Jan. 11, 2018 UPDATE
Winter in Kyoto is cold but actually great for sightseeing!
Get through the cold winter in Kyoto with a hot cup of sake!
For those who like sake, you have to have a few cups when in Kyoto, and buy a few bottles to take home with you. And in winter, it’s time to enjoy hot sake, known in Japanese as “atsukan.” Sake is heated in a server called “tokkuri,” from where it’s poured into small cups known as “ochoko” from which it is drunk. The sake is drunk as-is, and no water is usually added. The temperature “atsukan” is usually served is 50 degrees Celsius, so it comes to your table steaming, and the fragrant smell of sake is even stronger than usual. After a few cups, you will be feeling very warm and cozy! Most of the bars and izakayas in Kyoto offer atsukan, so if you are coming to Kyoto in winter, remember to have some hot sake too!
Suiba Shijo KawaramachiYou can find Suiba, a standing bar, in a small alley near Shijo Kawaramachi. It’s popular because it’s both cheap and delicious. Their dishes change according to the season, as do their sake. In winter it seems like almost everyone is drinking hot sake at Suiba.
The dishes here are something you can’t miss! The portions are small so you can try many different things. My recommendations to have with hot sake are their curry-flavored renkon and potato salad!
Masuya SaketenMasuya Saketen has a great selection of sake from all over Japan, which is why you can taste some here that you can’t find elsewhere. They also have bottles of sake on the wall with explanations about what type of sake it is, so you get to choose the bottle that you want to try. The sake in the picture is Kozosansui from Miyagi prefecture, which is recommended to be drunk hot.
They also painstakingly make their dishes to go with sake in the best way possible. You probably won’t feel satisfied with only one glass of sake. Sakeya Masuya is so popular that they even started their second pub! Have a nice night out in Kyoto with some sake!
Asano NihonshutenAsano Nihonshuten is located in the Aeon Shopping mall by Kyoto Station, and they stock a wide variety of sakes from all around Japan, and they also have a standing bar at the shop where you can taste the sake before buying. In winter they of course also have atsukan, or hot sake, available.
The best thing to have here is smoked fatty mackerel, with the fattiness of the mackerel going perfectly with the hot sake. They also have tsukemono pickles, dried fish, and other things that go well with sake on sale too, so you also enjoy hot sake and some snacks at home.
Tachinomi KokoroThis pub is located in an alley close to Kawaramachi and Shijo Street, and it has a very local feel to it, and its posters are very alluring. The posters are old Japanese ones, so it feels like you had traveled back in time. Most of their sake can be ordered hot, and the size of their “tokkuri” server is quite generous.
Oden is a Japanese dish made by boiling eggs, vegetables, and meat in a dashi broth, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to hot sake. The oden at Kokoro also has some miso in it, making the taste even stronger, so the oden here goes even better with hot sake. They also have skewers and miso crab you can also order, and many other dishes, so you’re sure to want to order many cups of hot sake. You’re bound to feel warm even after going home!
Because of the taste of sake, the taste of the foods also differs a bit. Hot sake is something you drink in the coldest days of winter, and it’s also something I’d like to recommend to those who don’t normally enjoy sake. When you add some food that goes well with sake to this, you’re not going to forget this night. What else is there to do in winter in Kyoto? We’re going to take a look at the flea markets of this city in the next part!