Echigo Yuzawa Station is a well-trod portal to Niigata's famed snow country, bustling this time of year with the comings and goings of skiers and boarders. But however fine the powder, there's an excellent reason to linger: The Ponshu-kan (Sake Museum) located in the station.

At the entrance, a happy salaryman mannequin greets you with a bottle held aloft; inside there are several more, in various degrees of inebriation. Wish them well as you make a beeline for the Tasting Gallery.

Here, for a mere 500 yen, you receive five coin tokens and a chokko (small ceramic drinking cup). This is all you need to explore the paradise of 115 brands of nihonshu from a cross section of Niigata's 102 breweries. If you wish to choose your five samples carefully, you can enter your desired flavor-profile into a computer: the database then serves up several suggestions. If you're still in the dark, consult the gallery's Kunkiko Yamada, a certified kikizakeshi (nihonshu's equivalent of a sommelier).