There's a Sake Train Running Through Japan — And It's Just as Cool as You Think

The three-hour sightseeing train travels through Niigata Prefecture's most stunning landscapes, with sake pairings on board.

NIIGATA, JAPAN - Rice terraces are seen at Matsudai Tanada region
Photo: Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

Train travel is already the best form of transportation (go ahead, name a better way, I'll wait). But throw in a freshly poured sake while riding through some of the most stunning landscapes in Japan, and it's a full-on slam dunk winner.

Travelers can hop aboard East Japan Railway Company's Shu*Kura train, a three-hour sightseeing train through Niigata Prefecture, a destination well-known for its sake production thanks to its ideal climate (nicknamed "snow country"), its rice production, and water quality.

The train travels along the region's coast, up through its mountain landscapes, with the scenery outside changing with the seasons, from beautiful blooms in spring and summer to a light touch of foliage in the fall and a soft blanket of snow all winter long.

Crates containing bottles of sake sit stacked at the Hishiya Japanese Sake Brewery
Bloomberg / Getty Images

On the trip, JRPass reports, guests will enjoy sake tastings paired with local treats to keep them nourished and live music performances as a feast for all the senses. Guests will even learn about the art of sake-making from the masters on board. However, no two trips will ever be alike. According to Japan Rail Times, the participating breweries that provide samples for sake flights and tastings change depending on the day and typically offer a variety of sake to sample.

While drinking sake on any train sounds great, the East Japan Railway Company has converted a few very special cars just for this ride.

The company notes on its website that the train consists of three rail cars with different seating arrangements. In car one, guests will find box seats so families can sit together to enjoy both the drinks and the views outside the picture window. Also in car one, guests can sit together in observation pair seats, which all face the same direction to again drink in the stellar views.

Niigata is renowned as one of Japan's best rice-growing area, ranking second amongst all the prefectures in terms of rice production.
Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

In car two, travelers can stretch their legs and hang in the event room, which comes with standing tables. This, the rail company says, is where travelers can also find live music and order a few local snacks from the bar. Finally, in car three, guests will find both reclining and sofa-style seats, so everyone can kick back and unwind for the end of the journey.

The train begins at Joetsu Myoko and makes its way to Tōkamachi, Echigo Yuzawa, and Niigata city (the routes rotate weekly). Guests can come aboard the one-way journey on weekends from spring through autumn (the last date available as of writing is November 27). Reservations are required. See more about the train and book your journey here.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles