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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Russell

Nada: The Emergence of Japan's Greatest Brewing Region

Updated: Apr 25

Nada has been Japan's largest sake brewing region since the Edo Period (1600-1868).

Nestled between the Rokko Mountains and the Bay of Osaka, Nada’s contemporary boundaries stretch from Kobe City in the west to Nishinomiya in the east. It is divided into five brewing districts, collectively known as the Nada Go Go. In Japanese, go can be read as ‘five’ or ‘village’, depending on the character. Therefore, Nada Go Go means ‘The Five Villages of Nada’. From east to west, they are Imazu-go, Nishinomiya-go, Uozaki-go, Mikage-go, and Nishi-go.  

The name Nada is believed to have originated from its strategic proximity to the sea. The region

was originally known as Nadame, a term thought to be a distorted pronunciation of Nadabe, meaning ‘near the sea’. When maritime shipping emerged as the primary mode of transportation for sending goods to Edo in the 1600s, Nada’s maritime location became a pivotal factor in its economic prosperity.

During ancient times, Kyoto and its neighbouring areas were collectively called Kamigata. This was where the emperor resided, and any movement from the hub of the Kyoto capital was seen as ‘going down’ from his exalted position. This reverence extended to commercial goods, including sake. The verb 'kudaru' means 'to go down', so sake sent outside Kamigata became known as 'kudari-zake'.

Despite Kyoto retaining its status as the nominal capital until the emperor's relocation to Tokyo (formerly Edo) at the start of the Meiji Restoration (1868 – 1912), Edo was Japan’s political centre and largest city. With its population surging from the early 1600s, savvy brewers from Kamigata initiated the transportation of sake to Edo, initially via packhorse. Sake from Nada quickly gained popularity among Edo residents, leading to the evolution of transportation methods to marine shipping.

This marked a significant shift for Nada brewers, who capitalised on their proximity to ports to cater to the insatiable Edo market more efficiently and at a lower cost than their competitors. By the end of the Edo Period, Nada had outpaced all other regions to become Japan’s leading producer of sake, a testament to the region's brewing prowess and strategic advantage.

The Nada region is now home to some of the most renowned names in the brewing industry. From Sawanotsuru in the west to Kiku-Masamune, Hakutsuru, and Kenbishi in the central districts, to Hakushika and Nihon-Sakari in the east, Nada brewers have gained fame across Japan. They are recognised for their ability to innovate the latest brewing technology while still preserving tradition. This has contributed to Nada's sustained prosperity and position as Japan's preeminent brewing region, a position which remains unchallenged.

To discover this incredible region for yourself, check out our guided tours of Nada at or click this link below.

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