While I am a proud perennial cider drinker, I will concede that autumn is certainly the season when cider’s magic is best experienced and energetically felt. Nature gives us the most colorful period of the year complete with apple harvest, savory foods, and that slight change in temperature and crispness in the air almost subliminally teasing you to seek out a pint of cider.
In Japan, however, that might not always be an easy task. While the amount of cider, both domestically produced and imported from overseas, has increased over the last few years, access to those ciders can be a downright challenge if you don’t know where to look and harder still if you can’t read Japanese. Even worse, what do you do if you don’t live within Kanto or Kansai proper—or anywhere near a cutting edge bottle shop? If you have a mobile phone or PC and access to the internet, online shopping is a practical way to go.
VinVie is a winery and cidery in Matsukawa, Nagano Prefecture that launched in April 2020. In addition to making consistently good ciders from Japanese apples, they have also been innovative in using unconventional yeast strains, including one harvested from bumblebees and wasps, which gives their ciders an extra tart finish.
Their website is in Japanese, but finding their ciders is quite easy. Either search for the Japanese word shiidoru (シードル) on the page or browse the pictures until you see the bottles with English on the labels.
Ringo School Cidery in Iizuna, Nagano Prefecture, also launched in 2020. They’re another cider maker incorporating creative practices like opening themselves up to the public, who can register for a cider making class and make their own cider. With rotating teachers and apple varieties, they are continually offering something different.
Their website is also only in Japanese, but finding their ciders is a cinch and a simple Google Translate will tell you the apples used to make each cider.
The undisputed champion of craft beer imports to Japan, Antenna America jumped into the cider game seriously last year. They currently advertise three well-known American brands, Shacksbury from Vermont, JK’s Farmhouse from Michigan, and ACE Ciders from California.
Their website has enough English to make navigation painless and plenty of delicious ciders to choose from.
Japan Cider Market is the country’s first online shop that actually specializes in ciders and cider-related goods. The shop boasts a selection of some of the world’s best ciders from countries including the UK (Tom Oliver’s Fine Cider), France (Wignac), and Australia (Willie Smith’s), and will soon offer delights from Luxembourg and Canada.
The website is in English and Japanese, and most orders are delivered the next day.
You can also find cider on the the usual online outlets like Amazon and Rakuten, but the sites above are managed by folks who care about and are experienced with cider. They can even answer questions you might have about their products.