Most people associate Japan with sake and not whiskey, but that’s about to change because in the last few years several Japanese distilleries began gaining the attention of international whiskey connoisseurs.
The first Japanese whiskey distillery opened its doors just outside Kyoto in 1923, and to date, there are about 12 such operational whiskey distilleries across the country.
Yes, it’s a small number compared to the ones in the UK and the US. Still, it’s important to remember that the Japanese have been winning an impressive amount of international whiskey competitions – many times even outperforming and beating the legendary scotch brands. Interested? Well, keep reading because we are about to reveal all the whiskey distilleries you can visit in Japan.
- The Fuji Gotemba Distillery
- The Hakushu Distillery
- The Mars Shinshu Distillery
- The Miyagikyo Distillery
- The Yamazaki Distillery
- The Yoichi Distillery
The Fuji Gotemba Distillery
The Kirin Fuji Gotemba distillery sits a mere 2-hour drive away from Tokyo city in a town called Gotemba, which is at the foot of the majestic Mount Fuji. The distillery, founded by Kirin Seagram Ltd in 1972, produces four high-quality whiskeys. And the best part about visiting this facility is that you can go on free tours – without having to make a booking.
Tours start with an educational video about the history of Kirin Whisky, followed by a tour of the facility and, finally, a well-anticipated visit to the tasting room.
|Address||970 Shibanta, Gotemba 412-0003, Shizuoka Prefecture|
|Phone||+81 550-89-4909||Admission Fee||Free|
The Hakushu Distillery
If you hop on board a train and head 2.5 hours west from Tokyo City, you will reach Hokuto in the Yamanashi Prefecture. On the hills of Mount Kaikoma, sits the Hakushu distillery, which is owned by the famous Suntory Group.
The Hakushu distillery opened in 1973 and is the second distillery owned by the Suntory Group, with the first being Yamazaki.
There are two options for touring the Hakushu facility. The first being a free tour where you show yourself around with no guide. The second option is a paid tour where you will be shown around on a guided tour with whiskey tasting included at the end.
|Address||2913-1 Torihara, Hakushu-cho, Hokuto-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture|
|Phone||+81 551-35-2211||Admission Fee||Free and paid options|
The Mars Shinshu Distillery
The Mars Shinshu Distillery sits up in the scenic Japanese Alps in a small town called Miyada. They first opened for business in 1985 but closed down in 1992 due to low domestic demand, only to be reopened again fairly recently in 2012. The facility sits 800m above sea level, which makes it the highest elevated distillery in Japan. They provide a free 30-minute tour, followed by whiskey, sake, wine, beer, and brandy tasting.
|Address||Miyatamura 4752-31, Kami-inagun, Nagano|
|Phone||+81 265 85 4633||Admission Fee||Free|
The Miyagikyo Distillery
The Miyagikyo Distillery has been around since 1969 and sits between two mountains near the city of Sendai. The location has been chosen specifically for its climate, clean air, and underground water source. On the free guided tour, you will be shown around the facility, learn about the history of the distillery, and sample all three varieties of their Nikka whiskey.
|Address||Nikka 1, Aoba, Sendai City, Miyagi 989-3433|
|Phone||+81 22 395 2865||Admission Fee||Free|
The Yamazaki Distillery
Sitting at the foot of Mount Tennozan in southwest Kyoto is the oldest whiskey distillery in Japan. The Yamazaki Distillery, owned by the Suntory Group, has been around since 1923 and has a fascinating history.
Sales were booming during World War 2 because of high demand from Japanese soldiers, and straight after the war, sales continued uninterrupted because so many US soldiers became big fans of the whiskey.
If you visit the facility, you will see an enormous library on the premises which houses around 7,000 samples of malt whiskey from all around the world. Access to the library is free but no drinking from the samples, of course. For a guided tour, you need to book in advance, and it costs $10.00 per person.
|Address||5-2-1 Yamazaki, Shimamoto-cho, Mishima-gun, Osaka, Japan|
|Phone||+81 759 62 1423||Admission Fee||Free and paid options|
The Yoichi Distillery
The Yoichi distillery, owned by Nikka Whiskey Distilling, opened in 1934. It’s in a small town called Yoichi, Hokkaido, which has a climate comparable to that of Scotland. The single malt whiskeys produced here are regarded by many as some of the best in the world – and its numerous international awards prove it. The facility offers guided and self-guided tours. Also, visitors will be able to taste all three types of whiskeys produced here.
|Address||Kurokawacho 7-6, Yoichicho, Yoichi-gun, Hokkaido, 046-0003, Japan|
|Phone||+81 135 23 2202||Admission Fee||Free|