No one’s shocked that craft gin and gin overall have gained major ground in recent years, becoming a go-to spirit for many. The allure isn’t just about the intricate flavours gin has developed but also where it’s being crafted. Japan’s gin scene has really taken off, showing some serious momentum. So, what makes Japanese Gin stand out from the crowd? Let’s delve into that and check out some of the top gin distilleries in Japan!

What is Japanese Gin?

Must-visit gin distilleries in Japan

Since 2016, the Japanese market has been catching onto craft gins. One of the pioneering distilleries, the “Kyoto Distillery,” kicked off in Kyoto. This sparked a wave of other major players in the sake and alcohol industry to dive into the craft gin scene. Japanese gins stand out thanks to their incorporation of Japanese citrus fruits like Yuzu and Sudachi, along with native spices such as sansho pepper and ginger. What’s more, using botanicals like gyokuro, sencha, cherry blossoms, and cypress gives Japanese gin its distinctive flavour.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of Japanese gins, let’s see where in Japan you can find the best gin distilleries!

8 Must-Visit Gin Distilleries in Japan

Tokyo Hachioji Distillery [Tokyo, Hachioji City]

Tokyo Hachioji Distillery, having honed its processing technology recently, boasts a wealth of know-how crucial for gin production. To ensure that the quality of the aroma and taste of the spirits remains consistent, the Kothe distiller is the first in Japan to automate the distilling process. Fancy a tipple? For a few days each month, a bar opens on-site with a selection of domestic and international spirits.

Address: 1213-5 Kunugidamachi, Hachioji, Tokyo 193-0942

Yamamoto Sake Brewery [Akita]

Gin Distilleries Yamamoto Sake Brewery
Credit: 掬茶CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Yamamoto Sake Brewery, known for producing Yamamoto—one of Akita’s most popular sake brands—ventured into gin with the launch of “Night Traveler” in September 2020, one of the first gins from this distillery. Building on its sake-making expertise, the brewery utilises over 20 botanicals including locally sourced Kikyo, chamomile, cedar leaves, and apples, capturing their essence with a state-of-the-art domestic distillation machine.

Address: 269, Yachimori, Happo-machi, Yamamoto-gun, Akita Prefecture, Japan

Nakano BC [Wakayama]

Nakano BC, a Wakayama-based firm renowned nationally for its ume (plum) and sake products, entered the craft gin market with Maki KOZUE in 2017, a gin that embodies the local climate and nature using regional specialties such as Onshu mandarin oranges, lemon, sansho, and Koya maki leaves. 2019 saw the release of KODACHI, a woody gin that incorporates cedar and cypress from the local Kishu area.

Address: 758-45 Fujishiro, Kainan, Wakayama 642-0034

Oyama Jinshichi Shoten [Kagoshima]

Across Japan, numerous shochu producers, with their essential distillation facilities and expertise, have branched into gin. Consequently, domestic gin makers, particularly in the shochu-famed region of Kyushu and especially Kagoshima, are on the rise. Oyama Jinshichi Shoten, situated by the sea in Ibusuki City, famed for its hot springs, debuted in the gin scene with JIN 7 in the summer of 2019.

A unique twist? As the distiller originated from a kimono shop, the botanical recipe is inscribed on a label resembling a quality tag from clothing, decorating the bottle.

Address: 4657 Nishikata, Ibusuki, Kagoshima 891-0311

Number Eight Distillery [Kanagawa]

NUMBER EIGHT DISTILLERY, nestled in the restaurant-bar “QUAYS pacific grill” at the new tourist attraction Hammerhead in Yokohama Minato Mirai, crafts NUMBER EIGHT GIN, which launched in autumn 2019. The establishment also brews beer and roasts coffee, incorporating hops and coffee beans into its gin. It’s also crafted with sustainability in mind, using avocado seeds that would otherwise be discarded.

Address: 〒231-0001 Kanagawa, Yokohama, Naka Ward, Shinko, 2 Chome−14−1 横浜ハンマーヘッド 2F

Toranomon Distillery [Tokyo]

Gin Distilleries Toranomon Distillery
Credit: Lim Chee Wah

Sake Shokudo Toranomon Distillery opened in the spring of 2020 in Toranomon Yokocho, a buzzing area in the Toranomon Hills Business Tower. The urban distillery, doubling as a tavern in central Tokyo, produces the craft gin ‘COMMON’, founded on the concept of ‘TOKYO LOCAL SPIRITS’ and inspired by Tokyo’s island shochu. The ‘Seasonal Gin’ series regularly introduces gins that incorporate seasonal ingredients like chamomile, mandarin orange blossoms, and plums from Ome, Tokyo.

Address: 〒105-6403 Tokyo, Minato City, Toranomon, 1 Chome−17−1, Toranomon Hills Business Tower, 3F 虎ノ門横丁

Echigo Herbs [Niigata]

Echigo Yakuso, located in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture, is a health food manufacturer that has utilised enzymes from wild herbs for over 40 years. It’s now also crafting alcoholic drinks using its specialised knowledge. Despite only launching the brand in 2020, it has quickly become a favourite in Japan’s craft gin scene.

Address: 73 Kozaruya, Joetsu, Niigata 942-0055

Kyoto Distillery [Kyoto]

Ki no Bi, crafted at Kyoto Distillery—the first gin-specialised distillery in Japan—burst onto the scene in 2016 from the historic city of Kyoto. It has since scooped numerous international awards and gained global recognition. The gin leverages Fushimi’s renowned water, and its bottle design features a traditional karakami pattern, offering a taste of Kyoto.

Address: Kyoto, Minami Ward, Kisshoin Shimanomazumecho, 15

Take Advantage of the Thriving Japanese Gin Industry

No one’s surprised by the rapid expansion of the Japanese gin market. It’s become a hotbed of innovation and craftsmanship, drawing attention from gin enthusiasts worldwide. Japanese gins aren’t just winning accolades at home but are also making waves on the global stage, thanks to their exceptional quality and unique blend of traditional and contemporary flavours.

With a heritage steeped in Sake production, Japanese distilleries are seamlessly blending centuries-old techniques with modern ingenuity. This fusion results in luxury gins that boast unparalleled depth and complexity, setting them apart in a crowded market. As the global demand for premium spirits continues to soar, Japan’s gin distilleries stand ready to offer discerning consumers an unforgettable tasting experience, making them essential destinations for craft gin aficionados.

So, why not explore the vibrant world of Japanese gin and discover your new favourite flavour?