The quaint mountain town of Katsunuma is packed with wineries, hot springs and amazing views in the heart of Japan's wine country.
I took weekend trips here in the summer and again this fall. The fall colors, grapevine-covered country side and bright blue sky made it two days of picturesque tranquility.
Actually, Katsunuma merged into what is now called Koshu. The Koshu area is known for its wine production as well as “viniculture,” or science, production and study of grapes. Katsunuma is still known for its Wine and Grape Festival. With 24 local wineries on site, the fest that offers free wine saw its 62nd year earlier this month. I didn't get a chance to go, but it's on my list for next year!
Katsunuma produces 27 percent of Japan’s wine. Along with grapes, the region that’s north of Mt. Fuji is also a producer of peaches and plums. There are 31 wineries in Katsunuma, according to an article in Japan Montly Web Magazine.
You can pick grapes from September through October, but I only got a chance to taste the sweet fruits of the labor while I was there, not pick any of them. I saw perfect deep-purple grapes delicately dangling in vineyards as I strolled along the narrow streets of Katsunuma. I also, for the first time, got to sink my teeth into muscat grapes. The plump green grapes are what Moscato wine is made from, and they had a sweetly unique taste I couldn’t get enough of.
There are many small bed-and-breakfast accommodations to stay in after sightseeing. Notably and affordably, there is a hostel called, Katsunuma Budokyo Youth Hostel, about a 20-minute walk from the station.
A few notable wineries are Manns Wines, Haramo Wine and Chateau Mercian. Many types of grapes are grown, thus making for a notable variety of wines to try.
For the most relaxing view of the area, go to the hot spring bath “Tenku no Yu,” where you can take an open-air bath while overlooking the city and the Japanese Southern Alps.
About a 1-hour-and-30-minute trip by JR Chuo Line Limited express “Azusa” or “Kaiji” from Shinjuku Station to Katsunuma-budokyo Station.