The cruise company provided a shuttle but that took us from the dock to the Ginza shopping area. When I heard they were dropping us in Ginza, I got all excited because I what was there – one of my favorite sake tasting bars!
Fukumitsuya Sake Shop
One of my first stops off the bus was to stop into Fukumitsuya Sake Shop and Tasting Bar. This place is amazing and I’ve loved it since my first visit here in 2008. The style of the shop is clean, elegant and modern. They have a shop that sells Fukumitsuya brand sakes such as Kagatobi and Kuro-obi along with artisan made sake carafes and cups. In addition to the retail side, the shop also features a tasting bar to sample sake and snacks.
Since it was before noon, I sat down at the bar and looked at the snacks they offered. Turns out they offer a Sake infused ice cream served with a shot of rich, aged koshu on the side. I was skeptical, but the pull of ice cream was too much to endure so I went for it. Turns out the ice cream was delicious, but the Koshu on top was utterly fantastic and turned this little treat into the breakfast of champions.
After a little Sake Ice cream powered shopping spree, I headed off on a a little urban safari hunting for the elusive tokyo cup sake.
Ajinomachidaya Sake Shop
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love sake, and that I really love cup sake. All my research indicated that there was a small but hard to find sake shop that specialized in cup sake… and come hell or high water, I was going to find it.
After a lot of help from a local resident and a little boost from Google maps, we arrived at Ajinomachidaya Sake Shop.
The shop is small with a real neighborhood feel and crowded to the brim with delicious sake. I introduced myself to the owner Mr. Kimura as a sake samurai on the hunt for cup sake and he showed me his wall of refrigerators dedicated to cup sake as he welcomed us very warmly indeed.
Kimura-san obviously has a true sake spirit and quickly broke out some samples for us to try as well as giving us a tour of his reserve sake refrigerator for his super premium brews and his large storage space for all the remaining sake, cup sake and shochu. I picked out about 12 sake cups to take with me. As I don’t do so well with the Kanji, i’m not 100% what I ended up buying but I stuck close to Kimura-san’s recommendations.
I loved this little sake shop and look forward to the day that I can return. As we bid Kimura-san goodbye, I was looking forward to one more big tokyo adventure!
Sawanoi Brewery Tour
Day 2 in Tokyo, we found ourselves meeting up with Etsuko-san of TokyoFoodcast fame to trek to the outskirts of Tokyo to visit that one of that prefecture’s most famous breweries: Sawanoi.
We were met at the Brewery by Mr. Masaaki Kodama, Director of Sales who gave us an extensive tour of their impressive facility. What strikes you first upon visiting Sawanoi is the extreme beauty of the setting. The Brewery is nestled on a hillside with a shop, famous tofu restaurant and picturesque view of the valley with a tranquil stream. Across the quaint bridge is a Shrine built on the opposite hillside. It’s idyllic, charming and very well worth a visit.
Kodama-san started our tour in the brewery area with a visit to the unique and state of the art rice steaming and cooling machine. It made it clear from the get go, that Sawanoi makes their sake on a larger scale than smaller breweries. Everything at Sawanoi was impressive and Kodama-san was an expert tour guide to the facility.
After our Brewery tour, we had a noon reservation at Mamagotoya Tofu Restaurant. The views from our dining room at Mamagotoya were breathtaking. We had a white heron hunting for fish in the stream below as we enjoyed course after course of delicious tofu based food. The setting, food and overall ambiance was a 10 out of 10. If you get to Tokyo, I would recommend you take the time to visit Sawanoi in any case. Charming doesn’t begin to describe…Along with all our delicious food, we were gifted a bottle of Sawanoi Souten Junmai Ginjo Nama Sake. This sake was flowery and fresh with a delightful sweetness on the palate. It made a delicious match to the tofu dishes at Mamagotoya.
As we bid farewell to Kodama-san and headed back to the train and to the ship, I took a moment to look around and take it all in. I wanted to truly appreciate everything I had seen at Sawanoi. What a fantastical place. My special thanks to Kodoma-san and Sanwanoi for receiving us so kindly and for all their hospitality, which I won’t soon forget.
Next it’s back to the boat and on to Osaka! I’m looking forward to the sake adventures that await in that city.