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The Best Wineries and Distilleries with Tours: Japan’s Hidden Gems

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What could be better than an afternoon in the countryside with some delicious foods, good friends, and beautiful scenery? The same situation with a glass of wine or whiskey, of course! This article is going to give you the details of Japan’s hidden wine and whiskey industries, and introduce some opportunities to go on tours with the best Japanese guides. Read on to learn more about Japanese wine and whiskey!

About Katsunuma Wine in Koshu area

Koshu was a province that was established in the Nara period and existed until the Meiji Restoration and was regarded as an important region for defense during the Edo Period.

Koshu province is now known as Yamanashi prefecture, and there remains a city named Koshu in Yamanashi. Now, Koshu is one of the most famous areas in Japan for wine. The area is famous for its regional specialty called Koshu wine, a type of wine made from a variety of grapes called Koshu grapes.

Katsunuma, an area in Koshu city located just 90 minutes from Tokyo, is wine country within the city. Katsunuma is located in a valley just North of Mount Fuji. You can enjoy panoramic views of the region and Mount Fuji. There are 31 wineries in the Katsunuma area of Koshu. Here 27% of all Japanese wine is produced, with the main variety being local Koshu white wine.

The best season to visit the Katsunuma area is in October when the vines are full of ripe grapes ready for picking and winemaking. You can enjoy a winery tour where you can sip on different varieties of local wine. Perhaps you can try your hand at some winemaking yourself as well. Grape-stomping is another fun activity that is sure to be a highlight of your trip. Most wineries also offer grape juice tasting for children, those who do not drink, or designated drivers. The area is very welcoming for all types of travelers and is a must-visit for any wine lover.

 

How to get to Katsunuma

By train

The best way to reach Katsunuma is to take the Chuo Rapid Line. Take the Limited Express “Azusa” or “Kaiji” and get off at Katsunuma Budokyo station. You can board the train at Shinjuku, Tachikawa, or Hachioji station.

By car or by funk bass

There is a highway express bus departing from Shinjuku bus terminal that connects Tokyo and Katsunuma. There are multiple departures daily, but some of the busses skip Katsunuma. Be careful when reserving a seat to ensure your bus stops at Katsunuma.

 

If you want to go by car, you can use the Chuo Expressway, which is a toll highway running from through Tokyo and Yamanashi. Please note that most visitors will need to possess an international driver’s license to operate a vehicle in Japan.

 

Alternatively, you can join a tour with knowledgable local guides. Tokyo Travel Assist offers a winery tour. They will use their expertise and take you to some of the best wineries in Katsunuma. If you want to get in contact with them, use this form on their website. They offer other tours around Japan as well, so take a look through their website to combine your winery tour with other activities to make your perfect trip itinerary.

 

Three best wineries

There are roughly 30 wineries in Katsunuma so it can be difficult for travelers to find the best winery to visit. We recommend the following wineries:

Mars Hosaka Winery

Mars Hosaka Winery is built on a low hill in Katsunuma. On a clear sunny day, you can even enjoy a view of Mount Fuji in the horizon.

Their wines are world-class wines that have won multiple awards in Japan and have gained acclaim abroad too. You can find precious aged wine here alongside many fresh bottles of Koshu wine.

Address: 8−1 Kamiimai Hosakamachi, Nirasaki, Yamanashi
Tel: 0551-45-8883
Email: Contact form
Hours: March – November: 9:00~17:00
December – February:  10:00~16:00

 

Mars Hosaka Winery

Katsunuma Winery

Katsunuma Winery is a winery with over 140 years of history. Their wines utilize only the indigenous Koshu grape variety, making them authentic Katsunuma wines.

Their famous line of wines called Koshu Aruga Branca Brilhante is incredibly difficult to find outside of Japan, so a visit to the Katsunuma winery is a must for those looking to get their hands on a bottle of Katsunuma Winery’s wine.

Address: 371 Shimoiwasaki Katsunumacho, Koshu, Yamanashi
Tel: 0553-44-0069
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:00~18:00

Grace Wine 

Grace Wine is a winery in Katsunuma whose wines have acquired numerous awards over the years. 

There is a wine bar featuring Grace Wine’s products inside of Ishiwa-Onsen station which is a little-known to tourists but a great visit for those looking to casually sample some of Grace Wine’s products.

Address: 173 Todoroki Katsunumacho, Koshu, Yamanashi
Tel: 0553-44-1230
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:00~16:30

Budo-no-Oka

Budo-no-Oka is not a winery but a local wine tasting center. Budo-no-Oka features a wine restaurant, a shop, a hotel, and a barbecue restaurant. We recommend Budo-no-Oka for those looking to not only sample but also understand the differences in different kinds of wine. You can try a number of wines from the Katsunuma region, making it an efficient one-stop-shop for travelers.

Address: 5093 Katsunumacho Hishiyama, Koshu, Yamanashi
Tel: 0553-44-1230
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:00~16:30

About Japanese whiskey

Japan is known around the world for its sake, or traditional Japanese rice wine. In shops around the world, you can try different varieties of Japanese sake. However, you may be surprised to hear that Japan is also becoming a hotspot for whiskey production as well. Japanese whiskey has been getting popular in recent years and consequently getting more expensive. What’s so unique about Japanese whiskey is that it utilizes pure water from the peak of Mount Fuji, giving it a unique and delicious taste.

Three recommended distilleries

Since most people are not aware of Japan’s growing whiskey market, most people also do not know where to find authentic Japanese whiskey distilleries. Here are three whiskey distilleries we recommend:

 

Suntory’s Hakushu distillery

Suntory’s Hakushu Distillery is a whiskey distillery located in Hokuto, Yamanashi used for the production of Suntory’s famous Hakushu whiskey. This distillery offers two ways to enjoy its facilities.

The first is to look around at your own pace without the help of a guide by exploring the history of whiskey in the Suntory Museum of Whiskey. Note that you cannot gain access to the production process if you choose to browse by yourself.

The second way is to join the Hakushu Distillery Tour where you can get exclusive access to the production area. You can watch malt whiskey production and enjoy the aroma of 10, 20, and even 30-year old aging whiskey in the warehouse.

Hakushu Distillery

Besides the tour, you can enjoy limited-edition whiskeys on site. The staff can offer snack pairings with different kinds of whiskey. After trying different varieties, you are welcome to buy a bottle for yourself.

At the Hakushu Distillery, there is also a forest restaurant called “White Terrace”. The restaurant offers mouthwatering dishes made with local ingredients. Furthermore, all of the dishes go well with whiskey! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the distillery in the countryside while sipping on some quality Japanese whiskey.

 

Tokyo Travel Assist offers a Suntory Hakushu Distillery and Tasting Tour. One of Tokyo Travel Assist’s knowledgable local guides will take you on a trip to Suntory’s Hakushu Distillery. Not only will you be accompanied by a friendly local during your visit, but also you will be escorted to and from your accommodation, so there is no concern about getting lost in the countryside. Be sure to check out the Suntory Distillery and Tasting tour page that gives you all of the details of the tour.

Address: 2913-1 Torihara Hakushucho, Hokuto, Yamanashi
Tel: 075-35-2211
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:30~16:30

Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery

Suntory’s Yamazaki Distillery is in the Western part of Japan near Osaka and Kyoto. Similar to the Hakushu Distillery, the Yamazaki Distillery offers two ways to enjoy its facilities.

The first is to look around at your own pace without the help of a guide by exploring the history of whiskey in the Yamazaki Museum of Whiskey. Note that you cannot gain access to the production process if you choose to browse by yourself.

The second way is to join the Yamazaki Distillery Tour where you can get exclusive access to the production area. You can see the various steps of whiskey production here. The warehouse is also open to tour participants, where a guide will explain the process of whiskey maturation.

Address: 5-2-1 Yamazaki Shimamotocho, Mishimagun, Osaka
Tel: 075-962-1423
Email: Contact form
Hours: 10:00~16:45

Kirin’s Fuji Gotemba distillery

Kirin’s Fuji Gotemba Distillery is located Gotemba, a city located right beside Mount Fuji. This Distillery offers three kinds of free distillery tours. One is 30 minutes long, one is 70 minutes long, and one is 90 minutes long. The shortest tour is for casual visitors who are interested in learning the basic history and facts of whiskey through a movie. The tour includes one glass of whiskey for tasting.

The longer tours are for those who are more interested in the details of whiskey production. The 70-minute long tour is the most popular as it allows visitors to view the production process up close. Participants also get to try two different kinds of whiskey on this tour! The 90-minute long tour offers an exclusive opportunity for participants to walk through the maturation warehouse. The 90-minute long tour also offers a chance to sample two different whiskeys on the tour.

Address: 970 Shibanta, Gotenba, Shizuoka
Tel:0550-89-4909
Email: Contact form
Hours: 9:00~16:30

About Tokyo Travel Assist’s Winery or Distillery Tour

Tokyo Travel Assist offers an amazing tour for wine or whiskey lovers visiting Japan. Tokyo Travel Assist offers completely customizable tours that are tailored to your wants and needs. You can go to wineries, whiskey distilleries, or even both! Although their tour page only lists the Suntory Hakushu Distillery Tasting Tour, you can let them know if you would like to visit some wineries in Katsunuma, or maybe go to the Suntory Yamazaki or Fuji Gotemba Whiskey Distilleries.

You can always trust Tokyo Travel Assist because they have knowledgable guides who will help you just like a friend before and during your trip to Japan. Their tour page features a number of tours that you can combine to make a perfect trip to Japan.

Conclusion

After reading this article, you probably feel like sipping on some wine in the shadows of Mount Fuji or tasting some aged whiskey in a real production plant. Now that you know the best wineries and distilleries in Japan, you can easily make a trip by yourself or with the help of a friendly guide.

Let us know how you plan to enjoy your time in Japan with wine or whiskey!

Featured tour

Suntory Hakusyu Distillery & Tasting

You can taste the unblended whisky (not for sale) that makes up Hakushu Single Malt Whisky.
See details