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We head to Tokyo to uncover the secrets of Japan’s national drink, and seek out the very best places to drink it
Sampling sake at Nihonshu Stand Moto izakaya. Let: A brimming sake glass. Opposite: Neon on the streets of Shinjuku


Sake is, essentially, rice and water, with an alcohol content of around 15%. It’s brewed like beer, rather than distilled like spirit, and there are five major types, ranging from ‘ginjo’, which is smooth and fruity, to the unpasteurised ‘namazake’, which is fresh and sweet and only available in Japan.


I set out on my quest to ind the perfect sake, everything I knew about the drink could be written onto the side of a chopstick. At best, the sake selection on a drinks menu in Japanese restaurants at home in London provided a brief distraction from the more important business of summoning chicken katsu. I knew it was made with rice, but how was I meant to drink it? Like a shot? Ice-cold like vodka? At the end of the meal like a digestivo?

Clearly, let loose on the streets of Tokyo, a crass amateur like myself would need some guidance. I enlisted the help of Daniela Baggio Morano, a half Japanese, half Italian guide with a particular mission to help visitors make sense of the city’s sometimes bafling food and drink scene.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - July 2019
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