In This Epic Train Ride, You'll Be Able To Enjoy The Beauty Of The Japanese Countryside While Tasting Sake

In This Epic Train Ride, You'll Be Able To Enjoy The Beauty Of The Japanese Countryside While Tasting Sake
Courtesy of Shu*Kura

Taking you on this unique, upscale experience that showcases the best of Japan's Niigata Prefecture, featuring train and sake fans in equal measure, Rich Report aims to appeal to both rail lovers and sake lovers in equal measure.

The purpose of some trains is simply to get from point A to point B. Others, such as the East Japan Railway Company's ShuKura, do it all because it's all about the journey that's important to them.

Northwestern Japan's Niigata Prefecture, which is known for rice, water, and snow, operates this train along a few routes. In winter, this region is nicknamed "snow country" due to the deep drifts of snow that blanket the towns and cover the majestic mountains, however, come spring and summer, the region blossoms with bright green foothills and rice paddies covering the countryside.

The sightseeing train passes through this bucolic scenery, passing wooden farmhouses embellished with hollyhocks and hydrangeas as it trundles through rural villages. For part of its route, it runs along the Sea of Japan and runs along the valleys of the Hida and Echigo mountains in the Hida Mountain Range.

In Niigata, rice and water are considered the two most important ingredients when it comes to making nihonshu (saké). As the name implies, the Shu-Kura is a craft brewery that showcases some of Niigata's best sakes on board, and passengers are encouraged to taste some of those sakes while gazing out at the rice that is used to create the snacks on board.

It’s a tiny train with only three cars. It has been fashioned from retrofitted KiHa diesel railcars from the 40 and 48 series and is made from retrofitted KiHa 42 and 48 series. In the first car, there are rotating reclining seats, picture windows, and a small event space, while in the third car, there are pairs and quads of seats and tables that are designed to maximize both sightseeing and dining experience. 

During the course of the trip, the middle car acts as a bar, with dark wood tables and sake barrels mounted on the walls, as well as attendants who can explain the characteristics of each brew to the passengers. Besides the possibility to buy whole bottles of wine to take home, passengers can also buy a tasting flight starting from 300 yen per glass, which can be drunk on-board, shared, or taken home.

While the picturesque scenery alone is reason enough to book a ticket, passengers can also take in brief jazz performances and other events during some segments of the trip in addition to getting quietly buzzed while staring down at the breathtaking scenery.

The ShuKura train operates from Joetsu Myoko to either Tōkamachi, known as the Koshino ShuKura route, Echigo Yuzawa, referred to as the Yuzawa ShuKura, or Niigata city, which is called the Ryuto ShuKura.

 In the spring and autumn, the train runs on weekends and makes a round-trip trip per day, with routes changing weekly, and it operates one round-trip ride per day. There is an approximate three-hour travel time for a one-way trip.

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