Hidden away by the Japanese Alps, is Shiojiri City. Regardless of the fact that it is located in the centre of Nagano Prefecture – a popular location for mountain enthusiasts – the local city (which has an overall population of around 67,000) is not so well known amongst tourists to the mountaineering region.
A historical area, the city has several districts which have retained their Edo era aesthetics – the post town of Naraijuku located in the south of the city, the Kiso Hirasawa Lacquerware Town which continues to make Edo era pottery and the Hiraide Ruins which has been listed as one of Japan’s three major archaeological sites. The upkeep of the historical residential and merchant areas have even granted the city a number of scenery and location roles in a few anime and drama TV shows in recent years.
Despite not being so well known as a tourist destination, the city does boast having one of the best quality wineries in Japan and has at least 17 stores dedicated to producing wine dotted across the city.
If you didn’t know that the city had a booming wine industry before arriving, you would certainly become aware as soon as you set foot off of the train, with the platforms of the city central train station being the unlikely location of a vineyard.
Shiojiri Station is the only train station that grows wine grapes. The station vineyard has been growing Merlot and Niagara wine varieties since 1988, when the grape wines were first planted on the platforms in order to promote wine in the local area.
Of the wines that are produced in the city, Kikigahara Merlot is the best known and has a high reputation amongst wine connoisseurs in Japan.
The grape vineyard can be found on platform 3 and 4 of Shiojiri Station.
Under the guidance from city grape farmers, JR Staff, local tourism association members and citizens can volunteer to help cultivate the grapes and prepare them for the autumn harvest. So far this year, volunteers have fertilized, bound and pruned the grape vines in order to ensure a good harvest come autumn.
The Shiojiri Tourism Association has been regularly updating their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts with information regarding this year's harvest. Come August, wines brewed from grapes harvested last year will be ready for purchase – information regarding availability will also be shared via the cities website and SNS accounts.
Read more stories from grape Japan.
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