If you’ve ever had a cup of nihonshu at a Japanese restaurant, chances are it was made by Gekkeikan. One of the world’s oldest companies, Gekkeikan has been producing sake since 1637 and established a US outpost in 1989.
In Fushimi, you’ll find the Gekkeikan Okura Museum (247 Minamihamacho, Fushimi, Kyoto, +8175 623 2056). This informative sake sanctuary is easily explored alone but it’s well worth booking a guided tour at least a day in advance. The tours are held in Japanese but there are signs in English to guide you along and you’ll also gain access to the small-scale brewery next door. Save time for a stroll around Fushimi, as the charming town boasts a slew of traditional houses, a moat and some small temples that – of course – have Gekkeikan sake barrels next to their entrances.
For years, sake – nihonshu in Japanese – was considered a dying tipple. However, international interest has seen Japan’s best-known native beverage experience a renaissance. If you’re looking to distinguish your daiginjo from your honjozo and learn more about the brewing process, head to Kansai – the region that includes cities like Osaka and Kyoto. It has all the indigenous ingredients needed for great brews: good rice and natural mineral water, plus cool temperatures during production season in winter. Here are our top picks for a two or three-day sake tour – from large producers to indie upstarts. By Kirsty Bouwers