Timeapprox. 7 hours
Group Size2-4 guests
PricingFrom ¥16,000 / person
price info below
Bike through peaceful villages with a deep culture of devotion, then walk with a local guide to explore the historic brewery town of Kinomoto.
Discover the authentic charm of rural Japan on our bike and walking tour, while immersing yourself in the timeless, tranquil environment away from the busy cities.
After meeting at JR Maibara Station (where the Shinkansen stops), our guide will join you for the 24-minute train ride north to JR Kinomoto Station. We’ll start the day with a peaceful e-bike ride through the serene landscape of traditional villages, where you can explore the unique culture, age-old traditions, and spiritual devotion, all of with are intertwined and blended seamlessly with the natural environment.
After lunch at a local restaurant of your choice, we’ll embark on a walking tour in the historic brewery town of Kinomoto, visiting one or two sake breweries – both among the five oldest operating in Japan – as well as a traditional soy sauce brewery, offering a unique glimpse into the town’s rich culture.
Kinomoto is a charming old brewery town with abundant local freshwater sources. As a former lodging town along a historic Edo period trail, the town has retained much of its original charm without catering heavily to tourism but rather by sustaining its community of local family-run businesses that have thrived here for centuries.
While many sake tours in Japan cater to large groups and teach sake-making basics, our tour is focused on the actual community and history of these local brewers. You’ll get to meet the staff of these family-owned operations, sample sake (note: alcohol samples are restricted to guests aged 20 or older), and, aside from the winter brewing season, guests are usually invited to take a peek at the actual private brewing area behind the storefront.
We’ll also visit other interesting spots in the area, such as a large local Buddhist temple at the heart of the local culture, and local shops such as traditional confectioneries and bakeries. Your guide will help you discover all the local charm of this small yet bustling traditional community.
About Our Guides
We value real local culture. So, we rely on guides who are from the area and have strong local knowledge to guide you. Rather than simply introducing sightseeing spots, guides involved in the community can act as mediators and create opportunities to experience the values and communal ties that have brought prosperity to this charming little town since ancient times.
About Kinomoto Town & Surrounding Villages
Kinomoto-juku in Nagahama, Shiga, is a historic shukuba-machi town with centuries-old traditional businesses. Its location at the junction of North, East, and West Japan, along with its abundant underground water source, made it a hub for sake and soy sauce production. The town sits on the Hokkoku Kaido, showcasing a unique blend of northern and central Japanese cultures. Kinomoto has preserved much of its local culture and historical charm, including family businesses that continue traditional operations without being transformed into tourist attractions.
The town is also surrounded by picturesque rural villages that have maintained their traditions over centuries, and are intertwined with devotional and spiritual culture, influenced by Mt. Hiei, located between Kyoto and Shiga, and animism-based mountain religion. The unique religious traditions have shaped life in these villages and created a lasting culture of devotion. The area offers a glimpse into a distant past, where time seems to stand still, for a rare opportunity to experience ancient rural Japanese life.
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. Sake pairing for the tour’s lunch meal is available from this brewery.
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.
- This one-day course starts at 9 am.
- Meeting point is JR Maibara Station but your guide will conclude the tour at Kinomoto Station.
- For child participants, please ensure that those under age 18 are accompanied by an adult. Adult rates start from 13 years old.
- Guests under the age of 13 are welcome to join our tour, but they must be at least 152cm (5 ft) tall.
- Alcohol samples are restricted to guests of age 20 or older.
- After sake tasting, we walk the bikes back to the station (3 min walk), where we conclude the tour.
- Tour will be canceled in case of heavy rain (a decision will be made no later than 7 pm on the day before tour).
- Please wear appropriate clothes and shoes.
- We strongly recommend purchasing appropriate travel insurance in advance. Although minimal insurance is included (ask for details).
- Professional bilingual (EN/JA) guide
- E-bike & helmet
- Light refreshment
- Sake & soy sauce tasting
- All train fares (but covered by JR Pass if you have)
- Souvenirs, food, snacks, etc.
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 for this private tour is determined by the size of your group, and any optional activities. Basic pricing is as follows:
Standard Private Course
|Price per Person
|¥40,000 per person
|¥25,000 per person
|¥20,000 per person
|¥16,000 per person