Gekkeikan was founded about 370 years ago in 1637. Though Japanese rice wine is often referred to as saké in English, saké in Japanese refers to alcohol in general. In Japan, the preferred word for rice wine is “Nihonshu.“
Nihonshu has a very distinctive aroma and fruity sweet taste. It has an alcohol content of from 14 to 19%. Drinking chilled nihonshu in summer helps you feel refreshed after working and increases your appetite. In winter, hot nihonshu makes you feel warm and relaxed.
There are approximately 2,000 nihonshu breweries in Japan producing more than 10,000 products. Every brand of nihonshu has a unique aroma and taste of its own. If you would like to find out more about nihonshu and brewing, the Gekkeikan Okura Saké Museum may interest you.
Admission includes two small bottles of saké.
Jukkoku-bune is a boat that carried saké, rice and passengers on the Yodo River in the Edo period (1600-1868). The revived boat carries 15 passengers and the tour takes about 55-mins. round trip and runs in the Uji River where willow trees and saké breweries provide for pleasant scenery. These special boats depart from the back of Gekkeikan Okura Memorial Museum to the Fushimi Port Park.
Tickets: 1,200 yen, 600 yen (6-12 years old), 300 yen (5 years and younger); 10:00-16:20; No service on Monday between June and September (available if Monday is a national holiday); Access: Kintetsu Line, Momoyama goryo-mae Stn., or Keihan Line, Chushojima Stn.
Take a boat trip: http://kyoto-fushimi-kanko.jp/ship/
The Yamamoto Honke Brewery, which has been producing sake since 1667, runs brewery tours in English, complete with samples and the option to take a saké-cup making class.
For other saké experiences:
OZU, which opened autumn 2014, runs sake tastings and seminars where you can sip sake and tea and nibble on wagashi (Japanese tea sweets) while hearing from cultural ambassadors, designers, and tea specialists.
True saké novices would do well to visit Jam Bar. That it’s in a hostel shouldn’t be a deterrent; there are some 70 sakés in stock, with options like ginger- or yuzu-infused saké.
A must see is the film “Birth of Sake“ which is available on Netflix. http://www.birthofsake.com/