Enjoy a Fruitful Visit to the Wine Country in Yamanashi

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Enjoy a Fruitful Visit to the Wine Country in Yamanashi
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Koshu 甲州 is the leading grape and wine production area in Japan. Located in Yamanashi Prefecture, it is a scenic countryside with wineries and vineyards set against a spectacular mountain backdrop. The town of Katsunuma 勝沼 in particular is known as the home of Koshu wines, also the birthplace of Japanese wine where the history of grape cultivation dates back more than 1,200 years.

The wine country feels a world away from the sights and sounds of big cities, making it a nice destination to see a different side of Japan. You can have an enjoyable trip here by taking part in grape or wine related activities, visiting the historical attractions, and trying various local specialties. Read on to find out what are the popular things to do in Katsunuma!

Budo no Oka ぶどうの丘

Image: Takashi Yamaoku on flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

A popular wine-themed attraction in Katsunuma, Budo no Oka (means Grape Hill) is a complex consisting of a hotel, hot spring, restaurants, souvenir shop, and a wine cave with almost 200 different wines up for tasting.

For those curious about Japanese wines, the wine cave is apparently the main draw. The wine tasting costs 1,100 yen and comes with a tastevin, better yet, it is valid for an entire day so visitors can taste as much as they want or return as many times as they want for the day to sample what’s in the cellar: an array of local wines from red to white, sweet to full-bodied.

Image: Cheng-en Cheng on flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Others not tasting the wines can have a great time too. Located on hilltop, Budo no Oka also features other facilities such as a viewing platform where visitors can enjoy stunning views of the Southern Alps and the surrounding countryside, restaurants which serve up meals that make use of local ingredients including wine and other grape products, and onsen which commands marvellous views of the Kofu Basin.

Access: Take a local bus (Wine Course Line / Budou Course Line) from Katsunuma Budokyo Station 勝沼ぶどう郷駅 to Budo no Oka bus stop. Alternatively, it is 20 minutes on foot from the station.

Website: http://budounooka.com/

Winery tour

Image: Cheng-en Cheng on flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Katsunuma is home of dozens of wineries which use locally grown grapes or even only those from their own vineyards to make wine. It is also known specifically for Koshu, a native grape variety used in local winemaking that makes Koshu wines different from other regions’ products.

If you are looking for wine experience that is different from that of at Budo no Oka, do consider visiting some of the wineries which will give you a better understanding of the local wine brands which are not only famous in Japan but also enjoy a good reputation worldwide.

While a standard winery tour usually includes visit to the facilities, vineyard, and some wine tasting, different courses may also be available depending on the winery. To take part in one of these tours, reservation is required and can be made through their websites. You can find the region’s prominent wineries on Koshu of Japan website.

More info: http://www.koshuofjapan.com/index.html

Daizen-ji Temple 大善寺

Also known as Grape Temple, Daizenji is the place where grape cultivation was first started in Yamanashi more than 12 centuries ago. Founded in 718, the ancient temple is housing a number of relics, including the statue of Grape Yakushi (Buddha of Medicine and Healing) which is only open for public viewing every 5 years, and the national treasure of Yakushi Hall which was reconstructed in 1286.

While you are here, be sure to spend some time admiring the temple’s Japanese garden from the veranda. Besides enjoying some quiet moments, you can also taste the temple’s homemade wine which is available by the glass at 300 yen each. From early to mid-April, the temple turns into a popular hanami spot with sakura trees blooming everywhere around the temple grounds.

Note: If you are visiting the temple this year, the statue of Grape Yakushi will be available for viewing from October 1 to 8, 2018.

Hours: 9 AM to 4 PM (December to March) / 9 AM to 4:30 PM (April – November)

Admission: 500 yen

Access: From Katsunuma Budokyo Station, take a local bus (Wine Course Line) to Daizenji bus stop. Alternatively, the temple is a 5 minute taxi ride from the station.

Website: http://katsunuma.ne.jp/~daizenji/en/index.html

Grape picking

Not interested in wine? How about picking some grapes for yourself? From August to October, the vines of over 100 grape farms in Katsunuma are laden with bunches of plump, luscious grapes, marking the start of budou-gari ぶどう狩り or grape picking season! It is a very popular activity in Katsunuma and you get to pick and savour the freshest grapes available from Kyoho to Pione, Muscat to Koshu (note that harvest times vary depending on the variety).

Usually two plans are available: “All you can eat plan” where you pay a set price, eat as many as you want but cannot take any leftover home, or “Budou-gari plan” where you pay for what you picked and you can take the fruit home with you. Many of the farms also operate on-site restaurants and kiosks selling jams, juices, and other products made from local produce, so it’s a good opportunity to enjoy the taste of Yamanashi!

More info: Katsunuma Budokyo Station Tourist Information Centre (open from 9 AM to 4 PM)

A different Japanese experience

Image: Takashi Yamaoku on flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The wine country of Katsunuma is a beautiful destination to learn about Japanese winemaking or simply to escape from excessive stimulation of modern life. Easily accessible from Tokyo via the JR Chuo Line, it makes a pleasant day trip from the metropolis, not to mention it is close to Mt. Fuji too! At the end of the day, don’t forget to take home a bottle of wine (or pure grape juice if you don’t take alcohol) and enjoy it with your loved ones!

How to go:

From Shinjuku Station, take the limited express train “Azusa” or “Kaiji” to Katsunuma Budokyo Station. This is the fastest way to get to Katsunuma and the journey takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Alternatively, take a train (special rapid, rapid, local) from Shinjuku Station to Takao Station 高尾駅, where you transfer to a local train to Katsunuma Budokyo Station. The journey takes about 2 hours.


Kyla HS
Kyla HS
A student, part-time translator and writer. I like anime, Jpop and Jrock in general but ultimately, I love to travel and often spend most of my expenses on food.

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