Sake Shop Kodama (地酒屋こだま) is just a 5-minute from JR Otsuka Station on Yamanote Line. It is on the opposite side of the street from a post office.
Usual liquor shops in Japan have various kinds of sake including sake, beer, shochu, and other alcoholic beverages. However, Sake Shop Kodama carries only sake (日本酒). This is a unique liquor shop.
In May of last year, this shop started its operation as a successor of the liquor shop Tsunaya, which had been operating at the same place. Actually, I have been acquainted with the shopkeeper of Sake Shop Kodama and I had wanted to visit him at the shop, but there hadn't been an opportunity for visiting there. On December 28 last year, I was to have a year-end party with some of my friends in an urban area of Tokyo, so I decided to drop in at this sake shop before attending the party.
I came to the front door of the shop. Through the door glasses I saw the shopkeeper Takeya Kodama (I call him Take-san) dealing vigorously with his customers in the shop. I was happy to see him, wanted to cheerfully enter the shop to give him a friendly and surprising greeting, and pushed the door, which wouldn't open. Feeling puzzled, I then pull the door handle, and the door did still not open.
After trying the pushing and pulling of the door, I finally remembered that these doors were sliding doors, opening right- and leftward. As soon as I got in the shop, Take-san said to me, "Please do not break the doors! :-)"
This is a great shop. If you enjoy drinking sake or are interested in sake, and you are traveling in Tokyo, I strongly recommend you to drop in at this shop. I will show you five reasons below why I recommend you this shop.
First, of almost all the sakes in this shop, you can sample any of them. It is virtually impossible to pick out specific sake that matches your taste from among a lot of brands you have never heard of until you actually sample them. So, this shop offers free sampling of any sake you want to try, and you can buy your favorite sake after confirming its taste with your tongue. For example, a woman came to this shop, telling she herself was not quite at home in sake and was going to prepare fugu-nabe (globefish with vegetables in a pot). Take-san selected several bottles that he thought could be good pairing for her food, and recommended her to sample them. She sampled those sakes, could find her favorite bottle, and happily went home with it.
Second, this shop is making sincere efforts to keep good storage conditions of sake. For example, Take-san uses ultraviolet ray-free fluorescent lamps in his refrigerators in order to prevent the damage to his sake, and always keeps the sake under the temperature of 0 degrees centigrade. I understand his intention to treat with great care sakes that the brewers have painstakingly made, and I think the brewers can feel secure about entrusting their products to this shop.
Third, the selection of sake of this shop is very unique. The sakes in this shop are selected arbitrarily by the shopkeeper. So, in this shop, famous brands are hard to find but you can expect new findings. This is exciting. Among the sake selection, there is even the brand named Azumazuru which is brewed by a very small sake brewery in Saga Prefecture (this brewery produces only about 4,500 litters of sake). Of course, the small scale of a brewery is not always a good point, but at least Take-san selects his sake regardless of the sizes of breweries but according to his own standards (if he thinks sake is good or will become good, he will select it). Therefore, if you expect a dramatic encounter with a new sake brand, you should visit Take-san at this shop.
Fourth, there is a pay sampling corner, which starts around 5 p.m. Sake Shop Kodama is not an izakaya but a liquor shop. So, off course we must behave well and enjoy sampling quietly. However, when there are some brands you want to try more in quantity, you can use this corner.
And above all things, I was impressed by Take-san's heartful courtesy to his customers. When I was drinking at the pay sampling corner, customers kept coming. When Take-san deals with his customers, he always smiles and explains his sake in a respectful and ardent manner, helping them selecting right sake. I felt this shop is just wonderful. Customers can enjoy shopping and Take-san also enjoys his business. And, each time a customer left the shop with her/his sake in hand, the shopkeeper made a deep bow. You must feel happy and satisfied when being treated very politely in such a way, and want to visit this shop again to buy sake.
Reading the above description, you may think I complimented this shop too much because I am acquainted with the shopkeeper. However, I really think Sake Shop Kodama is a great sake shop. I have never seen such a sake shop and I believe it is worth visiting for every sake lover.
Finally, I must present to you one IMPORTANT WARNING. The front doors of Sake Shop Kodama are sliding doors. Never forcibly push or pull the door handles to open the doors. Doing so may damage the doors. :-)