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August 4, 2015

Sake Regions Update: Hokkaido and Tohoku

The posts about sake from Hokkaido and Tohoku are now all online in updated versions. Here is an overview:

The northern island of Hokkaido is known for its super-light and smooth sake. The climate is very cold in winter and in summer remains relatively cool, so sake matures more slowly. Brewers take in interesting ways advantage of their environment, for example by maturing sake in "ice caves."

North-eastern Japan or the Tohoku area is one of Japan's most interesting sake regions. The area is cold in winter, which causes a slower fermentation process. This in turn leads to a delicate, refined sake with a clean taste. There are of course also quite some regional differences within this large area:
  • Aomori: rather dry and fresh
  • Akita: somewhat sweetish due to the soft water 
  • Iwate: light and mild. Iwate is home to the largest brewers guild in Japan, the Nanbu Toji.
  • Yamagata: rather full-bodied
  • Miyagi: refined and quite dry sake
  • Fukushima: the Aizu region is rich and sweet, the Nakadori area is medium-dry and sturdy and the Hamadori area along the coast is dry.
Of course, modern breweries can freely select their own style and don't have to fit to the traditional style of their region, so this is just a very rough indication!

In total, there are 224 active sake breweries in Hokkaido and Tohoku (figures 2015).

Sake by Region: 
Hokkaido/Tohoku: Hokkaido - Aomori - Akita - Iwate - Miyagi - Yamagata - Fukushima
Kanto area: Ibaraki - Tochigi - Gunma - Saitama - Chiba - Tokyo - Kanagawa
Shinetsu/Hokuriku: Yamanashi - Nagano - Niigata - Toyama - Ichikawa - Fukui
Tokai area: Shizuoka - Aichi - Gifu - Mie
Kansai area: Shiga - Kyoto - Osaka - Hyogo - Nara - Wakayama
Chugoku area: Tottori - Shimane - Okayama - Hiroshima - Yamaguchi
Shikoku: Tokushima - Kagawa - Ehime - Kochi
Kyushu/Okinawa: Fukuoka - Saga - Nagasaki - Kumamoto - Oita - Miyazaki / Kagoshima / Okinawa