Sake Festivals to Mark in Your Calendar for 2020

There’s no better way to expand your sake horizons than by attending a sake festival, stocked with premium and award-winning brands that can be tasted at will. But, with so many going on in Japan, it can be overwhelming to try and find the right one. To help, SAKETIMES has compiled a short list of the biggest and most famous festivals around Japan, each with their own distinct charm.


Here, we’ll also list details for both the 2019 and 2020 events, if available. Be sure to check back here as the new year approaches for date and venue updates!

Craft Sake Week

For those looking to ease into a sake event for the first time, Craft Sake Week is likely the best bet. The brainchild of former Japanese National Soccer Team member Hidetoshi Nakata and his Japan Craft Sake Company, this event approaches sake with a distinctive global outlook to it. In fact, Craft Sake Week won the Golden World Award in 2018 – an honor bestowed on events that are especially inclusive to people from all over the world.

The 11-day sake festival honors 10 different breweries each day, divided into eleven categories based on a theme that changes annually. For example, last year’s Craft Sake Week focused on “Regionality” and celebrated breweries from select parts of Japan, such as the Tohoku and Kyushu areas. Days are also set aside for the winners of the Sake Competition and the Sakenomy All Stars, which are select brands chosen from the Sakenomy grading app.

Special consideration is paid to the drinking environment at Craft Sake Week, too. Themed decorations such as bamboo groves and cherry blossoms have been used in the past, giving a distinct Japanese feel. A large lineup of DJs provide background music and there are also roughly a dozen gourmet restaurants offering fine cuisine to pair with the sake of the day throughout the week.

Craft Sake Week is held in Tokyo’s glitzy Roppongi Hills complex. I in past years, though, they’ve also held satellite events in places like Hakata in 2017 and Sendai in 2018. Dates vary from year to year, but festivities usually kick off around late March or early April.

◎2019 Event Information

  • Date: Friday, Apr 19 – Monday, Apr 29
  • Time: 12:00 noon – 9:00 pm
  • Location: Various – 15 Restaurants in Roppongi Hills
  • Admission: From 3,500 yen (includes sake cup, and 11 food & drink tokens), additional tokens can also be purchased

◎2020 Event Information

Niigata Sake no Jin

Any sake enthusiast looking to go big ought to check out Sake no Jin in Niigata Prefecture, one of Japan’s most renowned sake regions. This massive event draws about 140,000 attendees in just two days.

Sadly, the all-you-can-drink format, which was one of the big draws of Sake No Jin, recently got the axe and the 2019 event will be the last to feature this option. Still, 2020 admission will include 20 drink tickets – more than enough to make a day of it!

The venue is packed with booths by 80 Niigata-based breweries where you can chat with the brewers themselves and sample their wares. All in all, over 500 brands will be flowing, but it’s a good idea to do some advance research on what you want to sample, as the sea of attendees are known to drink the most exciting labels completely out of stock by event’s end.

In addition to the sake, there are also food dishes available, such as oysters and oden, which are prepared in a distinctive Niigata style.

Niigata Sake no Jin is usually held in early March with 2020’s event to take place on March 14 and 15. The attendance has swelled so quickly, it will likely be even bigger than in previous years, and its growth since it began in 2004 is leading many to believe it will soon become Japan’s equivalent to Germany’s Oktoberfest.

◎2019 Event Information

  • Date: Saturday, Mar 9 – Sunday Mar 10
  • Time: 10:00 am –6:00 pm (rain or shine)
  • Main Location: Toki Messe, 6-1 Bandajima, Chuo Ward, Niigata
  • All-You-Can-Drink Sake: 2,000 yen in advance, 2,500 yen same day

◎2020 Event Information

  • Date: Saturday Mar 14 – Sunday Mar 15
  • Time: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (rain or shine)
  • Main Location: Toki Messe, 6-1 Bandajima, Chuo Ward, Niigata
  • 20 Drink Tickets: 2,000 yen in advance, 2,500 yen same day
  • URL: http://www.niigata-sake.or.jp/sakenojin/

Sake Fair

If there’s a rival for the sheer size and attendance of Niigata Sake No Jin, it would have to be Sake Fair. Rather than focusing on a single prefecture, this one-day event encompasses sake from all over Japan in two halls of the Sunshine City entertainment complex in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.

Sake Fair is divided into two sections: Those who pay the basic 1,500 yen (US$14) will get into the All Japan Sake Fair. This section contains booths from 45 different brewery associations and has events suited to sake novices and experts alike, from seminars to tasting challenges.

On the other hand, those who pay the full 4,000 yen ($37) admission will get into the Public Tasting section, which holds roughly 400 different brands that were honored at the Japan Sake Awards. Representing the best sake the country has to offer, visitors can freely taste whichever they like while supplies and tolerances to alcohol last. Brewers will also be on -hand to answer whatever questions guests may have, from the very basics to the fine details of sake production.

It might be hard to have a breezy chat with the noise and crowds of thousands of other attendees, unfortunately, but with so much fine sake available in one place, there’s enough for everyone when doors open each year in June.

◎2019 Event Information

  • Date: Saturday, Jun 15
  • Time: 10:00 am –7:00 pm (Both All Japan Sake Fair and Public Tasting are divided into morning and afternoon sessions with tickets for each sold separately)
  • Main Location: Sunshine City, Ikebukuro, Tokyo
  • All Japan Sake Fair Location: World Import Mart Bldg. 4F Exhibition Hall A
  • Public Tasting Location: Bunka Kaizan Bldg. 4F Exhibition Hall B
  • Admission: 3,500 yen in advance, 4,000 yen same day (includes all-you-can-drink and and original cup), 1,500 yen for All Japan Sake Fair only

◎2020 Event Information

Saijo Sake Matsuri

Saijo Sake Matsuri is certainly a large-scale festival, but it goes beyond the standard sake and food of other events. Held near Higashihiroshima’s Saijo Station, in an area known as “Sake City” (Shuto) for its eight breweries in close proximity to one another, events for all ages from dancing to games to a flea market can be found.

The festival is actually a combination of two separate events: the Saijo Sake Matsuri, which dates back to 1972, and the Minna No Matsuri which began in 1979 for the purpose of celebrating the community as a whole. Since sake makes up such a large part of this area’s identity and economy, it only made sense to merge the two. The result is well illustrated in the festival’s iconic dance, the Sakemidarbayashi.

The heart of Saijo Sake Matsuri is the Sake Hiroba, which houses over 1,000 brands of sake for tasting. This is the only section of the main festival that requires an admission, but those who pay for entry get a sake cup and tickets worth seven drinks of their choice among the wide array.

Each of the eight Saijo-area breweries hold special events as well, often including tours, tastings, and live music. In between is a variety of different events, such as traditional music and arts, barbecues, and the occasional surprise such as a special German sections serving up beer and sausages planned for 2019.

Held later in the year compared to other festivals, usually around mid-October, the Saijo Sake Matsuri offers a comfortably lively outdoor atmosphere with something for everyone.

◎2019 Event Information

  • Date: Saturday, Oct 12 & Sunday, Oct 13 (Rain or shine)
  • Start Time: 10:00 am
  • Location: Shuto, Saijochuo, Higashihiroshima, Hiroshima
  • Sake Hiroba Admission: 1,600 yen (advance), 2,100 yen (same day)

◎2020 Event Information

  • Date: [Undecided date in October]
  • Start Time: [Undecided]
  • Location: Shuto, Saijochuo, Higashihiroshima, Hiroshima
  • Sake Hiroba Admission: [Undecided]
  • URL: https://sakematsuri.com/about/

Sake Spring

For those interested in a less-crowded event, the relatively new Sake Spring may be a good option – for now at least. The first Sake Spring was held in 2017 but has already gathered a total of 52,000 attendees to date, showing strong signs of rapid growth.

This has a lot to do with the location in Kyoto, an already popular travel destination with a rich culture of sake and drinking among some quintessential Japanese sights. In addition to the main event halls, participating bars and restaurants could be found all throughout the famous Kiya-machi and Ponto-cho shopping areas during the 2019 Sake Spring.

Compared to other large festivals, Sake Spring has a relatively modest selection of a few dozen carefully selected brands both from Kyoto and elsewhere in Japan, of which they do offer all-you-can-drink. A wide range of Kyoto foods, both traditional and modern, can also be purchased separately.

Pickled vegetables at Sake Spring

In general, Sake Spring can be found in Kyoto in May, but in an effort to raise awareness, they have been known to take the show on the road, appearing in places such as Tokyo, Okayama, and even as far as Paris. So, even for people who aren’t in Japan, there is always a chance Sake Spring may spring up where least expected.

◎2019 Event Information

  • Date: Saturday, May 25 – Sunday, May 26
  • Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm (rain or shine)
  • Main Location: World Kyoto, 97 Shinmachi, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto
  • Sub Locations: Kiya-machi and Ponto-cho area eateries
  • Admission: 3,000 yen in advance, 4,000 yen same day (includes all-you-can-drink and and original cup)

◎2020 Event Information

  • Date: [Undecided date in May]
  • Time: [Undecided]
  • Main Location: [Undecided]
  • Admission: [Undecided]
  • URL: http://sakesp.com/kyoto/

These are, of course, only a very small sampling of the many sake festivals that take place all over Japan each year. Sake is brewed in just about every corner of the country and odds are a festival celebrating its production is never too far.

They usually take place in the spring months due to brewery schedules, but may happen at any time, so be sure to check out area event calendars and keep reading SAKETIMES as we continue to highlight the best of the bunch.