Wedged between Osaka and Kobe, the Nada Gogo (five villages of Nada) – Nishi, Mikage, Uozaki, Nishinomiya and Imazu – are known throughout Japan for their nihonshu production. Seeing as 30 percent of all sake produced in Japan is made in Nada, it’s one of the best places to indulge in a tipple.
All of the breweries here (a good 40 in total) rely on the mythical, mineral-containing miyamizu water, which flows from Mt Rokko, to create the region’s characteristic dry nihonshu. The western and central bits of the region are arguably the most interesting, with many old brewery buildings having been converted into museums.
Nada is relatively easy to get to, with both JR and Hanshin railways having multiple stations in the area. It’s a five-minute walk from Hanshin Sumiyoshi Station to the first brewery museum, Hakutsuru (4-5-5 Sumiyoshi-Minamimachi, Higashi-Nada, Kobe, +8178 822 8907). The free museum teaches you everything you need to know. Labels and videos in multiple languages explain the entire brewing process.
Next, visit Kiku-Masamune (1-9-1 Uozaki-Nishimachi, Higashi- Nada, Kobe, +8178 854 1029), a 10-minute walk east. Besides the sake samples offered in the shop, be sure to check out the amazing range of makeup and skincare products they have on offer. Sake brewers have exceptionally smooth skin due to working with the fermented koji and shubo (yeast) mix, and many breweries produce moisturisers, cleansers and balms with these ingredients so you can achieve the same astounding results.
Finally, trek down to Hamafukutsuru (4-4-6 Uozaki- Minamimachi, Higashi-Nada, Kobe, +81078 411 8339), the smallest brewery in Nada. The original brewery was destroyed in the 1995 Hanshin earthquake but reopened a year later. As a memorial, one of the signature brews is Kuzo, which means ‘open’ and ‘sky’. Tastings are available at the counter. Be sure not to miss out – simply ask the staff for recommendations.