The wine and sake department at Tokyu Toyoko's main department store in Shibuya offers about two dozen umeshu. The individual brands have been helpfully labeled, so you can easily distinguish what each is based on, be it nihonshu, shochu or brandy. However, do check out your local supermarket; you might be surprised at what you find.

As the weather warms up, consider picking up a bottle for your home. The beauty of umeshu made from distilled spirits (shochu, brandy and awamori) is that it keeps for a long time, and it is fairly priced. Most umeshu are between 1,000 yen and 2,000 yen, making it one of the local offerings we inexpensively treat ourselves to.

If you'd rather sample a variety, Ume Tsubaki in Shinjuku offers more than a hundred different umeshu. The restaurant can be quite boisterous, and its food menu is pedestrian izakaya fare, but the staff is quite knowledgeable about the extensive stock.

Ume Tsubaki, Kabukicho 1-16-2, Fuji Building B1 & B2 Shinjuku-ku; (03) 5155-8876;

Ichi no Ya in Monzennakacho (just minutes from Exit 2 on the Tozai Line) should be a destination for any umeshu-lover. In the last few months have they started to carry a larger selection, with a few of "limited availability" (genteihin) that change from time to time. The food menu is solid and the staff was very helpful in walking us through the different nuances of the umeshu.

Ichi no Ya, Tomioka 1-25-5, Koto-ku; (03) 3641-1131;
Sister shops in Ginza:
Ichi no Ya, Ginza 1-5-10, Ginza First Five Bldg, Chuo-ku; (03) 5159-1133
Ya no Ichi, Ginza 8-8-5, Taiyo Bldg. 7F, Chuo-ku; (03) 5568-7711

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