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(Day) trip from Tokyo to Hakushu Distillery

(Day) trip from Tokyo to Hakushu Distillery

Old Oct 14, 2023, 5:43 am
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(Day) trip from Tokyo to Hakushu Distillery

Hi all!

I'm excited that I've secured a spot for the MONOZUKURI tour at the Hakushu Distillery in early December. I'm now faced with a few choices and would greatly appreciate your insights and recommendations.

My primary interests lie in whisky (of course ), culinary experiences, planes and trains. With that in mind, I'm wondering if it's worth considering a day trip from Tokyo to visit the Hakushu Distillery? That is, to hop on board the Chuo Line, take the tour, and then head straight back to Tokyo. Or do you think the tour may not justify the time spent on the train?

Alternatively, after the tour, I have the option to take the Koumi Line to Sakudaira and stay there for one night before taking the shinkansen back to Tokyo. Does anyone have any experience with this train route, and is it worth it? Also, is staying in Sakudaira worthwhile for someone with my interests? Or is the trip up north towards Matsumota/Nagano or south (Mount Fuji)a better idea?

Can anyone confirm whether the train fares for the trip to the Hakushu Distillery and the other destinations are covered by the Tokyo Wide Pass?

Lastly, are there other noteworthy sites, culinary experiences, or scenic train routes worth exploring while I'm in the area? My primary goal is to visit the Hakushu Distillery, but I'm open to suggestions that could enhance my journey. I have a total of 2 full days, starting and ending in Tokyo(Shinjuku).

I'm looking forward to your valuable advice and experiences. Thank you in advance!
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 5:56 am
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Yes, it's worth it if you've not been as the distillery is beautiful surrounded by the forest and you can drink their premium whiskies for cheap. It's also significantly less busy than Yamazaki distillery. It is covered by the Tokyo wide pass to Kobuchizawa station. Keep in mind you will need to either take a taxi or use the shuttle bus (if it's operating) from the station to the distillery. There is not really much to do around Kobuchizawa itself.

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Old Oct 14, 2023, 7:46 am
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Azusa limited express not covered? Why not combine with a trip to Matsumoto and spend the night? Take from Shinjuku to kabuchizawa and then continue on to Matsumoto after to spend the night.
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 8:58 am
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Originally Posted by Topcare
Azusa limited express not covered? Why not combine with a trip to Matsumoto and spend the night? Take from Shinjuku to kabuchizawa and then continue on to Matsumoto after to spend the night.
Matsumoto is a neat little city, enhanced by its original castle.

Plus, while there you can be on the lookout for Touge, the local buckwheat shochu.
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 1:33 pm
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Is there anything you have found that you would like to do in Sakudaira?

It’s a two hour trip on an infrequent route from Kabuchizawa. My guess is that you see it as a convenient stop from which to get the Shinkansen back to Tokyo using the Tokyo Wide Pass. I’m not sure that it is.

Your main problem now is how to make the most out of the JR East Tokyo Wide Pass.

If you were to go to Kabuchizawa and back on a day trip, that would cover two thirds of the cost of the Tokyo Wide Pass, effectively giving you a further two days of travel for 5,000 yen.

I really like Matsumoto, the castle is my favourite in Japan and there is enough to see in the city to merit an overnight stay over.
It will cost you just under 3,000 for the return trip from Kabuchizawa (the limit of where you can go with a Tokyo Wide Pass on that branch of the JR East network)

You would then be committed (before or after) to an excursion for the third day, somewhere like Nikko would make it worthwhile but only just.

Now that the Tokyo Wide Pass is 15,000 instead of 10,000 and the fact that it locks you into 3 consecutive days of travel, does make it tricky to justify.

Alternatively you could not get a pass, just get tickets to Matsumoto and have a stopover in Kabuchizawa on either direction. Go on the day three excursion on a day that suits you.
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 2:31 pm
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Originally Posted by LapLap
Is there anything you have found that you would like to do in Sakudaira?

Its a two hour trip on an infrequent route from Kabuchizawa. My guess is that you see it as a convenient stop from which to get the Shinkansen back to Tokyo using the Tokyo Wide Pass. Im not sure that it is.

Your main problem now is how to make the most out of the JR East Tokyo Wide Pass.

If you were to go to Kabuchizawa and back on a day trip, that would cover two thirds of the cost of the Tokyo Wide Pass, effectively giving you a further two days of travel for 5,000 yen.

I really like Matsumoto, the castle is my favourite in Japan and there is enough to see in the city to merit an overnight stay over.
It will cost you just under 3,000 for the return trip from Kabuchizawa (the limit of where you can go with a Tokyo Wide Pass on that branch of the JR East network)

You would then be committed (before or after) to an excursion for the third day, somewhere like Nikko would make it worthwhile but only just.

Now that the Tokyo Wide Pass is 15,000 instead of 10,000 and the fact that it locks you into 3 consecutive days of travel, does make it tricky to justify.

Alternatively you could not get a pass, just get tickets to Matsumoto and have a stopover in Kabuchizawa on either direction. Go on the day three excursion on a day that suits you.
Thank you for your reply. Very useful information.

Sakudaira is indeed my stop to catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Someone recommended the Koumi Line for its scenic beauty, and one of the most picturesque train journeys in Japan. However, considering your reaction, it may be different, and a trip to Matsumoto might be a better idea.

Also, I haven't purchased the Tokyo Wide Pass yet. So I am now searching for the best option in terms of both time and cost.
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 2:53 pm
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Originally Posted by Flyer1981
Thank you for your reply. Very useful information.

Sakudaira is indeed my stop to catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Someone recommended the Koumi Line for its scenic beauty, and one of the most picturesque train journeys in Japan. However, considering your reaction, it may be different, and a trip to Matsumoto might be a better idea.

Also, I haven't purchased the Tokyo Wide Pass yet. So I am now searching for the best option in terms of both time and cost.
I haven’t travelled between Kabuchizawa and Sakudaira, but if the aim is to enjoy the journey that seems like a very worthwhile use of your time, my reaction was more surprise about Sakudaira as a destination than the rail trip itself. Of course, someone will have filmed and uploaded the route onto YouTube so you can get a preview if you are still unsure, I suspect the vistas on the Koumi line are more pleasant than dramatic. I’m not sure what the weather will be like when you go, but rural local trains do tend to be kept very warm with heating directly under the seats. You could find that very intimate and cozy or very oppressive and clammy.

I personally enjoy the Shinjuku to Matsumoto Super Azusa journey, more so than the Shinkansen route to Nagano but it’s quite different to a rural line like the Koumi.
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 3:50 pm
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I am little bit of a train geek myself. If I were in your situation and planning to make two days trip, rather than a day trip then my plan will be as follows.

Day 1:
Limited Express Azusa
Shinjuku-Kobuchizawa

Hakushu Distillery tour

JR Koumi Line
Kobuchizawa-Kiyosato/Nobeyama

Kiyosato is a popular mountain highland plateau summer resort area, popular by Japanese but may be less known by non-Japanese. Today, Kiyosato is open year round, and during your early December visit typical temperature will be around freezing. If you like winter mountain area away from the city, then I think you will like it.

I have rode on JR Koumi line long time ago, long ago that pictures were taken by 35 mm camera. JR Koumi line runs along western side of Japan Alps mountain range and on clear day you will have view of mountains to left. Kiyosato is the tourist center of the area, and the next station Nobeyama station is the highest elevation train station in Japan with 1345.47 m (4414 ft.).

The view of mountains from JR Koumi Line (very long time ago during summer)


Nobeyama station, the station at the highest elevation in Japan. Again, picture taken very long time ago using 35 mm camera.


Day 2:
JR Koumi Line
Kiyosato/Nobeyama-Sakudaira

JR Hokuriku Shinkansen
Sakudaira-Ueno/Tokyo
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 4:12 pm
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These sequential videos show time lapse recordings of the bulk of the journey between Kobuchizawa and Sakudaira

3:30

1:26

1:30

0:33

2:16

—-
Thinking about it, if you are going to Matsumoto anyway, the Shinonoi line between Matsumoto and Nagano is quite famous as a scenic route. Takes about an hour, costs about 1,000 each way. And if you have a bit of extra time (you might need an hour for this) Obasute Station is on the route and looks out over spectacular scenery, you can just stay on the platform and drink it all in (if it isn’t too cold that day!)
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Last edited by LapLap; Oct 14, 2023 at 4:33 pm
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 6:06 pm
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OP. Don't fall into the trap of being beholden to a pass to save money. Just my 2 cents. Or the old I have to extract so much more out of this pass etc. Decide where you want to go and decide if a pass makes it cheaper. And with the dollar what it is, Japan is kind of ridiculously cheap right now.
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Old Oct 14, 2023, 6:12 pm
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Narai-juku is also not too far from Matsumoto. Although I think getting into the Kiso valley also might be too much.
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Old Oct 15, 2023, 2:16 pm
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Originally Posted by AlwaysAisle
I am little bit of a train geek myself. If I were in your situation and planning to make two days trip, rather than a day trip then my plan will be as follows.

Day 1:
Limited Express Azusa
Shinjuku-Kobuchizawa

Hakushu Distillery tour

JR Koumi Line
Kobuchizawa-Kiyosato/Nobeyama

Kiyosato is a popular mountain highland plateau summer resort area, popular by Japanese but may be less known by non-Japanese. Today, Kiyosato is open year round, and during your early December visit typical temperature will be around freezing. If you like winter mountain area away from the city, then I think you will like it.

I have rode on JR Koumi line long time ago, long ago that pictures were taken by 35 mm camera. JR Koumi line runs along western side of Japan Alps mountain range and on clear day you will have view of mountains to left. Kiyosato is the tourist center of the area, and the next station Nobeyama station is the highest elevation train station in Japan with 1345.47 m (4414 ft.).

Day 2:
JR Koumi Line
Kiyosato/Nobeyama-Sakudaira

JR Hokuriku Shinkansen
Sakudaira-Ueno/Tokyo
Thank you for your detailed suggestions as a fellow train enthusiast, I really appreciate it.

Your two-day plan is intriguing, especially with the idea of exploring Kiyosato and Nobeyama. The images you shared from your past JR Koumi Line journey are captivating, and I can only imagine how breathtaking it must be in person.

Thanks again for your valuable input!
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Old Oct 15, 2023, 2:57 pm
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Originally Posted by LapLap
These sequential videos show time lapse recordings of the bulk of the journey between Kobuchizawa and Sakudaira

Thinking about it, if you are going to Matsumoto anyway, the Shinonoi line between Matsumoto and Nagano is quite famous as a scenic route. Takes about an hour, costs about 1,000 each way. And if you have a bit of extra time (you might need an hour for this) Obasute Station is on the route and looks out over spectacular scenery, you can just stay on the platform and drink it all in (if it isnt too cold that day!)
Thank you for sharing these time-lapse videos of the journey between Kobuchizawa and Sakudaira. While they may not be awe-inspiring in my opinion, it's always a unique experience to witness such journeys.

Originally Posted by Topcare
OP. Don't fall into the trap of being beholden to a pass to save money. Just my 2 cents. Or the old I have to extract so much more out of this pass etc. Decide where you want to go and decide if a pass makes it cheaper. And with the dollar what it is, Japan is kind of ridiculously cheap right now.
I appreciate your perspective on using passes, and I'll definitely keep it in mind as I plan my trip. It's good to know that Japan is quite budget-friendly at the moment, especially with the yen being weaker against the euro (while you may be considering the dollar to yen exchange). Your insights are incredibly helpful in making my decision. Thanks again for taking the time to share your knowledge and insights!

But, due to some changes in my schedule, I won't be in Tokyo the two days before the whisky tour, but rather in Fukuoka. Therefore, I'm now considering how to plan my days. I have two options:

1. I can either fly into Haneda and spend the night in Shinjuku before starting the original plan. Or,
2. I can fly directly to Matsumoto with a company called FDA. This way, I could explore Matsumoto and its surroundings on the day before the whisky tour, visiting places like the castle and take the Shinonoi Line. I might even indulge in an onsen experience and a relaxing night's rest. The following day, I could leisurely make my way to the whisky tasting. And after that to Shinjuku.

It's worth mentioning that both options don't significantly differ in terms of costs, and using a Tokyo Wide Pass in either case wouldn't be more economical. Therefore, I plan to purchase individual tickets for the journey.

Additionally, does anyone have information about the airline FDA and whether flights to Matsumoto typically run according to schedule?

Your insights would be greatly appreciated!
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Old Oct 15, 2023, 4:15 pm
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Originally Posted by Flyer1981
2. I can fly directly to Matsumoto with a company called FDA. This way, I could explore Matsumoto and its surroundings on the day before the whisky tour, visiting places like the castle and take the Shinonoi Line. I might even indulge in an onsen experience and a relaxing night's rest. The following day, I could leisurely make my way to the whisky tasting. And after that to Shinjuku.
I don’t have any experience with FDA flights but I bet the descent into Matsumoto will be stunning. I think that’s a terrific itinerary, both expansive and efficient with plenty of room for pursuing unexpected opportunities.
Remember that there is no daylight saving in Japan so sunset will seem very early. Matsumoto castle closes at 5pm in December (you’ll want at least an hour in there) and opens at 8:30am.
Since it gets dark by 4:30pm consider going on some of your train journeys early. If you’re arriving in Matsumoto at 10am it doesn’t really give you that much time before the sun sets, you might find that setting off at 6:15am for the two hour return journey on the Shinonoi Line helps you make more use of your time. Or not.
Just keep in mind that daylight is from around 6:30am to 4:30pm whilst you are there.
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Old Oct 15, 2023, 9:28 pm
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Originally Posted by Flyer1981
Additionally, does anyone have information about the airline FDA and whether flights to Matsumoto typically run according to schedule?
Fuji Dream Airlines (FDA) seems to serve a lot of the regional city pairs that the two main airlines ignore - using Embraer jets.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuji_Dream_Airlines

Tripadvisor reviews (in Japanese) seem to agree that the experience is OK. Seating is generally rated as comfortable despite the smaller planes. Punctuality is not raised as a problem, and I would not expect it to be at airports like Matsumoto, which have only a handful of commercial flights per day. I think that Matsumoto is more likely than some other airports to have weather problems - and one of the reviews mentions turbulence on the way there. Not surprising.
https://www.tripadvisor.jp/Airline_R...s.html#REVIEWS

It's a long time since I flew into Matsumoto, but I remember it as an OK little airport. Took a shuttle bus to the city, which was timed to meet the arriving flight.
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