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Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

Koshu, easily accessible from Tokyo by train in less than 90 minutes, is famous as the place where winemaking began in Japan. We introduce an itinerary that allows you to taste several types of Koshu wines, visit a wine museum, and enjoy delicious local treats!

2021.12.27

Close to Tokyo! Koshu, Japan's Foremost Wine City

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

Koshu City, located just west of Tokyo in Yamanashi Prefecture, is the ideal destination for wine lovers! Winemaking began here in the early Meiji period (1868-1912) and has developed into the area's iconic brand.

It is neither far nor expensive to travel from Tokyo to this serene area surrounded by mountains. We introduce a day trip itinerary that includes a facility where you can taste hundreds of Koshu wines, to Chateau Mercian Visitor Center, which is home to a wine museum, and a facility dedicated to wine glasses and glass crafts with a stylish cafe famous for its delicious pancakes.

8:30 - 9:55 -- From Shinjuku Station to Koshu

The fastest way to reach Koshu from Tokyo is by limited express train from Shinjuku Station. All seats are reserved on this train so please buy a ticket beforehand at the JR Ticket Center. The train departs from platform 9 of JR Shinjuku Station. Once you arrive at Katsunuma Budokyo Station, it is easy to get around by car or by taxi as buses are few and not very frequent.

Katsunuma Budo no Oka, our first destination, is a 4-minute car ride away from the station.

10:00 - 12:30 -- Katsunuma Budo no Oka: Taste a Wide Variety of Wines!

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

Koshu City, and Yamanashi in general, is very famous for wine production. While Japan might invoke the image of sake, it is highly recommended to give Japanese wine a try as well. Even the more affordable options are very flavorful and delicious.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

Katsunuma Budo no Oka offers a wide variety of Japanese wines, as well as wine-related snacks, various types of grape juice and sweets made with grapes, and other goods. Some of the more expensive wines can be sampled for 500 yen per 100 ml.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

At the Wine Cave, visitors can sample any of the 170 to 200 Japanese wines on display for just 1,520 yen. There is no limit to how many wines you sample and you can take your time to decide which wine to take home.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

Once the admission is paid one will be handed a metal cup (tastevin) that can be kept as a souvenir.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

The wines are all on a self-serving basis. Whether you are a fan of white, rosé, or red wine, there is something for any taste.

Being able to try a small amount from various wines gives even the most casual wine lover an understanding of distinct differences in colors, flavors, and smells experts often mention. Notes of vanilla, citrus, berries, and wood are much more prominent when directly compared.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

While the wine tasting is the main reason we recommend this facility, this is not all Katsunuma Budo no Oka has to offer. The facility has a hotel with very affordable rates, a hot spring facility, a parking spot for camping cars, as well as several restaurants. Each of these parts of the facility comes with a great view of the Koshu Basin and its surrounding mountains.

If you book a room at the hotel, the onsen facility is free to use. Otherwise, it costs 760 yen for adults and 450 yen for children over 3 years old. Towels are not included but can be rented for 310 yen.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

There are four restaurants within the facility. The restaurant on the second floor of the wine shop offers European-inspired cuisine and the best view over Koshu. There is also a Chinese cuisine restaurant offering ramen and fried chicken, as well as a Japanese restaurant offering lunch and dinner courses.

Lastly, there is a restaurant that focuses on barbeque dishes and the local food favorite, hoto noodles. Hoto is a hot pot filled with locally grown vegetables, often including pumpkin, miso-based broth, and particularly thick cuts of udon noodles. This restaurant also has an outside terrace and a table grill to prepare the barbeque meat.

If you go there by rental car, it is highly recommended to stay at the hotel as you can enjoy the wine tasting freely without having to worry about driving. With wine, hot springs, and excellent local food in one place, you can enjoy some of the best things Yamanashi has to offer without the stress of having to move around.

13:00 - 14:30 -- Explore the History of Japanese Wine at Chateau Mercian Visitor Center

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

Chateau Mercian is one of Japan's leading wineries. At Chateau Mercian, visitors can not only taste and purchase Chateau Mercian wines, but also take part in winery tours and visit the wine museum adjoining the facility.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

The Wine Museum has free admission and showcases the oldest existing wine made in Japan, winemaking tools used in the past, as well as Chateau Mercian wine bottles from the past. The displays are introduced with English translations, making this the ideal place to learn more about the history of Japanese winemaking.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

If the weather is fine, how about enjoying a glass of wine while strolling through the Wine Gallery Garden? Part of the vineyard is visible from here, making it an excellent photo location.

If you visit on a weekend or public holiday, consider taking part in a winery tour. The premium tour (90 minutes; 3,000 yen) includes a visit to Chateau Mercian's B Cellar where wine is in the making, as well as the tasting of six wines.

15:00 - 16:30 - Glass Accessory Workshop and Delicious Pancakes at the Wineglass House

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

Budo Kobo Wineglass House is easy to spot in between vineyards and small townhouses. It is a large building with an European flair to it.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

The facility has a shop with a wide variety of glasswork, including wine glasses.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

The countless glass items, from figurines to interior decoration items and accessories, will surely steal your heart!

The store also has an area dedicated to crystals of all sorts. From unpolished pieces of stone to accessories, there is something for every price and budget.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

If you want to take home a very special souvenir, consider taking part in the accessory-making workshop. You can either purchase a preselected kit or you can create your own product and pay the total of whichever parts you pick. Glass and crystal parts of various shapes and colors are available for you to choose from.

We decided to make a cute set of stud earrings. For this, we picked our own choice of stones and the staff gave us advice on how to assemble them. It only took about 5 minutes to assemble the earrings! If you have to wait for the glue to dry like us, it is the perfect time to head to the lovely cafe within the facility for a coffee or a snack.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

Cafe Vinho is decorated with European-style antique-looking furniture. It has a warm atmosphere and is perfect for relaxing before heading back home.

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

The stars of the menu are their fluffy Japanese pancakes. They are thick and very mousse-like in texture which makes them extremely filling. There are three types of pancake desserts you can choose from and all of them look extremely appetizing.

Japanese pancakes have gone viral all over the world for their unique taste and texture and it is highly recommended to try them at least once while in Japan.

16:45 - 17:00 - Great View of Koshu from Ushioku Miharashi Hill

Koshu Day Trip: Exploring the Heart of Japan's Wine Culture

With sparkling accessories and a full stomach, it's time to go back to Katsunuma Budokyo Station. To avoid long waiting times, make sure to check the time table beforehand as the trains directly to Tokyo only run a few times a day.

If you go by taxi, ask the taxi driver to stop by Ushioku Miharashi Hill on the way to enjoy a breathtaking view of Koshu City surrounded by mountains.

After 17:00 - Back to Tokyo

Unfortunately, there are no direct limited express trains going from Katsunuma Budokyo Station to Shinjuku. You'll have to take a regular train to Enzan Station and change here to a limited train heading to Shinjuku.

Even though this itinerary ends with us going directly back to Tokyo, one could also return to Katsunuma Budo no Oka and try a couple more wines before heading back.

Koshu is a great place to visit for any wine or gourmet lover. If you wish to spend a relaxing day filled with delicious food and wine, why not try this day trip?

Route summary
Shinjuku Station → Katsunuma Budokyo Station → Katsunuma Budo no Oka → Chateau Mercian Visitor Center → Budo Kobo Wineglass Museum → Ushioku Miharashi Hill → Katsunuma Budokyo Station → Shinjuku Station

Expenses
Transportation (roundtrip): 7,500 yen
Taxi fares: about 4,000 yen
Wine tasting: 1,520 yen
Snacks, souvenirs, workshop: about 3,000 yen

The writer visited these facilities on November 12. 2021.

Sponsored by Koshu City

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.