UPDATE: The following is an example of what you can expect to see and do on a free bus tour at the next Fuefuki Budo Expo in 2018. I wrote the following before the actual tour this year (2017), but have now added more photos to give you a better idea of the venues you can visit while touring Fuefuki.
You are invited to enjoy the delicious wines and grapes of the premier grape and wine producing region of Japan from September 16th to the 18th, 2017. Free bus tours from JR Isawa Onsen Station will allow you to enjoy Japanese wines and wineries without the need to hire a driver. Set in expansive vineyards with vistas of the surrounding countryside and mountains, this tour is a rare opportunity to enjoy a part of Japan that tourists almost never see.
Free tour buses will depart Isawa Onsen Station every 40 minutes. The tour buses will leave at the following times:
12:35 (Special schedule for lunch time)
Spots of Interest:
JR ISAWA ONSEN STATION:
The first spot of interest is actually within Isawa Onsen Station where you can taste 16 different wines without leaving the station. Just pay 200 yen and try the wine of your choice! Follow the instructions in the booklet provided by the tourist information centre. If you are lucky, they might serve you a couple of crackers. Better yet, bring your own crackers and cheese. Personally, I intend to bring my favourite wine glass.
The second spot of interest is Monde Winery (year-round wine-tasting). There is a factory tour and a large tasting room.
The third spot of interest is Yahagi (Traditional Japanese Winery). This winery still produces budoshu (Japanese wine). Japanese budoshu is traditionally consumed in a tea cup rather than a wine glass. If you speak Japanese, the 4th generation owner will entertain you with stories of the history of wine production in Yamanashi. Try a dry white wine.
The fourth spot of interest is Suzuran Winery. This winery has been in operation for over 110 years. Unfortunately, this winery did not seem well prepared for the Budo Expo of 2017, so don’t expect big changes in 2018. Walk around the neighbourhood to get some tantalizing glimpses of fantastic older homes with beautiful Japanese gardens.
The fifth spot of interest is Lumière Winery and Restaurant Zelkova. Like many of the wineries in this area, it is worth walking around to see the local colour of the neighbourhood. In addition to seeing some fantastic vistas of vineyards, mountains and older Japanese homes, you may want to look at the local shrines and temples. I recommend taking a walk to the north of Lumière Winery, across the main road, to see a huge tree, traditional Japanese house, and garden set behind vineyards. You could easily spend an hour just drinking in the atmosphere here.
ALPS WINE SALON:
The sixth spot of interest is Alps Wine Salon. Again, walk around the neighbourhood to enjoy vistas of vineyards and orchards.
HIKAWA CHUO WINERY:
The seventh spot of interest is Hikawa Chuo Winery. There is a beautiful old home with a mud-walled storage house (tsuchikabe kura). If you like traditional Japanese architecture, you are going to love this place.
MISAKA NOEN (FARM) GRAPE HOUSE:
The eighth spot of interest is Misaka Noen (Farm) Grape House. You will find this venue tucked behind Fuefuki Wine. This is an incredible venue for enjoying Yamanashi wines. There must be over 100 tables under grape trellises where you can drink wine and eat barbecue until your heart is content.
YAMANASHI PREFECTURAL MUSEUM:
The ninth spot of interest is Yamanashi Prefectural Museum. Although this museum houses all of Katsushika Hokusai’s 36 views of Mount Fuji, the famous woodblock prints are displayed very infrequently. However, you can manage to see some original Hokusai manga from the Edo period. The true star of this museum has to be the extensive collection of dioramas held in the main exhibition room.
If you are at all interested in Japanese history, you must see this collection. The dioramas depict daily life in Edo-era Japan. The collection of dioramas alone is worth the 510 yen admission fee. If you are staying in a hotel nearby, you can get a small discount on your admission fee.
MARS YAMANASHI WINERY:
The tenth spot of interest is Mars Yamanashi Winery (year-round wine-tasting). There is a factory tour and a large tasting room.