Japanese Sake Train

 by Michael Satterfield

Fall is one of my favorite times to travel to Japan, the leaves are changing and the temperatures cool down. This fall if you happen to be traveling to Tokyo you will have a unique opportunity to ride the SL Paleo Express that runs from Chichibu City to Kumagaya, just northwest of Tokyo.

From September 1 through October 14, the vintage steam locomotive will be decorated to celebrate the Rugby World Cup which is being held in Kumagaya Rugby Stadium. Even if you aren't a rugby dan the one hour train ride will feature a bar offering a selection of locally brewed sake. Passengers can try different types of sake while enjoying the scenery of the Arakawa gorge and the Chichibu mountains. Saitama Prefecture has been making waves in the sake industry in Japan as young brewers adopt the generations-old technique of rice wine-making for bolder varieties. This is a great chance for those new to sake to discover some up-and-coming craft brews.

Locals are keen to welcome visitors from overseas and join in on the rugby celebrations. Nearby Gyoda City is showing its support for the Japanese national rugby team with its impressive rugby-themed rice paddy art. Even if you aren't attending a rugby match this is a unique opportunity to take in Japanese Sake culture.

Rugby and Sake SL Paleo Express

Dates: The train will operate every Saturday, Sunday, public holiday and on the days of matches at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium between September 1 and October 14.

Time: The SL Paleo Express makes one return journey in a day, departing from Kumagaya Station at 10:10 a.m.

Price: Tickets for a seat on the SL Paleo Express cost $7.00 USD (for a reserved seat) and $5.00 USD (regular seat), plus the regular train fare between your chosen stops. Sake on the train will be priced at $4.75 USD per glass. The ticket price will increase in October. Book online (Japanese) or on the day at Kumagaya Station.