Just as Japan promises a variety of traditional dishes to suit any palate, so too can you discover a number of delicious beverages as you travel the length and breadth of Japan’s many islands.


Nihonshu (Japanese rice wine) is better known around the world as sake, a clear-coloured Japanese alcoholic drink. No other drink, aside from our famous tea, better sums up Japan. You will discover many commendable sake breweries when you visit, particularly in Niigata prefecture, which is also known for good quality rice.

Sake typically has an alcohol content of between 13% and 16% and can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways, which is part of its appeal. Certain sake are best served hot or cold, so don’t be afraid to ask which sake is best, based on your preference. You can learn about the sake-brewing process at the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum in Kobe.


Shochu is another Japanese alcoholic drink that has been gaining popularity over recent years. Predominantly made in the Kyushu region, shochu was once a poor man’s drink but improved distilling methods have improved its quality and taste.

With a typical alcohol volume of 25%, shochu is a stronger alcohol than sake, and whilst it can also be distilled from rice, it is usually made from sweet potato or barley. It can be drunk on the rocks (with ice), diluted with hot or cold water, or mixed with oolong tea or fruit juice. Chuhai is a premixed drink, made from shochu, soda and flavourings such as lemon or apple.


Umeshu is a sweet liqueur made from steeping ume fruits, a sort of Japanese plum. The versatility of the drink means it can be served any number of ways, often on the rocks as well as in cocktails or mixed with soda. As if to prove its versatile nature, umeshu can even be paired with Japan’s iconic green tea!

The sweet drink has a typical alcohol volume of between 10% and 15%, so it’s a wise alternative to sake and shochu for those keeping an eye on their alcohol intake.