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A Sake Stay in Saku, Nagano 


Why stop at drinking sake when you can stay at the world’s first sake brewery hotel? 


It’s a great time to be a visiting sake enthusiast. The popularity of sake overseas has been increasing significantly over the past few years, many traditional breweries in Japan have opened up their doors to international visitors, offering a glimpse into the lives of the people who make some of the world’s most delicious alcoholic beverages.


workers at kurabito stay



A brewery tour followed by a tasting flight is a great way to get a taste of what sake-making entails. But why stop there? If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself in the world of sake, why not try your hand at a part of the process directly supervised by master sake brewers? If you’re nodding your head in agreement, put the Saku region in Nagano prefecture on your Japan bucket list right now.


kurabito stay lobby



In this article, we’ll introduce KURABITO STAY, the world’s first sake brewery hotel located in Nagano prefecture, and outline what you can experience during a stay here. Additionally, we’ll introduce a few more places you can visit in the vicinity of this hotel to make your holiday here a well-rounded experience. 

Learn about sake while staying at KURABITO STAY


With its abundance of clear spring water and delicious local rice, as well as its cool climate, it’s no surprise that Nagano produces some excellent sake. Although the number of sake breweries has dwindled over time, one place in the Saku region, Kitsukura Shuzo and KURABITO STAY have teamed up to offer a completely new program for curious visitors to experience the world of sake brewing within the grounds of a 330-year-old sake brewery.


Welcome to KURABITO STAY, where you can stay overnight next to the brewery and spend your time learning about the art of brewing sake. The century-old historic building next door has been transformed into a warm, welcoming guest house with many modern touches. Simple but clean  tatami mat bedrooms remind you of the lives of Kurabito. Breakfast in the lounge room with a table made from a wooden sake tank lid. Guests can enjoy Kitsukura Shuzo’s limited sake and seasonal sake in the Saku area free of charge. 


choices of saku at kurabito stay



Depending on the season, weather conditions and the exact stage they’re at, you might be preparing koji rice for fermentation, stirring the mash, or even pressing and filtering the sake. But it’s not just about making sake: you can learn how to taste and appreciate a wide range of sake, and even learn more about the Koji mold or try cooking Amazake (sweet fermented rice drink) during an afternoon workshop. Time your visit right, and you might even get to participate in their annual sake offering ritual. 


kurabito stay saku vending machine



Make no mistake: Working in a brewery is hard work, but it’s a fascinating, insightful and rewarding experience, especially when you consider that someone will eventually buy and drink the sake you helped make! Guests who have addresses in Japan can send the finished sake.


Location information

Name: Kurabito Stay
Address: 623-2, Usuda, Saku City, Nagano Prefecture, 384-0301
Public transportation: 20-minute walk from JR Usuda Station


Explore the Yatsugatake Mountains from Tsuboniwa Nature Park


tsuboniwa nature park


Nagano’s mountains are affectionately known as the Japanese Alps, and for good reason — these craggy mountain ranges are a fine answer to the Swiss Alps! For some splendid views, ride the Kita-Yatsugatake Ropeway up to Tsuboniwa Nature Park, an enchanting all-natural rock ‘garden’ of short pines and igneous rocks. 


Casual walkers can try out the 40-minute hiking course that runs through the park — it’s a pleasant and gentle stroll, making it suitable for all ages and levels. But Tsuboniwa is also the starting point for many other hiking trails, most notably those that lead to nearby peaks such as Mt. Shimagare and Mt. Kita-Yokodake. Nagano is a mountain lover’s paradise, and this is a great place to begin exploring! 

Location information

Name: Kita-Yatsugatake Ropeway
Address: 4035-2541 Kitayama, Chino, Nagano 391-0301, Japan
Public transportation: 60 min by bus from JR Chino Station (Kita-Yatsugatake Ropeway Line- Kita-Yatsugatake Ropeway bus stop)
Website: https://navi.chinotabi.jp/en/spot/1427/


Try local craft beer in Nagano 


yoho brew


Japan’s craft beer scene has experienced a major boom in the last few years. As it’s one of Japan’s major hop-producing regions, Nagano prefecture has been quietly making a name for itself in this area, thanks to many small breweries producing some of the country’s most popular craft beers. 


One well-known brewery is the charmingly named YO-HO Brewing Company, also located in Saku. They produce the distinctive Yona-Yona pale ale, Suiyoubi-no-Neko (Wednesday’s Cat) Belgian white ale and the soon-to-be-discontinued Tokyo Black porter, all of which you can find at many supermarkets and convenience stores in major cities. While you can’t visit the factory, you can visit their beer-centric restaurants in Tokyo! 


Other craft beer breweries in Nagano include Shigakogen Beer in Yamanouchi Town, Oh!La!Ho! In Tomi City, LIBUSHI in Nozawa Onsen, and Matsumoto Brewery in Matsumoto. If you’re visiting the prefecture, why not stop by one of their tap rooms and taste some refreshing local beers? 


Admire ‘shadow paper art’ at the World Museum of Shadow, Pictures, Paper Cutouts, Glass and Music Boxes


world museum of shadow


If it’s an unusual art exhibition you’re looking for, head on over to the World Museum of Shadow, Pictures, Paper Cutouts, Glass and Music Boxes, located near Ikenotaira Hotel near Shirakaba Resort. The building itself is rather unprepossessing, but inside is a fantastical introduction to the artworks of Seiji Fujishiro, one of Japan’s leading Kage-e artists who expresses incredible scenes in light and shadow. Among his works exhibited in the museum is ‘The Four Seasons at Lake Shirakaba,’ which is 30 metres long. 


Aside from Seiji Fujishiro’s works, visitors can also marvel at the pieces created by Masaaki Tatsumi, a leading paper cutout artist in the country. One of his works currently on display is ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ inspired by the iconic Brothers Grimm fairy tale.


Wander through the dark exhibition rooms, and marvel at all manners of exhibits from infinity mirrors to antique gramophones. The most impressive of them all? Fairytale-like forest landscapes of trees, mountains, horses, and glowing lights rendered in intricately cut coloured paper. Simply gorgeous. 


Location information

Name: World Silhouette Museum
Address: 1526 Ashidahakkano, Tateshina, Kitasaku District, Nagano 384-2309, Japan 
Public transportation: 50-minute bus ride from JR Chino Station (East Lake Shirakaba stop)
Website: https://www.shirakabaresort.jp/english/facilties/ 

Nagano isn’t usually the first destination people think of when planning a trip to Japan, but it should be on any sake lover’s list of places for the sake-making experience alone! We hope this article inspires you to make your sake dreams come true. 


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