Izumo Wineries, Shimane ワイン
For most visitors to Japan, wine tasting is unlikely to be high on the list of 'must do' activities, but for many Japanese tourists who come to the Izumo area in Shimane to visit the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, a visit to the nearby Shimane Winery is quite likely to be on the itinerary.
Wine, along with guns, Christianity, bread and much else was introduced into Japan by the Portuguese missionaries and traders who visited in the mid-16th century.
Saint Xavier himself is known to have brought wine as gifts when he came, and some of the local dignitaries took a shine to it and continued to import it for themselves. However, it wasn't until after the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century when Japan embarked on a major program of modernization and westernization that any attempt was made to produce wine domestically, though there is a legend that wine was made from local grapes in the eighth century in what is now Yamanashi.
The Meiji government's hope was that by producing alcohol from grapes it might be possible to have more rice available as food rather than for the production of sake. It was not until the postwar period however that wine production began in earnest, and it has really taken off since the 1970's when Japanese began traveling abroad in large numbers and acquired more of a taste for wine.
In the Izumo area there are two wineries, the older and larger being the aforementioned Shimane Winery, and the smaller and newer being the Okuizumo Vineyard.
In the countryside around Izumo Taisha are acres and acres of vinyl greenhouses, all for the production of grapes for the Shimane Winery. The climate of Japan is far too wet for grapevines, so the protection from rain and cold is vital.
The winery itself is located on route 431 about five minutes by car from Izumo Taisha. There are free tours of the winery and wine-making museum which includes free wine tasting. There is also a big shop selling the wine and Chardonnay, a coffee shop that obviously also serves wine. Attached to the winery is Chateau Misen, a restaurant specializing in Shimane beef.
Accessible by a 20 minute bus journey from Izumoshi station, or a short walk from Hamayamakoenkitaguchi train station on the Ichibata Line.
Winery open 7 days a week from 9 to 5, and 9 to 6 in the summer.
264-2, Hishine, Taisha-cho, Izumo-shi, Shimane
Tel:0853 53 5577
Chateau Misen is open 7 days a week from 10.30am to 6.30pm (7.30pm in the summer)
Chardonnay is open 7 days a week from 9.30am to 5pm.
Okuizumo Vineyard is a completely different kettle of fish. Rather than being a large mass tourist oriented site like Shimane Winery, it is much smaller and focuses on organic, eco, and "slow food".
Located in a valley in the mountains to the south of Izumo, the vineyard, in combination with a local organic farm and a small local dairy, offer city dwellers the opportunity to go back to the land and slow down.
Accommodation is offered in renovated farmhouses and visitors can work on the organic farm or pick their own veggies. The vineyard does not give tours, but there is a shop and a restaurant both of which offers free wine tasting. In a corner of the cellar where the wine is being aged in casks is a small gallery showing local arts and crafts, and various events are staged at the vineyard throughout the year.
Okuizumo Vineyard is a 10 minute taxi ride or 30 minute walk from Kisuki JR Station.
Open from 10am to 6pm. Closed Mondays or the next day if the Monday is a national holiday.
699-1322, Shimane, Unnan-shi, Kisuki-cho, Jiryo 2273-1
Tel: 0854 42 3480