From sake vending machines to sake baths, immerse yourself in Niigata’s famous produce from 3 convenient locales.
? This location is in Niigata Prefecture — GaijinPot Travel’s No. 1 place to visit in 2018! ?
You’ve come to the right prefecture for the No. 1 rice in the country. However, the mission won’t be complete until you sip world-renowned sake (Japanese rice wine) brands from Niigata.
Located inside three major JR stations in Niigata, Ponshukan is a sake “theme park” where you can sample leading local sake brands, purchase sake-related goods, and even soak in a sake hot spring bath.
Photo by: Cara Lam
There are three Ponshukan shops in Niigata: inside Echigo-Yuzawa station, Nagaoka station and Niigata City station. All of them feature a sake-tasting corner. For only ¥500, you get five coins, each of which gives you a full shot of rice wine. Simply insert the coin into the small sake vending machines, press the “start button,” and watch the wine flow.
Ponshukan offers 117 different brands of sake produced by renowned breweries all over Niigata. Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start, there are lists and rankings of recommended sake to offer insight. Each vending machine is accompanied by a brief description of the taste and texture of the brand, and a small map of where the brewery is located. You may also find information boards in the sake-tasting corner giving advice on how to pair rice wine with food.
The sake offered for tasting can be purchased in the adjoining souvenir shop. Other products such as crafted sake cups, soy sauce, pickled foods, snacks made from top local Koshihikari rice and many local specialties can also be purchased there. The sake sold at Ponshukan are of top quality, and the price obviously varies depending on the size of the bottle. Generally speaking, you can find sake ranging from ¥1,000 to ¥5,000.
In the Echigo-Yuzawa Ponshukan branch, you can even bathe in a hot sake-infused onsen (hot spring). The sake has been specially blended and added to the slightly alkaline bath. The ever so slightly alcoholic contents of this bath encourages better blood circulation and smoother skin.
When you pass through Niigata, make sure to warm yourself up — whether by drinking or bathing — with top-quality sake.