Niigata Tour 2016: Feb. 28 – Mar. 4

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We will return to Niigata Tour in 2016.



    Imayo Tsukasa

  • Learn about sake from the world’s leading expert, John Gauntner, in an intimate class setting. Maximum group size is limited to fourteen people.
  • Explore the area and visit four breweries during the brewing season. The brewers and rice growers will share their philosophies and approaches with the group during the tours and at the meals.
  • Taste just pressed sake for the season right at the source and with meals.


  • Start with a welcome dinner, and taste the hospitality of traditional elite Niigata society, with exquisite local cuisine, sake and Geisha dance performance.
  • Discover how well sake pairs with French cuisine created by one of the best chefs in Niigata.
  • See local salmon preparation and a different approach to tea in traditional machiya shops in Murakami.

Sado Island

  • Visit the rugged, remote island of Sado off of Sea of Japan coast. Feel the distinctly different cultural heritage and taste sake style that breaks away from the mainland.
  • Sip sake inside the shaft of the Sado goldmine. Visit the old port town of Shukunegi. Pick up sticks and try your hand at Kodo drumming. On the last night on the island, soak in open-air onsen hot springs by the sea.
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    Itinerary – 5 days/5 nights

    February 28, 2016 (Sunday) Tokyo
    Arrive in Tokyo and check-in at Villa Fontaine Shiodome. Enjoy exploring Tokyo on your own. There’s no group activity today.

    Hotel: Villa Fontaine Shiodome
    Meals: none

    February 29, 2016 (Monday) Shibata, Niigata
    We will begin our sake journey with a sake lecture by John Gaunter in Tokyo. Travel from Tokyo to Niigata by JR Shinkansen in the morning. Our first visit of the journey is Shibata to visit ichishima Brewery where you will see the glimpse of the history of the Ichishima family who was one of the five largest land-owners in the country during the Edo period. After a warm welcome from the president of the company, enjoy lunch at the brewery’s guesthouse overlooking the peaceful snow-covered Japanese gardens. After the tour of the brewery and tasting, explore the museum where you see old brewing tools and family antiques from centuries ago.
    Tonight’s welcome dinner gives you a taste of the old elite society of Niigata with exquisite local cuisine, sake, and Geisha dance performance.

    Hotel: Hotel Okura Niigata
    Meals: Lunch; banquet-style dinner with sake and Geisha performance

    March 1, 2016 (Tuesday) Niigata, NiigataFukushimagata
    Visit Imayo Tsukasa Brewery right in the center of Niigata that once flourished as a center for sake and soy sauce breweries and fermented food makers. Imayo Tsukasa is one of a few breweries who only make junmai. Learn their philosophy and tradition. For lunch, enjoy simple onigiri rice balls made with highly praised Niigata rice. In the afternoon, a sake rice grower and organic farmer who supplies rice to Imayo Tsukawa will take you through the snow-covered Fukushima-gata slough where he grows rice from spring to autumn. During the snow season, the vast plains become the home of migrating swans. Tonight’s dinner is a pairing of French cuisine and sake.

    Hotel: Hotel Okura Niigata
    Meals: Breakfast; lunch; French and sake pairing dinner

    March 2, 2016 (Wednesday) Murakami, Niigata
    Travel to northern Niigata prefecture, Murakami, for culinary culture found only in this town. Murakami was known as a salmon center in the11th century, and even today you will find rows of dried salmon hanging from the eaves of traditional machiya houses and shops. In Murakami, your sake discovery is going to be about how the foods and traditions of the area had impacted the taste of sake. After a brief visit to Taiyo Brewery, sip locally-grown tea by the irori fireplace in an old machiya-style tea shop. We will sample several salmon dishes at lunch. In the afternoon, we drive from this coastal city deep into the snow country to visit the home village of the toji, master brewer, of Taiyo Brewery. Try yukimi-sake while viewing snow, and home made doburoku sake in a rural setting. At night, relax or explore on your own the small entertainment district of narrow alleys filled with restaurants.

    Hotel: Hotel Okura Niigata
    Meals: Breakfast; lunch;

    March 3, 2016 (Thursday) Sado Island, Niigata
    Next, you will travel by ferry and spend two days on the rugged, remote island of Sado off the Sea of Japan coast. The island was once a place of exile for court nobles and emperors as early as 8th century. Then, later in the 18th century, a goldrush brought workers and new riches. Due to its history and isolation, Sado has very distinct cultural heritage and a sake style different from other parts of Niigata. Upon arrival, one of the rice growers of Obata Brewery will take you through his fields to share his secret recipe for growing healthy sake rice. Learn how eco-friendly farming is applied on the island to save colony of the elegant Crested Ibis from the brink of extinction. Before visiting Obata Brewery, we visit one of the historic gold mines. Sake is matured deep in the shafts and you’ll get to taste sake right there. Finally, visit Obata Brewery to sum up their philosophy and approach to sake brewing.
    In the evening, simply relax at open air hot springs by the sea and enjoy sumptuous local catch from the sea with sake.

    Hotel:Yawata-kan Japanese style inn and onsen hot springs
    Meals: Breakfast; lunch; dinner with sake

    March 4, 2016 (Friday) Sado Island, Niigata
    We start the day by visiting the western tip of the s-shaped island. In the old town of Shukunegi narrow streets are lined with historic 17th century houses with black walls and roofs dotted with lines of rocks. Then, a car will take you to the Taiko Center for a total Kodo drum workout. Not only will you feel the deep striking sound of the drums in your body, but you get to drum along with a Kodo drum master. We will return to Niigata by ferry in mid afternoon. From JR Niigata Station, continue your own onward travel or return to Tokyo with the group.
    Meal: Breakfast



    350,000 JPY per person/double occupancy

    Price includes


    • Sake lecture by sake expert, John Gauntner in TOkyo.
    • Four special tours and tastings at sake breweries.
    • Accommodations for 5 nights based on double occupancy: 1 night at Villa Fontaine Shiodome in Tokyo, 3 nights at Hotel Okura Niigata and 1 night at ryokan Japanese style inn with hot springs.
    • 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 3 dinners. Dinners include selected sake from the breweries we visit.
    • Activities and entertainments: private Geisha performance, Kodo drum experience, and admission to Sado gold mine.
    • All transportation during the tour starting February 29th through March 4th. Travel to your next destination from Niigata Station on March 4th is not included.
    • A qualified tour leader who is an Advanced Sake Professional and a certified English Bilingual Interpretive Guide provides translation and informative commentary throughout the trip.


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    To be updated.

    Additional domestic travel arrangements and consulting are available by Michi Travel Japan. Please contact us at for more information.

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