First, let’s start with the good news: Japan is probably the easiest place to find makgeolli outside of Korea, it currently being the biggest export market for Korean makgeolli. Also, because of its close proximity to Korea, it is one of the few places in the world to easily find unpasteurized makgeolli (생 막걸리, i.e.”saeng makgeolli”). Sounds great doesn’t it? So, where can you get your favorite rice drink in Tokyo?
Ask for “Maccori”, not Makgeolli
When you look for makgeolli in Japan, note that it is written and pronounced “maccori”, not makgeolli. The Japanese way to write makgeolli is:
(I’m a big fan of the second character – smiley face)
Korean grocery stores & restaurants in Shin-Ōkubo
There is a big Korean community in Tokyo that is concentrated around Koreatown in Shin-Ōkubo (新大久保) in Shinjuku. This is clearly the best place in Tokyo to find fresh makgeolli.
You can find plenty of Korean grocery stores over there and basically all of the bigger ones carry unpasteurized saeng makgeolli from breweries such as Kooksoondang, Jinro, Woorisool, E-Don and Seoul Jangsu. We also found flavored versions incl. chestnut, black bean and fruits. They cost around ¥500 per bottle (around $5.0).
There are also many authentic Korean restaurants in Tokyo, especially in Shin-Ōkubo, and more or less all of them serve fresh makgeolli besides cooking excellent Korean food.
Bic Camera, convenience stores & other stores
Other non-Korean stores, such as convenience stores, liquor stores or department stores typically do not carry makgeolli (however, in very rare cases we did find pasteurized makgeolli at convenience stores, e.g at the 7/11 at the Grand Hyatt Regency).
In case of a makgeolli emergency try to find a “Bic Camera” store (see store locator).
Bic Camera is a large electronics retail chain in Japan and they usually have a liqour section where you can always find pasteurized makgeolli, however with only a very limited choice.
The Makgeolli Gallery is a permanent promotional stand in Shin-Ōkubo that promotes Makgeolli to Tokyoites. It is backed by the Korean Makgeolli Association. I highly recommend to check it out as you can taste many different types of fresh makgeolli free of charge and buy a glass of makgeolli “to go”. You also get a cool free makgeolli cup. The stand is located here.
We haven’t seen or been yet to any makgeolli bar in Tokyo but we heard about the “Maccori Bar”.
There is also a Japanese version of makgeolli, or better Maccori.
However, it was hard to find Japanese Maccori in Tokyo. We only found this bottle from Nagasaki at the souvenir shop in the observatory deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Its taste was very different to Korean makgeolli. It was very sweet and strongly carbonated, a bit like a lemonade but still strong at 8%.
Hope this post helped you in your quest to find makgeolli in Tokyo. Please let me know in case you know other good places to find makgeolli in Tokyo using the comment section below.