Written by Ramona (GREATERTOKYO_Explorer)
Discover Japan's Wine Culture In Koshu - With The JR TOKYO Wide Pass
Koshu in Yamanashi Prefecture is renowned for being Japan's leading area in wine production. With the extremely convenient JR TOKYO Wide Pass, you can enjoy a memorable trip to Koshu and to other amazing destinations around Tokyo!
If you travel to Japan and plan to spend several days in the Tokyo area, you might want to explore the outskirts of the metropolis. In addition to the "standard" Japanese culture, in the areas around Tokyo, you will discover new sides of Japan and even surprising aspects of its culture, which will enrich the image you have of this country.
A very convenient way to travel in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures is using the JR TOKYO Wide Pass issued by JR East. Valid for three consecutive days from the time of purchase, this pass allows unlimited rides on any JR line (including the shinkansen) in Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures. In fact, the JR TOKYO Wide Pass can also be used on partner lines such as Fujikyu Railway, Izu Kyuko Line, Tokyo Monorail, Tobu Railways' limited express trains going to the Nikko area, and others.
What makes the JR TOKYO Wide Pass extremely appealing is the fact that you can spend three consecutive days visiting various areas around Tokyo, from Nagano and Mt. Fuji to Tochigi and Izu.
Let us introduce to you a day trip itinerary that makes full use of the JR TOKYO Wide Pass in order to explore a fascinating side of Japan - its wine culture, which is best represented in Koshu, Yamanashi prefecture.
8:00 -- Purchase the JR TOKYO Wide Pass at Shinjuku Station
The JR TOKYO Wide Pass can be purchased from the JR East Travel Service Centers found within the major stations in the metropolitan area, including the Narita Airport Terminal stations, Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station and Yokohama Station.
The JR East Travel Service Center at Shinjuku Station is located near the New South Exit. In order to purchase the JR TOKYO Wide Pass, please show your passport. This pass can be purchased not only by travelers visiting Japan, but also by foreign residents as long as they hold a foreign passport.
The ticket costs 10,000 yen and is valid for three consecutive days. It looks like a booklet and contains a railway map of the area where it can be used.
Please note that the JR TOKYO Wide Pass should not be inserted into the ticket gates at the station. In order the board a train, you will have to show it to the staff at the JR information counters located by the ticket gates.
For more details on where you can purchase the JR TOKYO Wide Pass and how to use it, please refer to the official web page of JR East: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/tokyowidepass/?src=pcbp
Because our destination was Koshu in Yamanashi Prefecture, we boarded the limited express Azusa bound for Otsuki Station, which departs at 8:30 from platform 10 of the JR Shinjuku Station.
With the Azusa, you get to travel in comfort and fast on the Chuo Main Line. In order to ensure that you get a seat, please specify that you'll be taking the limited express - either at the counter where you purchase the ticket or at the information counter near the ticket gates. This way, you'll receive an additional ticket for the reserved seat. The fee for reserved seats on limited express trains is also covered by the JR TOKYO Wide Pass.
10:27 -- Katsunuma-budokyo: Taking the Local Bus
At Otsuki Station, please get off the Azusa and change to the local train departing at 9:54 and heading to Katsunuma-budokyo Station.
Once you reach Katsunuma-budokyo station, please show your Wide Pass to the staff at the gate. After you exit the station, look to the left. You'll be able to spot a bus stop sign post. From here, you'll be taking the local bus departing at 10:43, which will bring you in approximately 9 minutes to our first destination: Budou no Oka.
11:00 - 12:00 -- Budou no Oka: Choose from 200 Wines!
Budou no Oka is a complex consisting of a Wine Cave, a shop, a hotel, an onsen, a restaurant and an art museum. Visitors can spend a very enjoyable day tasting various types of wines while taking in the beauty of nature in Koshu.
The Wine Cave contains 200 types of wines from all around the country, of which 75% are from the Koshu area. For 1100 yen, you receive a ticket which allows you taste any wine in the Cave. The ticket is valid for a whole day, so you can enter the Cave freely how many times you wish.
There is no better place to taste the many varieties of Koshu wine and compare their features.
At the shop, you’ll be able to find all the varieties of wine for sale, so if you liked one in particularly, how about taking it home as a souvenir from your trip?
No matter if you come just for the wine tasting or to stay overnight, a visit to Budou no Oka will be extremely enjoyable and a great occasion to discover the depths of Koshu’s wine culture.
12:15 - 14:00 – Lunch and Winery Visit at Lumiere Winery
A short taxi ride will bring you to Lumiere Winery and its restaurant - Zelkova. In fact, the area around Lumiere Winery is well-known for being the home of famous Koshu wine brands.
Lumiere is a family-owned winery that has been in business since 1885. It is a well-established name in the world of wine production, acclaimed both nationally and internationally for the quality of their Koshu grapes and wines.
At Zelkova, the restaurant run by Lumiere Winery, visitors can enjoy delicious cuisine made with fresh local ingredients. The dishes are conceived so as to form the perfect marriage with Lumiere wines.
A course meal at Zelkova is a chance to taste sophisticated dishes made with utmost care. The exquisite wines give the finishing touch to this very special culinary experience. Please do take the time to enjoy it leisurely.
After lunch, how about going for a winery tour at Lumiere? The tours are available in Japanese, English, and Chinese and include a visit to the vineyards and the area where wine is produced and bottled, as well as a visit to the old underground storage area, where you can see large containers with wine.
At the end of the tour, visitors can pick up souvenirs in the winery shop. After listening to the explanations of the guide regarding how much work and consideration is put into making this wine, you’ll surely want to take a bottle home and enjoy it with friends and family.
14:15 - 15:30 – A Modern Winery in a Traditional House! Katsunuma Winery
From Lumiere Winery, you can reach Katsunuma Winery in about 8 minutes on foot. Katsunuma Winery is itself a well-established wine brand with a unique philosophy. Housed in an old Japanese traditional house, this winery has treasured the heritage of the past, while managing the family-owned business with an open mind, in tune with the international trends in wine production.
At Katsunuma Jozo, visitors can enjoy three types of winery tours: the Tasting Tour, which involves purchasing a card for 1500 yen that allows one to taste eight different types of wine; the Staff Tour (3000 yen/person) which consists in a visit to the vineyards and to the storage rooms while listening to explanations from a staff member; and the Restaurant Meal Tour (9000 yen), where the guests are guided by the winery owner himself, get to taste premium wines and also to enjoy lunch or dinner at the restaurant “Kaze”, which is operated by Katsunuma Brewery.
The beautiful interior of the Japanese room enhances the experience of tasting the select wines of Katsunuma Winery. Do enjoy this atmosphere in the company of a glass of quality wine.
15:45 - 16:30 -- Daizenji Temple
One of the destinations that shouldn’t be missed out when visiting Koshu is Daizenji, also known as “The Temple of Grapes”. The origins of this dignified Shingon Buddhist temple go back to the Nara period (710 - 794). According to the legend, the monk Gyoki was on a pilgrimage in this area when he had a dream of Yakushi Buddha coming to him with grapes in his hand. This inspired Gyoki to create a statue of the Buddha with grapes, considered a symbol of healing.
The statue is housed within the main prayer hall of the temple. However, it can be seen only once in five years in the first week of October.
A picture of the statue is on display on the altar and can be looked at up close. The space behind the altar is an impressive exhibition of valuable statues, objects and documents related to the rich history of Daizenji which is worth seeing.
If your time allows it, after your temple visit, stop by the garden for a short break. While refreshing yourself with tea courtesy of the temple, you can admire the beautiful Japanese garden of the temple from the veranda. Take a moment to recollect the memories of the day and gather your thoughts and feelings about what you have seen.
17:45 -- Back to Tokyo from Katsunuma-budokyo Station
Right in front of the entrance to Daizenji there is a bus stop. If you take the 16:45 bus heading to Katsunuma-budokyo Station, you’ll reach the station in about six minutes.
Katsunuma-budokyo Station is gorgeous in the evening with its stained glass decorations. Because the station is located on a hill, you can see the lights of the city in the distance, a majestic view that comes as a perfect end of the wonderful day spent around the wineries of Koshu.
The limited express Kaiji departing at 17:45 will take you directly back to Shinjuku Station. Remember that your JR TOKYO Wide Pass is still valid for two more days which can be just as rewarding as the one spent in Yamanashi. Where would you like to go next?
Koshu Day Trip - Route Summary
Shinjuku Station → Katsunuma Budokyo Station → Budo no Oka → Lumiere Winery → Katsunuma Winery Daizenji Temple → Katsunuma Budokyo Station → Shinjuku Station
Transportation expenses: JR TOKYO Wide Pass 10,000 yen (valid for 3 consecutive days)
Bus and taxi in Koshu: 4500 yen
Lunch and souvenirs: around 6000 yen
Supported by East Japan Railway Company