Homebrewing in Japan is in very strange place legally. The act of
making your own beer is perfectly legal. However, it is illegal to
brew over 1% alcohol by volume. While the police aren’t kicking down
doors and testing beers for violations, it is certainly up to personal
discretion if someone wants to risk it. If you do, here are a few
places to start.
Sakeland: I got most of my equipment and the supplies for my first
batch here. The website’s organization is a little wonky, and there is
not a lot of English going around. Anybody with a basic level of
Japanese can make it work, but be prepared to look up some rather high
level words. (fermentation!) They offer free shipping and free cash on
delivery on orders of 15,000 yen or more, which is really nice if you
don’t have a credit card. I was actually very impressed with the speed
and quality of service. I placed my order the day before a midweek
holiday, and everything shipped on the holiday. I had my supplies
within 48 hours, which is impressive for any internet mail order
Advanced Brewing: Here you have a better selection and layout than
Sakeland. They offer liquid yeast, as well as more varieties of hops.
They also list a few things in English, which can be nice. You can
even specify specific amounts of hops, which allows you to forgo
owning a scale. (I know, I really should just get a cooking scale, but
as large as my apartment may be by Japanese standards space is still
at a premium. This is especially true in my kitchen.) They also offer a newsletter in Japanese, with homebrew meetups, classes, and information on new items. The downside to using Advanced Brewing is their lack of alacrity in shipping. I ordered the
supplies for my second batch (an American Wheat) here, and it took a
good two weeks to ship. This is fine if you plan ahead
sufficiently, but it is worth noting.
I have found two American suppliers that ship internationally.
Hops Direct has a wide variety of hops available, and More Beer, which offers a wide variety of home brew supplies and equipment. I have yet to order from either of them, but it is very nice to have the option. Both have excellent selections, and I intend to make use of these sites for interesting hops as I retool my IPA this
As far as buying things in an actual store, I have heard of and on
occasion seen brew supplies at Tokyu Hands. The last few times I have
looked though, I didn’t find anything. It is possible that things were
moved around, or sold out. Even so, the mail order suppliers are a
little cheaper and offer a much wider variety.