Half-Day Walking Tour

Life, Culture, and History in a Brewery Town

Time
approx. 3.5 hours
Starts 9 am or 1pm
Active Level
3/10
Flat-ground walking, 3 km. Suitable for all ages.
Group Size
1-6 guests
Pricing
From ¥8,000 / person
price info below
Options & Additions
Locally-sourced special lunch: ¥6,500 / person
see options below for details

The abundance of local fresh water is at the heart of the sake and soy sauce brewing tradition here in Kinomoto.

  • A perfect day trip from Kyoto with enough time left for your Hikone Castle visit too!
  • Visit Kinomoto, a charming, Edo-period post station town of the Hokkoku Kaido.
  • Meet local family-run sake and soy sauce breweries operating here for many generations. Sake and soy sauce tastings available.
  • Explore a unique local temple, cafes, and Japanese confectioneries.
  • Guides are truly local, and members of the community who can help you engage with the friendly local residents.

Course Details

Kinomoto is a charming old brewery town blessed by an abundant source of fresh water. As a former post station town of Edo era kaido routes, the town has retained much of its historical charm, without heavily catering to tourism, but rather sustaining its natural community and identity of local family businesses that have thrived here for centuries.

After meeting up at JR Maibara Station (bullet trains stop here), our guide will lead you on the 24-minute train ride north to JR Kinomoto Station. Here we will give a walking tour including 2 sake breweries, both among the 10 oldest operating in Japan, as well as a traditional soy sauce brewery.

Unlike many sake tours here in Japan which cater to large groups and teach about the basics of sake-making, our tour is more focused on the actual community and history of these local brewers. So, we can meet the staff of these family-owned businesses, taste samples at one or two of the stops (note: sake and alcohol samples only available for guests age 20 or older), and aside from the winter brewing season, guests are usually invited to take a peek behind the storefront at the actual brewing areas at two of our stops (Yamaji Shuzo & Daiko Shoyu).

We’ll also visit the large local Buddhist temple, a central presence in local culture, and local shops such as traditional confectioneries and bakeries.


About Kinomoto Town

Kinomoto-juku is one of Japan’s shukuba-machi (medieval lodging towns along Japan’s historic travel routes) in Nagahama, Shiga, where some of the original centuries-old traditional businesses are still operating today. Breweries for sake and soy sauce were particularly successful here thanks to an abundant underground source of pure water from the Ibuki Mountain Range. Located right at the junction of North, East, and West Japan, this area has cold winters ideal for sake production, and also served as a shukuba trade hub, with ready access to local ingredients.

Situated on the Hokkoku Kaido, meaning the northern Japan trail, the town embodies a unique blend of northern and central Japanese cultures. Much of this local culture and historical charm is still seen here still today, as it has been largely preserved, including local family businesses which have continued traditional operations, without being transformed into tourist attractions.

Meet Local People
Daiko Shoyu (soy sauce brewery)

Established in 1852, Daiko Shoyu has been operating as a family business for 6 generations. Kensuke Osugi is the current successor. Most soy sauce breweries now rely on modern production methods, but Daiko has continued using strictly traditional methods, which is quite rare nowadays. At the brewery, you’ll have a chance to sample a few of their sauces, and to learn a bit about which sauces to use for different dishes.

Yamaji Shuzo (sake brewery)

Founded in 1532, Yamaji Shuzo is said to be the fourth oldest sake brewery still existing in Japan. The brewery and storefront both occupy a beautiful old traditional building. Yuko Yamaji, the wife of the current 13th generation successor, provides us with tastings of some of these different sakes in this tour (age 20 and over).

Tomita Shuzo (sake brewery)

Founded in 1534, Tomita Shuzo is said to be the fifth oldest sake brewery in Japan, after Yamaji Brewery. Their famed sake brand, Shichihonyari (lit. Seven Spears), has won high acclaim both here and abroad and they’re known for integrating a creative edge with respected traditions. The current master, Yasunobu Tomita, believes in local sourcing, making sake with almost all local ingredients from rice to water, for sake that’s both delicious and environmentally conscious.

Tsuruya Pan (bakery)

Founded in 1951, this bakery sells freshly baked breads, sweets, juice, coffee, etc. Beloved by locals, some locals have been coming here for three generations. The shop was founded by Hidetoshi Nishimura, who anticipated the post-war American influence on food culture, and seeing that the town lacked a bakery, decided to open his own, which soon became a local landmark.

  • Course Notes
  • Seasonal operation: Mid March until early December
  • Meeting point is JR Maibara Station but your guide will conclude the tour at Kinomoto Station.
  • This half-day course operates in the morning or afternoon. Mornings begin at 9:00, ending in time for lunch (which is not included as part of the tour, but we can offer local recommendations!), or in the afternoon beginning at 1:00pm.
  • Suitable for all ages. No strenuous activities.
  • For child participants, please ensure that those under age 18 are accompanied by an adult. Adult rates start from 13 years old.
  • If participating with two or more adults and youth(s) under 13, the youth fee is ¥4000 per person. However, in case of only one adult and one youth, the adult price (¥14,000) still applies.
  • Attendance is free for children up to six years old (However, as there is a 2-guest minimum attendance, in case of 1 adult and 1 child, the adult price is applied for two)
  • Rain or shine.
  • We strongly recommend purchasing appropriate travel insurance in advance. Although minimal insurance is included.
  • What’s Included
  • Professional bilingual (EN/JA) guide
  • Sake & soy sauce tasting (1 each)
  • Entrance Fee
  • Not Included
  • All train fares (but covered by JR Pass if you have)
  • Souvenirs, food, snacks, etc.

Meeting Point

Meet your guide right at the ticket gate of JR Maibara Station. By bullet train, Maibara is 1 stop east (20 min) from Kyoto. The guide will then join you for a short local train ride to Kinomoto, the actual tour site (fare paid by customers, but covered by JR Pass if you have one). The tour will conclude at Kinomoto Station.

                                         

Pricing

Pricing for this private tour is determined by the size of your group, and any optional activities. Basic pricing is as follows:

Standard Private Course
Attendees Price per Person
1 person ¥24,000 per person
2 people ¥14,000 per person
3-4 people ¥10,000 per person
5-6 people ¥8,000 per person
Options & Additions

Additional fees apply, but vary by time & group size (final cost will be confirmed before finalizing reservation). Please mention in comment field of reservation form to add options, or feel free to ask us for more details about any of them!

  • Locally-sourced lunch(+30 min) Enjoy a delicious meal of local cuisine specially prepared by the instructors of our Cooking Workshop tour (see here). ¥6500 per person for groups, ¥11000 for single guest. Please notify of any dietary restrictions. Sake paired with lunch is available at additional cost. Ask for details.
  • Mountain Hiking (+3 hours) Kinomoto is also very near Mt. Shizugatake, an easy beginner hike with a spectacular view of Lake Biwa. Combine for a more active one-day private tour!
  • Zen Temple Visit (+1-2 hours) Near our meet-up point is a great little Zen temple with an amazing garden, newly added cafe, and even zen meditation sessions. Closed Tuesdays.
  • Hikone Castle Visit (+3 hours) While many explore this local treasure without a guide, we’re also happy to accompany, guide, and also take you to the adjacent gardens, and moat boat ride.

Booking

Visit our booking page to request reservation: Book Now

When submitting your request, be sure to include relevant details in the comments. We'll get back to you within about 1 business day to confirm availibity, details, and price.

Please also read through our Terms and Conditions for complete details about payment, cancellations, etc.

Frequent Booking Questions
We allow, and recommend, payment in person at tour start time. We accept in-person payments by cash (Japanese yen), or major credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover). Alternately, we can arrange for advance payment via secure online invoice in Japanese yen, payable by Paypal or credit card. Note: while we don't require early deposit payment, you may be invoiced to pay any applicable cancellation fee in the event of late cancellation.
We may cancel tours for weather. Bike tours in particular are cancelled for moderate rain or snow. This decision will be made no later than 7pm on the day before tour, so please check your contact email for any updates. In such a case, you will be fully refunded any advance payment. Bike tour weather cancellations are given the option to exchange for a walking tour instead. Walking tours are still conducted in light to moderate rain & snow. Weather cancellations are made at our discretion; if you decide on your own to cancel, then cancellation fees may still apply. See our Terms and Conditions for more details about weather cancellation.
See our Terms & Conditions for complete details. Regarding cancellation fees, here's our basic timeline for fees applying to cancellations made by the customer:
  • 8 days or more before tour: No charge
  • 4-7 days before tour: 30% of total tour cost
  • 2-3 days before tour: 50% of total tour cost
  • 24 hrs or less before tour: 100% of total tour cost