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Toast the Autumn season at the Ashikaga Wine Festival

Head to Coco Farm & Winery for this year’s popular autumn Ashikaga wine festival.

By 3 min read

Every year, on a crisp autumn day in November thousands of people head to a small valley in the mountains of Tochigi for Coco Farm & Winery’s annual harvest festival, celebrating the year’s new wines with live music, wine, gourmet food, wine and wine-themed souvenirs…also did I mention the wine?

For the best ¥3000 you’ll ever spend in your life (at least for winos like me) you’ll get entrance to the farm as well as a ‘Harvest Kit’ which comes with a commemorative wine glass, badge, cutlery set for all the delicious food that’s available and even a glass holder to hang around your neck so you don’t have to go to the enormous trouble of actually holding your wine glass.

Entrance also includes a choice of either a carafe of this year’s freshly made wine, red wine, white wine, or grape juice which also comes with a wheel of camembert cheese, a corkscrew and/or garlic toast depending on which you get.

The great part is that you get to enjoy all of this in the winery’s gorgeous natural surroundings. Festival goers set up tarps all along the hillside underneath the harvested vines which may or may not end up with them rolling down the slope by the end of the day.

This year there will be live music from The Lark Quintet (Classical Music), Iwao Furusawa, Akira Sakata’s Jazz Group, Aura and Saigenji. There will be food stalls serving an amazing array of food from tacos to roast beef to cheeses, cooked by guest chefs from all over the Kanto region.

You can also learn about the history of the winery which started as a rehabilitation project for intellectually handicapped people back in the 1950s. Around 150 students are now directly involved in the wine-making process, which is all done by hand – you can read more about the inspiring story here.

The festival opens at 10:30 am and ends at 3:30 am but shuttle buses (for ¥300) start running from 8:30 am at Ashikaga station and from various other locations in the area. It’s a good idea to get there as early as possible to get a good, flat spot so that you don’t have to drink your wine at a 45 degree angle although higher up the hill offers the best views.

To avoid the worst crowds, arrive early and leave early. As there is no parking at the festival, the only way to get there is to take a bus (a taxi will set you back around ¥5000) and by 9:30 am the queues at Ashikaga station are fairly epic.

The same goes for the way back, you could be waiting up to an hour and a half in the November evening cold to get on a bus back to the station which will likely be full of people who are full of wine. But you’ll also be full of wine in which case none of this will worry you anyway.

The 2014 festival will be held on the 15th and 16th of November, come rain or shine. Check the comprehensive website for more information and enjoy!

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