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The Shunan Keizai newspaper reports on the best way to tour sake breweries – by taxi.

Using a taxi to cruise around tourist attractions isn’t uncommon in Japan, and many taxi companies will offer multi-hour or daily sightseeing plans which can work out well if there are three or four of you and you’re trying to fit a lot into one day (or in the rare places where public transport isn’t that frequent, such as parts of Okinawa).

The drivers are usually very knowledgeable about the area and take you door to door, waiting for you outside if possible or just a phone call away if they have to park somewhere else.

And, relevant to sake tourism, the drink-drive limit in Japan is zero – so if you’re having a few, you need someone else to drive.

The Tokuyama branch of major tourism company JTB commissioned a liveried taxi for their local sake brewery tour, and – I warned you about the puns – took the usual Japanese loan-word takushī (タクシー) and turned it into takushū (タクシュー), where shū is a play on a reading for the character for alcohol (as in nihonshu, 日本酒). The special taxi was presented at the Shunan Town Hall on 21 December 2017.

JTB Tokuyama has teamed up with the Shunan Tourism Convention and Shunan Kintetsu Taxis to promote local sake brewery tourism. Production and outbound shipping of sake from Yamaguchi has increased in volume every year for the last decade, so they want to draw attention to their breweries by expanding their consumer base and bringing more people through the area. 

The tour starts from the tourist information office and select local goods shop near JR Tokuyama Station, where a taxi with a miniature sake barrel and a logo decal picks you up and drives you around three breweries in the city: Nakajima, Yamagata, and Hatsumomiji. The head of the JTB office points out that Yamaguchi sake is attracting attention nationally and so brewery visits are an important tourist attraction. The tour only takes three hours, making it easy to fit in around other sightseeing or during a business trip.

And if three brewery visits weren’t enough to satisfy your thirst, there’s sake on hand in the taxi for you to enjoy as you’re chauffeured around, and after eating, drinking and shopping your fill you’ll be left back at the train station. The tour costs JPY 3,800 per person for four people, JPY 4,800 for three people, and JPY 5,800 for two people, must be booked a week in advance, and runs until the end of March 2018 except Sundays and national holidays.