Tokyo has a vibrant drinking scene – and that's not just because the city has an insane number of bars and izakaya. The country is a prolific producer of alcohol, from amazing sake and exceptional whisky, both of which Japan is already known for, to craft beer, artisanal gin and domestic wine, all of which are booming at the moment.
So naturally you'll want to bring home a bottle of Japanese spirit as a momento from your trip. Whether you're a collector or an enthusiast, these liquor shops in Tokyo offer extensive collections of rare bottles, from gift-ready one-cup sake to limited-edition Japanese whisky and more. Best of all, most of these speciality shops even offer tasting for around ¥100 – so you can explore new labels before deciding on a purchase, or three.
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Hidden deep in Nakano, this bottle shop has been in business for over 60 years. It started out as a food store but the shelves are now stocked with a dizzying variety of Japanese sake. Since the manager has a passion for camping and enjoying sake on-the-go, over 120 kinds of single-serve cup sake dominate the shelves. These iconic mini sake (180ml) feature imaginative label designs and are priced affordably, between ¥300 and ¥500, making them perfect as souvenirs. Don’t forget to browse the snack selection – the smoked pickled radish is a treat with cream cheese, and makes for a phenomenal pairing for any sake or wine you find in-store.
A 10-minute walk from Shibuya Station, this jack-of-all-trades outlet with its flashy red entrance offers a wide range of liquors and spirits, especially whiskies from internationally renowned distilleries as well as the store’s own house label. There’s also a comprehensive selection of wines, which are kept at optimum temperatures. Also, don’t look past Shinanoya’s superb selection of cheeses not commonly found at run-of-the-mill grocers.
Whether it’s sake, shochu, beer, spirits or wine (domestic or imported) you’re after, this elegant bottle shop in Ginza Six fits the bill. You’ll be spoilt for choice: Imadeya Ginza carries between 400 and 500 types of sake, plus up to 500 varieties of other liquors. It’s also one of the best places in Tokyo for tracking down rare, boutique booze. Think shochu aged for 11 years, with a taste that errs on the side of whisky; vodka made from rice; sparkling sake; and gin from Hiroshima infused with Japanese cypress, local oyster shells and cherry blossoms. The neatly organised refrigerators and shelves have English labels, and knowledgeable English-speaking staff are on hand to assist you.
The Ginza outlet of Liquor Mountain, which has over 180 locations throughout Japan, certainly lives up to its name with an impressive selection of Japanese and international whiskies. Around 800 types of whisky are stocked here, including the rare and elusive Hibiki, which usually sells out moments after it hits the shelves each month. Having so many options can be a little overwhelming, so consult the in-house certified whisky experts and ask for a tasting before you decide – most bottles in stock can be sampled from just ¥100.
Located in underground shopping mall Yaesu Chikagai, right by Tokyo Station, Hasegawa carries a truly extraordinary selection of sake, shochu, craft beer, whisky and other types of hard liquor. With exotic bottles of single malt decorating its shelves, the shop feels almost like a museum of booze – even better, it’s interactive. If you’re thinking of splurging on a vintage bottle, the staff may let you try before you buy: a ‘tasting cup’ can be had for ¥100-¥700.
This ground-floor shop in Ryogoku Edo Noren shopping centre specialises in Tokyo-made sake and food. It carries products from a host of breweries and distilleries, including sake from ten producers which have been around since the Edo era, nine authentic varieties of shochu from the Izu Islands (these are also known as the Tokyo Island Sake), and vino by three different wineries within the 23 wards. To help make choosing easier, you can sample some of the goods from just ¥300 per cup. For those looking for drinking snacks, the Tokyo produce trend continues, with Hachijojima's Kusaya cheese, Okutama wasabi pickles and Akikawa beef jerky on offer – a lineup that should make any Tokyoite proud.
Looking like a nondescript warehouse, Beer-ma is a bottle shop specialising in craft beers from around the world. You enter via the reception on the second floor, and the staff will admit you into the massive walk-in chiller on the first floor, where you take your pick from a selection of about 1,200 varieties (note: bring a jacket, it's cold in there). Head back up to the second floor to make your payment; there's also limited seating here for you to enjoy your purchase straightaway.
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