There’s lots of online advice on buying scotch in Japan, but most of it is focused around obtaining extremely limited age-statement bottlings of Yamazaki/Hibiki/Chichibu and targeted at English language speaking tourists. If your goal is bring home a bottle of good Japanese whisky, save yourself some hassle and go on Amazon and buy this.
I do intend to cover some of the touristy destinations, but a lot of the best whisky in Japan is only sold mail/online order or requires you to enter a lottery/pre-reservation sale system. Now that Google Chrome comes with automatic translation, and you can install the Japanese language keyboard on your PC to write half/full width characters, everyone should be able to navigate an online purchase from a Japanese retailer.
Some stores will not accept foreign credit cards, but you can easily buy a pre-paid JCB or other card at the local conbini.
Stores I particularly approve of will get a 💖 of loveliness. Stores I have not yet been to will get a ⚠️ of “who knows!” Also, I have made a Google Maps list of all the retailers with physical locations.
In-Person Stores — Single Shops
💖Liquors Hasegawa is well known with tourists, but as you can sample many bottles in the store for a nominal ¥100–200 fee. Make sure you go to both locations in Yaesu; the second location is smaller, but carries interesting stock, like age-statement Japanese whisky.
💖Yamaya has a new Ginza 777 shop with a TON of whisky, and tasting on offer on most of the bottles there. Recommend stopping by, they have a particularly good selection of Glenfarclas.
If you are in Ginza, check out Liquors Express just down the street from Shinanoya and Ginza 777, if you’re willing to pay, they do stock almost every Japanese whisky in existence. M-Whisky in the neighborhood provides a tasting bar and wall-to-wall high-end Japanese whisky that is priced to attract spenders — but good for a look.
Roppongi Suzusake is small but with a good, wide selection of whiskey on offer. Most of it is from OB lines, but they have a little bit of IB, and from time-to-time, age statement Japanese whisky.
Tanakaya has quite a few interesting bottles if you can haul yourself there. The store is in the basement, just walk down the woody stairs!
⚠️Acorn Limited is waaaaay far out in Saitama, but they have an excellent online shop select that inclines me to think the walls of whisky there will have some finds.
In-Person Stores — Chains
💖Shinanoya is the chain with the best selection of Scotch Whisky in Tokyo; in particular, the Shinjuku Kabuchiko and Ginza locations often have excellent bottles.
Yamaya (Liquor Mountain) has a good dozen stores around the Tokyo area — they mostly stock all kinds of alcoholic beverages as well as most core ranges of the various Scotch distilleries, but from time to time will have a few interesting whiskies there as well.
In-Person Stores — Department Stores
Isetan, Mitsukoshi, BIC Camera, Takashimaya, Daimaru, Don Quijote and more all stock spirits — unlike department stores in the US. Richard has written a better list than I will ever write, so go read his post @ https://www.nomunication.jp/2019/08/13/where-to-buy-japanese-whisky-in-tokyo-maybe/
- The Shinanoya net shop often runs internet-only bottles, as well as limited reservations and special “for Shinanoya” bottlings
- 💖If you live in Japan, SMWS Japan is a must-sign-up for. In addition to the usual bottlings that go around worldwide, there are Japan exclusives
- Musashi-ya has a huuuuge online inventory
- 💖e-singlemalt has quite good selection with tons of new stuff coming in every day
- Interestingly enough, Rakuten hosts a ton of online whisky shops, some of which I like include wineuki, Chataga Park, Felicity, and this one
- Kinko Liquor, Malt House, and Mukawa Spirit Store
- There are also lots of shoppes with Yahoo Japan storefronts too, so check there. I’ve bought from Spirits Bacchus Barrels in the past.