Rory Rutledge

Tasting Sake at Meishu Center

Discovering famous sakes from across Japan

Rory Rutledge
Rory Rutledge   - 3 min read

Coming in from Seattle and arriving at Haneda Airport, I needed a drink to wind down from that long, exhausting flight. I took the Monorail from Haneda to Hamamatsucho Station, and put my luggage in a locker. I left the station from the east exit and took a stroll around the area, I came upon a bright orange sign that seemed appealing because orange is my favorite color, and something about it seemed right.

This place is known as Meishu Center, a sake tasting bar. This isn't the kind of place where you would expect to see a rowdy crowd yelling at a soccer game on a big screen TV. This place, when not full of customers, is very laid back and has a good vibe. The normal customers are businessmen who like to see new faces, and will even speak to you like you're a regular.

In the store, there is sake from all over Japan, from Iwate to Miyazaki. The taste of every sake varies and is pretty fun choosing which one tastes the best. I have only tried 6 out of the many (over 100) brands and so far I recommend sake from Gunma, Saitama, Nara, Nagano, and Hiroshima.

At Meishu Center, you choose any bottle, with an info card hanging back to where you're standing. The staff will pour for you a 60ml sample. If you choose 3 (a set), they discount 100 yen. You can do as many sets as you want, just try not to get too drunk. Beer and Umeshu (plum liqueur) are available too. If you have found one that you like, you are welcome to buy a bottle to take home, or to your destination.

Snacks are available as well, they range from moray (yes moray) jerky, boar meat, mackerel, daikon, and special kinds of cheese that are meant to enhance the flavor of some sakes. While they are not necessary, they are encouraged by the staff to be eaten when you are drinking.

If you're looking to experience the taste of real Japanese sake, then I highly recommend stopping by Meishu Center if you are in Tokyo. Before coming here, I had no idea that sake came in such a wide and diverse range, because usually in American grocery stores, there are only two brands of sake that are available to buy. The taste varies from region to region. Whether dry or sweet, there is always something worth trying at Meishu Center. If you are worried about the language barrier, don't be! There is English speaking staff working Monday and Friday nights.

Rory Rutledge

Rory Rutledge @rory.rutledge