Everyone knows that sake is the most famous alcoholic import from Japan, though locally it’s actually called nihonshu (sake just means “liquor” in Japanese). Nihonshu, or Japanese rice wine, is one of the most popular drinks in Japan, so where better to drink it than in one of the nation’s most historic and lively cities? Here are the best bars to sip sake at in Osaka.
Sake may inarguably be Japan’s most famous liquor, but it can be difficult to take your first steps into the world of sampling it. Fear no more – Hana Sake Bar is an English-speaking sake bar. It is stocked with sake from all over Japan, including ones that are from small breweries. The establishment offers fantastic sake tasting that is the perfect experience to initiate you into the world of sake. Or, if you are a veteran sake drinker, it gives you the chance to try non-chain brands that are difficult to find elsewhere.
This unassuming shop near Horie is home to some of the best sake not only in Osaka but in the country. That’s because the Shimada family, the owners, have traveled to over 250 (and counting) national breweries and sampled what they have to offer. Enter the shop at street level and ask for a sake tasting (using English should work) to enter the store’s real draw – the subterranean sake cellar stocked with the best brews Japan has to offer. Here, guests can sample various grades of the liquor for only 210 yen (US$2) per tasting. Bar food made specifically to complement sake is also available for 210 yen per serving.
Located on the Dotonbori, this local shot bar is a perfect place to stop when you need a break from sightseeing. Sample from an extensive selection of sake for only 300 yen (US$2.75) per glass. This bar serves food as well, most notably their (cooked) beef sushi, which is made from fresh meat that comes straight from the company’s farm in nearby Mie. M300 is English-friendly and has free Wi-Fi.
This Kyobashi sake bar has an incredible nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) special – for only 450 yen (about US$4) you can drink all the sake you want for half an hour. However, thirty minutes might not be long enough, as there are around 200 different handpicked bottles to try. Luckily, guests can extend the plan as many times as they wish! The friendly staff is happy to suggest which sake will pair best with the food you order.
FUJI is one of the most casual and interesting sake spots in the city. Located in Nipponbashi, this friendly shop doubles as a self-serve bar. Guests can pay between 2,000-3,000 yen (about US$20-30) depending on the plan for all-you-can-drink access to the refrigerators stocked with over 200 bottles of sake. Guests are also allowed to bring in their own food, so stop by the nearby Kuromon Market and stock up before popping in.
Yet another shop with an all-you-can-drink sake plan is Kura Bar, a warehouse bistro and bar in Umeda. This bar seeks to create a marriage of sake and food, so many of the dishes are paired with sake and even cooked with it. Here, the nomihoudai plans come with the meal course plans (which run around 3,000 yen (US$27)), so a trip here may cost more than the others on this list, but paying an extra 1,000 yen (US$9) for all the sake you can drink isn’t a bad deal. This “hideaway” bar has an extensive menu and private, Japanese-style rooms.