The chrome domed bar man means business. He probably smiles on his own time, but serving quality alcohol at Shinshu Osake Mura is a serious business. The Japanese businessman at the counter in front of me seems to be dithering in his order and neither our man behind the counter or the long line of patrons waiting to order seem particularly impressed. The businessman eventually asks for a recommendation and gets his three very generous glasses of Nihonshu in a wooden holder, and then it’s my turn to order.
In my (admittedly not very cheapo) hobby of sampling as many Japanese craft beers as possible, I’d come across what I thought was a particularly good beer – Shiga Kogen – and I also thought I’d found a place to pick it up for a reasonable price. I was soon informed by a friend that the beer could actually be picked up cheaper than wholesale at a bar – Shinshuu Osake Mura. Shinshu, is the former name for what we now call Nagano Prefecture and is one of the major producers of craft beer, nihonshu and even wine in Japan. Shinshu Osake Mura (Shinshu Alcohol Village) bills itself as a ‘Local Sake Museum’. Calling it a museum is apt as it’s all about the booze – everything else (music, decor, good air conditioning, seats) is a distraction. Finding the place is also something of a mission – it’s within the ground floor mall of the Shimbashi Ekimae Building. If you exit Shimbashi Station, look for a sprawling building that looks like the future of architecture circa 1968. If that isn’t enough of a clue, there is a big statue of a tanuki in front of the entrance.
So how much? A complete range of the standard Shiga Kogen beers is available for 380yen - that’s almost 20yen cheaper than you can get it at Bic Camera’s discount alcohol corner. You can also pick up Yonayona from Yaho Brewing for 260yen, Ao Oni and Tokyo Black for 280yen – the same price that it goes for at Yamaya. Additionally, they have slightly more expensive beers from Oh!La!Ho! Brewing, Minami Shinshu Beer, Kisoji Beer and Hotaka Beer. I’m not a big nihonshu drinker so I can’t vouch for the value of the jizake tasting set for 1,500yen, but the glasses were very generously sized.
The simple formula of good quality alcohol for a low price in a simple environment seems to work. On the day that I visited, the place was standing room only. It was so crowded that I could barely find a place to put my beer down. Interestingly, there was a significant non-Japanese crowd all drinking beer while the Japanese patrons were mainly partaking in the nihonshu.
As I go to leave, the bar man has moved to the tap next to where I put my beer down. I ask him what I should do with my glass and bottle. If you’re used to Japanese service, you know that they will usually say ‘Please, just leave it, I’ll take care of it for you’. He tells me to go and put it on the counter. This place is awesome.
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|Name:||Shinshu Osake Mura (信州おさけ村)|
|Pricing info:||Shiga Kogen Beer 360yen, Yonayona 260yen|
|Address:||1F Shimbashi Ekimae Building, 2-20-15 Shimbashi, Minatoku, Tokyo|
|Business hours:||11:00am to 9:30pm Weekdays, 11:00am to 6:30pm on Saturdays, Closed Sundays, publlc holidays and the 2nd and 3rd Saturday of each month.|
About The Author
Greg has been been searching for a cheaper way of doing things in and around Tokyo for more than 12 years. Greg's qualification for being a cheapo include walking up to an hour across Tokyo to save on the 160 yen subway fare and still having clothes in his dresser from 1998. When not searching for the izakaya with the cheapest beer in Japan, he develops web sites.