As the train that I was riding on drew closer to JR Kyushu Tanushimaru Station, I all found myself in the midst of greenery. Getting off at the adorable kappa-shaped station modeled after the imaginary Japanese creature, I felt as if the air had become clean and fresh all of a sudden. This may indeed be true, since in fact Kurume City, which the station is in, is famous for its prosperous fruit culture. It's especially famous for growing grapes, apples, and pears with spring water from the mountains and there are numerous orchards covering the spacious land.
There are many activities you can do around the station, such as fruit picking, as I guess you may have guessed. However, I wasn’t there just to collect grapes – I went there to visit a winery. Tanushimaru is known to have been the first place to start growing Kyoho grapes (large purple-black skinned grapes) – also called ‘the King of Grapes’ in Japan. As you can tell from the name, the Kyoho Winery is the place that makes wine from Kyoho grapes (as well as from many other types of fruits).
The day I went to see this winery was extremely hot and humid as usual, the temperature hitting 35℃ like any other day in July. However that wasn’t an issue, since the tall trees spreading out their branches full of green leaves blocked out the harsh sunlight, the breeze was cool and comforting, and the sound of cicadas made my tired self refreshed and ready to go on this journey of wine.
First, I walked into the orchard where they grow Kyoho grapes, blueberries, roses, and many other fruits I’ve never seen or heard of before. Apparently, these are all used in the wine they make here. After walking around outside, I went into the underground wine cellar. There they had the many old wine bottles from the years since their establishment in 1972, and the chilly air and the dark lights made the atmosphere heavy, as if it were signifying the dignity of the history of the winery. They also showed some traditional winemaking machines too.
After you go through the whole getting-to-know-the-winery process, there's the most exciting part: you get to taste various kinds of wine in the souvenir shop. Since Kyoho Winery makes wine out of not only grapes, but also other types of fruits, getting to taste them and compare all at once is a very fun and interesting experience. Don’t get too drunk, though, since there are many other types of souvenirs they sell as well, and you won’t want to miss them.
I highly recommend you visit this winery either with your family, friends, or maybe even by yourself – you can enjoy the different types of fruits in the orchard and the wine is good. It's simply a fun and interesting place for all ages. They have a restaurant as well, surrounded by the beautiful green trees with a light atmosphere, and once you see the beautiful and nostalgic view from the spot, you will definitely know you made the right choice to come here.