain but is so popular that the products in the series are sometimes traded at premium prices on internet auctions and online shopping sites.

As with Kubota, Koshi no Kanbai is available in several grades, and Koshi no Kanbai Kinmuku/越乃寒梅 金無垢 is the top-ranked Junmai Daiginjoshu. 

Kinmuku features a refined taste accompanied by a delicate fragrance called Ginjoko (吟醸香) specific to the sake Ginjoshu (吟醸酒), including Dai-Ginjoshu.

Hakkaisan (八海山)

Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo
Hakkaisan is a sake brand from Hakkaisan-Shuzo (八海山酒造) in Minami-Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture. It is likened to a sibling of Koshi no Kanbai because the brewery has high brewing techniques.

The sake shown in the photo above, Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo, is a Junmai Ginjoshu (純米吟醸酒), a type of sake made from 50 to 60 percent polished rice, malted rice, and water.

The sake features a natural sweetness of rice, and when going down the throat, it gives a pleasant sensation.


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

9 Responses

  1. William Sakai says:

    Hi Tomo. My name is Bill Sakai. I live in Oakland,California near San Francisco. I am Sansei. My adult family and I will be visiting Niigata in June 2024 for 3 days. We are experienced sake drinkers. (My daughter is actually a certified Advanced Sake sommelier from Chicago). We are planning on visiting the Hakkaisan Shuzo at this time. I understand that the Kubota (Asahi Shuzo?) is closed to tours at that time.

    Do you have any recommendations for us to visit (sake breweries)? Thank you so much!

    William Sakai

    • Tomo says:

      Hi William,
      Thank you for commenting!
      Correctly, Hakkai Brewery is currently also closed to tours, but Hakkaisan Yukimuro (八海山雪室), a facility where winter snow is stored and is used as a natural refrigerator to keep food fresh during the summer time, is available, where you can try out and taste different varieties of sake. Also, you can see the same kind of facility at Tamagawa Shuzo (玉川酒造) named Yukikura (ゆきくら), which is also recommended!

      • William Sakai says:

        Hi Tomo! Thank you for your quick reply to my inquiry. Amazing! We will definitely look into going to Tamagawa Shuzo. Thank you for your recommendation. If you think of any others in the near future, please message me again. Thank you for such awesome assistance!

        • Tomo says:

          You are welcome!

        • Tomo says:

          If you have time to visit Nagaoka City, I think Ofuku Sake Brewery (お福酒造), known as a pioneer in sake production, is also worth visiting, whose founder Kishi Goro (岸五郎) invented 速醸酛 (Sokujomoto), which has been the base of current Japanese sake production. If you are interested, you can see the in-depth information in English on this site!

      • William Sakai says:

        Hi Tomo!
        So sorry to asking so many questions: Are there any other suggestions for breweries within 30 minutes taxi (or train) from Niigata sta you might recommend?

        Thank you for your continued patience!



        • Tomo says:

          No worries William!
          Then, you have only one option, Imayo-Tsukasa Sake Brewery (今代司酒造), founded as old as 1767. The brewery, located about 15 minutes by walk from Niigata station, will also be nice with English speaker guides!

          • William Sakai says:

            Thank you Tomo! That was already on my go-to list. Sooo excited to visit it.

            We were also planned to visit the Nishikiya Store along with the Kameda Watago Sake-ten. I know we will have a good trip in Niigata. Thank you again, for your help and advice.


            William Sakai

          • Tomo says:

            That is great!
            Have a wonderful time! We Niigatarian all welcome you!

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