A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese drink more shochu than sake. Considered to be Japan's national spirit, Shochu is gaining great international attention with its rich traditions and taste profiles.

In the warmer southern region of Japan, Kyushu is the birthplace of shochu and is often cited as the "island of shochu". Venture deeper into Kyushu’s southwestern coast and we’ll find Miyazaki Prefecture (宮崎県)–the top producer of shochu in Japan. Join us to discover the secrets of Japanese shochu through a tasting tour of the best shochu distilleries in Miyazaki. 

 

What is Shochu?

Shochu are Japan's most popular alcoholic beveragePhoto by photoAC
Shochu is a traditional distilled alcoholic beverage that has over 500-year history. Shochu is usually compared to sake but shochu is distilled from a variety of ingredients like barley, rice, buckwheat, sweet potato, and brown sugar while sake is brewed from fermented rice. Shochu boasts a higher alcoholic content, ABV (alcohol by volume) of about 14% to 25%.. 

Shochu is made using koji through time-honoured and laborious techniques of fermentation. To preserve this culture, Japan has proposed the traditional shochu and sake making techniques of using koji mold for UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2022.

There are two main types of shochu: the authentic honkaku shochu (本格焼酎) that is produced by single distillation and has very pure and umami taste and korui shochu (甲類焼酎), a type of more neutral-tasting consecutive distillation shochu. 

Shochu distillery is called shuzo (醸造) and Miyazaki has 38 distilleries and many of them produce acclaimed shochu under the mastery of shochu master brewers, who are called toji (杜氏)

 

How to Enjoy Shochu?

Shochu is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways. Here are some ways to drink shochu in the true Japanese style.
Photo by photoAC

Shochu is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways. Here are some ways to drink shochu in the true Japanese style.

Firstly, shochu is most commonly enjoyed with water. This simple way of drinking brings out the best flavours of the shochu. Locals like to drink shochu mixed with hot water, which is called oyuwari (お湯割り). Pour the shochu into a cup of hot water and don’t stir. This rising steam from the hot water enhances the aroma of the shochu. Another way is to drink shochu with cold water (水割りmizuwari) as the alcoholic mixture becomes gentler and easier to drink. This method is highly recommended for barley shochu. 

Next, shochu on the rocks is a popular method to enjoy the alcohol as the melting ice gives shochu a more fragrant and mellow taste. Use a few large ice cubes and pour the spirit over them to savour the changing taste of the shochu. 

A fun way to enjoy shochu is to mix it with soda and sparkling water. Add lemon slices to the drink and enjoy its fresh and refreshing taste. Young drinkers welcome creative methods of enjoying shochu and shochu cocktails infused with ginger ale and tonic water are becoming more popular.

 

Top Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki

Are you tempted to try shochu? Let’s tour three established shochu distilleries in Miyazaki and find out more about their traditions and famous Japanese shochu brands. 

 

Furusawa Distillery (古澤醸造)

Masako Furusawa, fifth-generation resident of Furusawa Distillery
Masako Furusawa, fifth-generation resident of Furusawa Distillery | Photo by Wendy Ng

Nestled in Nichinan (日南), Furusawa Distillery is the only distillery left in Miyazaki that is making shochu in its original traditional mud-walled buildings (土蔵 作り倉 dozo zukuri kura), which are designated national Important Cultural Heritage sites. The family-owned distillery began their shochu-making journey in 1892 and Masako Furusawa (古澤昌子) is the fifth-generation president and a respected female shochu master.

 

Ceramic jars for fermentationCeramic jars for fermentation / Photo by Wendy Ng

The distillery has preserved its tradition of making koji with wooden trays (麹蓋 kojibuta) and used ancient ceramic jars half-buried in the ground for fermentation. The historical mud-walled buildings have thick walls that are instrumental in moderating the temperatures for the koji and fermentation processes. Try their hand-crafted Yaezakura shochu (八重桜焼酎) and indulge in an elegant shochu with a fine balance of smooth taste and texture. 

 

Furusawa Distillery (古澤醸造)

Address: 4-10-1 Odotsu, Nichinan, Miyazaki 889-3141
Access: 5-minute walk from Odotsu Station (大堂津駅)

 

Kirishima Distillery 霧島酒造

Kirishima Distillery in Miyakonojo City, Miyazaki PrefectureKirishima Distillery in Miyakonojo City, Miyazaki Prefecture / Photo by Wendy Ng

Kirishima Distillery is run by the Kirishima Shuzo Co., Ltd (霧島酒造株式会社), a respected company that specializes in honkaku shochu. Its illustrious history started in 1916 and they are well known for using 100 percent Kogane Sengan sweet potato (黄金千貫 コガネセンガン), mineral rich water Kirishima rekka-sui (霧島裂罅水), and black koji to make their famous Kuro Kirishima (黒霧島) shochu.

Fun fact: Shochu from Kirishima Shuzo was served at the Academy Awards’ Governors Ball. 

 

Shochu tasting in Kirishima Factory GardenShochu tasting in Kirishima Factory Garden / Photo by Wendy Ng

You can visit the Kirishima Factory Garden (霧島ファクトリーガーデン) and join a free tour to taste shochu samples and see the behind-the-scenes of their expanded Shibata factory to see how they integrate traditional methods with cutting-edge equipment and technology. During the tour, learn about their sustainability efforts where they recycle the shochu lees and sweet potatoes’ leaves to generate renewable energy. 

 

Kirishima Factory Garden (焼酎の里 霧島ファクトリーガーデン)

Address: 5480 Shibitacho, Miyakonojo, Miyazaki 885-0093
Access: 10-minute taxi ride from Miyakonojo Station (都城駅) or Nishi-Miyakonojo Station (西都城駅)

 

Yanagita Distillery 柳田酒造

Yanagita Distillery’s award-winning Aokage ShochuYanagita Distillery’s award-winning Aokage Shochu / Photo by Wendy Ng

Yanagita Distillery has been producing shochu since 1902 in Miyakonojo (都城市). Under the leadership of the fifth-generation president Tadashi Yanagita (柳田正), the family-run distillery specializes in barley shochu. Yanagita Distillery is the first shochu maker in Miyazaki Prefecture to win the top prize for its barley-based shochu, Aokage (青鹿毛), in the 2023 Kura Master Competition in France. 

 

Tadashi Yanagita, fifth president of the Yanagita Distillery
Tadashi Yanagita, fifth president of the Yanagita Distillery / Photo by Wendy Ng

Tadashi was a former engineer and a master brewer. He has preserved the traditions that make high quality shochu and also improve and modernize the distillery and operations. The distillery uses premium rice and sweet potatoes to make a wide variety of shochu. Interested in trying shochu from the distillery? You are in luck, as Yanagita Distillery exports internationally. 

 

Yanagita Distillery (柳田酒造)

Address: 14-4 Hayasuzu-cho, Miyakonojo, Miyazaki 885-0055
Access: 20-minute walk or 5-minute taxi ride from Nishi-Miyakonojo Station (西都城駅)

 

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Meet the author

Wendy Ng

Wendy (@whywendywrites) spent 2 life-changing years in Okinawa as part of the Japan and Exchange Teaching (JET) Programme. Now, back in Singapore, she dreams and writes about Japan. A compulsive-obsessive travel planner and foodie, she believes that when we know more (and eat more), we travel better.

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Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other than the mesmerising cherry blossoms painting the landscape, spring is the best season to experience...

Wendy Ng Food

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festivals in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing with it beautiful flowers, comfortable temperatures, and a time of celebration. While most travellers head...

Carissa Loh Festival

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing...

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in Japan
Sue Lynn

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich history and enduring cultural heritage, is particularly famous for its magnificent Japanese castles (お城 oshiro)....

Carissa Loh Culture

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich...

Sakura Karinto and Marui Suzuki
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions of celebrating this season is to enjoy “ohanami” (お花見)! Ohanami means “flower-viewing”, and this is...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions...

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the start of springtime in Japan. Spring is the prettiest and most enjoyable season with radiant...

Wendy Ng Spring

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the...

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese drink more shochu than sake. Considered to be Japan's national spirit, Shochu is gaining great...

Wendy Ng

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese...

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultural Icons
Sue Lynn

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition, Tohoku (東北), the northeastern part of Japan comprising of six prefectures – Aomori (青森), Akita...

Dawn Sim Culture

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition,...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you can unearth more culinary treasures spread throughout the country if you venture into the less...

Wendy Ng Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you...

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo for Ohanami
Sue Lynn

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you have witnessed the enchanting sight of cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) in full bloom. A cherry...

Carissa Loh Culture

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from Tohoku
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six prefectures, and is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and fascinating history. It’s a wonderful...

Carissa Loh Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six...

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souvenir & Gift-Giving Culture
Sue Lynn

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably seen the colourful and beautifully packaged boxes of local confectionery filling the gift shops along...

Carissa Loh Culture

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably...

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers from Akita by Kanaeya
Sue Lynn

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers...

The Tohoku Region is home to some of Japan’s best untouched nature. Take Akita as an example, a prefecture where lush landscapes meet premium rice fields. Renowned for its exceptional...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

March Maker's Story: Hand-grilled Rice Crackers...

The Tohoku Region is home to some of Japan’s best untouched nature. Take Akita as...

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from Takachiho (Winner of JR East Omiyage Grand Prix 2023 - Koshin’etsu Area Prize)
Sue Lynn

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from...

If you have been to Japan, you will understand the universal struggle of finding the perfect souvenir or omiyage (お土産) to bring home for your loved ones and colleagues. While...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

March Maker’s Story: Obuse Chestnut Snacks from...

If you have been to Japan, you will understand the universal struggle of finding the...

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival Celebrating Girls’ Day
Sue Lynn

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival...

Displaying exquisitely made hina-ningyo dressed in traditional Heian attire is the main activity associated with the Hina Matsuri | ©photoAC Have you ever heard of Japan’s Hina Matsuri (雛祭)? Otherwise known...

Dawn Sim Culture

Hina Matsuri (3 March): Japan’s Spring Festival...

Displaying exquisitely made hina-ningyo dressed in traditional Heian attire is the main activity associated with the...

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Through The Eyes of Japanese Writers
Sue Lynn

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Throug...

If you are a fan of Japanese literature, take a walk in the footsteps of literary giants and look no further than Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島), which lies just about 1-2...

Dawn Sim Travel

Inspired by Izu: Exploring Izu Peninsula Throug...

If you are a fan of Japanese literature, take a walk in the footsteps of...

Mount Fuji with tea plantation in the foreground
Sue Lynn

Mount Fuji Day (23 February): 5 Ways to Enjoy J...

Standing at 3,776m above sea level, the almost perfectly symmetrical Mount Fuji (富士山 Fujisan) is Japan’s highest mountain, and has become a symbol of the country, recognised worldwide for its...

Carissa Loh Travel

Mount Fuji Day (23 February): 5 Ways to Enjoy J...

Standing at 3,776m above sea level, the almost perfectly symmetrical Mount Fuji (富士山 Fujisan) is...

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in Japan to Meet Feline Friends
Sue Lynn

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in J...

Are you a cat (猫 neko) lover? If you’ve been to Japan, you might have noticed how beloved cats are over there. Think maneki-neko (招き猫) cat figurines that beckon luck,...

Carissa Loh Culture

Happy Cat Day (22 February): 5 Cat Islands in J...

Are you a cat (猫 neko) lover? If you’ve been to Japan, you might have...

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s Day in Japan
Sue Lynn

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s ...

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day is universally celebrated across the globe where presents like chocolates, candies, and flowers are gifted...

Wendy Ng Culture

In the Mood for Love: Romancing on Valentine’s ...

Love is in the air in February with Valentine’s Day! On 14 February, Valentine’s Day...

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the Izu Peninsula
Sue Lynn

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the...

With so many captivating attractions, you can spend days exploring the Izu Peninsula with your loved one, but where to start? Here are our top five picks for romantic dating...

Carissa Loh Travel

Romance Izu in the Air: 5 Romantic Spots in the...

With so many captivating attractions, you can spend days exploring the Izu Peninsula with your...

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo”, Cafes, and the Railway Museum
Sue Lynn

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo...

Located just about half an hour north of Central Tokyo, Ōmiya Station (大宮駅 Ōmiya-eki) is the gateway to the neighbouring Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県). It is also a stop on more...

JAPANKURU Travel

A Side Trip to Saitama: Discovering “Little Edo...

Located just about half an hour north of Central Tokyo, Ōmiya Station (大宮駅 Ōmiya-eki) is...

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi by Kameya Foods
Sue Lynn

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi b...

Are you familiar with wasabi (わさび)? Made from the Wasabia japonica plant, wasabi or the Japanese horseradish is a unique spice native to Japan and is a staple in Japanese...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

February Maker’s Story: Shizuoka-grown Wasabi b...

Are you familiar with wasabi (わさび)? Made from the Wasabia japonica plant, wasabi or the...

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan and Must-do Activities
Sue Lynn

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan a...

Winter season in Japan boasts some of its most amazing and picturesque sceneries, especially in regions lying alongside the Sea of Japan (日本海), otherwise known as Yukiguni (雪国), or Snow...

Dawn Sim Festival

Winter Wonderland: 7 Snowiest Cities in Japan a...

Winter season in Japan boasts some of its most amazing and picturesque sceneries, especially in...

Winter Wonders: 8 Winter Foods & Delicacies to Enjoy in Japan
Sue Lynn

Winter Wonders: 8 Winter Foods & Delicacies to ...

Winter in Japan is not just a season to enjoy snow activities and festivals; it’s also a time to indulge in winter cuisine as Japan is blessed with bountiful harvest...

Wendy Ng Food

Winter Wonders: 8 Winter Foods & Delicacies to ...

Winter in Japan is not just a season to enjoy snow activities and festivals; it’s...