Sightseeing in Niigata: A Visit to the Ponshukan Sake Vending Machines - Vikingess Voyages

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sightseeing in Niigata: A Visit to the Ponshukan Sake Vending Machines

With the largest number of sake breweries in Japan the Niigata prefecture is known as the ”sake prefecture”. The taste of sake can vary a lot so finding your favorite sake is not an easy job. But do not despair: Inside the Ponshukan (魚沼釜蔵 ぽんしゅ館) situated inside the building of Niigata station you can taste over hundred types of sake from a selection of 92 different local sake producers for only 500 yen.
During a trip to Niigata last week for the Tsubame Sakura festival we stopped by Niigata city to visit Ponshukan. Niigata is hard to get around without a car, and if you are going to visit other places in the prefecture it is recommendable to travel by car (Just make sure you have a person in the group who is willing to give up the chance to join in on the sake tasting). In our case we had gone by rental-car from the area around Tsubame, a drive that took around 30 min. Fortunately the parking at Bic Camera offered free parking for customers spending more than 4,000 yen at the shopping mall inside Niigata Station, and this offer also included Ponshukan. Situated on the third floor in the building of Niigata Station it was also very easy to locate the store.

Inside the Ponshukan there was an area in the back called Kikizake Bansho (利き酒番所) - sake tasting place - where the sake vending machines where located. Inside the room there was a reception where we got a brief guidance about the machines. For 500 yen we got 5 coins each to spend on the machines, and one coin gives you one 25cc ochoko cup of sake.

With over a hundred different types of sake to choose from it can be hard to make a decision. Luckily they have a ranking of the most popular sake available for those who don't know which ones to pick.
Some people like to search for the type of salt that fits best for the sake. Along with sake tasting you can try out a variety of salt not only from all over Japan but also from some foreign places like Himalaya. In the picture above you can see red salt from Okinawa.

And if you get tired of sake.. Do not despair! They also have a couple of machines with plum wine (umeshu - 梅酒) available if you prefer that. I tried both of them, and they were very different in taste so it is absolutely worth doing a umeshu tasting as well. You can see a picture of the umeshu below:
One of the entrances to Ponshukan inside the sake store
Once you are finished with the sake tasting you might want to check out the store where the Ponshukan is located. In fact, you might actually be extra lucky and get some free sake tasting at the store! When we visited there was a representative of one of the local breweries in the store, and he let us try a couple of different sake for free (with that said, we ended up buying a couple of bottles though)

For those who don't want to travel all the way to Niigata city there is also another Ponshukan in Echigo right at the southern border to the Niigata prefecture. Echigozawa is famous for its ski resorts and onsen, so it might be a good choice for a weekend trip from Tokyo.

What to do in Niigata

It can be hard to get around in Niigata prefecture without a rental car because of the lack of local trains so my recommendation would be to go to Niigata by bus or shinkansen and rent a car from there. If you visit and you plan to travel around some of my recommendations would include a visit to the Northern Culture Museum, the Cave d'Occi Vinespa Winery Resort, and the power-spot Yahiko Shrine. There are many local festivals that might be of interest, and if you visit in April you might be just in time for the Tsubame Sakura cherry blossom festival. But if you're not lucky with the timing there are still many fantastic ryokan around like for instance Shikinoyado Minoya Ryokan that would provide you with an excellent cultural experience during your stay. 

That's all for now! I hope you enjoyed the post! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments in the comment section below.

Basic Info
  • ・Name of Place: Ponshukan (魚沼釜蔵 ぽんしゅ館)
  • ・Address:Japan, 〒950-0086 Niigata-ken, Niigata-shi, Chūō-ku, Hanazono, 1 Chome−1−96−47, CoCoLo Nishikan
  • ・Phone: 025-240-7090
  • ・Hours: Open every day from 9 am to 9 pm 
  • ・Sake Tasting Fee: 500 yen for 5 ochoko sake cups
  • ・Access: 
    • Inside Niigata Station on the third floor
  • ・Official Home Page:

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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