The Koshino Shu*Kura is a special train operated by JR East that travels around Niigata prefecture, famous for local Sake (Japanese rice wine). The reason to ride this train is for pure enjoyment and, of course, tasting the Sake.
In Japan there’s a special kind of train, one where the goal of the ride is enjoying oneself. These are called “joyful trains” and include a wide variety of themes and often feature rides through beautiful parts of the countryside. Koshino Shu*Kura is one such train that travels through the wider Niigata area and stops at different spots where Sake breweries are located. Part of the journey is onboard Sake tasting that have been locally sourced, together with a variety of snacks that are typical to west Tohoku. On board there are events that include traditional music, jazz and folk dancing, and passengers can learn about the craft of brewing sake.
The interior of the Koshino Shu*Kura is specifically built for the occasion. Seats are specifically set-up to enjoy the view, while having enough space to enjoy drinks and snacks. The train consists of 3 cars, each with its unique interior.
Train car 1:
Called the observation deck, this train car was built with special wide windows to enjoy the view to the max. There are special seating arrangements that can set up to 6 people together, great for families travelling together.
Train car 2:
This is the event space, with standing tables for Sake tasting. Here too are special music and dance performances to further add to the atmosphere.
There is also a little bar with a range of sake and snacks for sale.
Train car 3:
This train car is filled with traditional reclining seats and an open space used to chat and hang out with other passengers.
Train services and route
The Koshino Shu*Kura runs on 3 routes, each with their own name. Op operating days, the train makes one return journey on of the following routes.
The traditional Koshino Shu*Kura: is the name of the service that runs between Jōetsumyōkō station and Tōkamachi station.
Yuzawa Shu*Kura: This service runs between Jōetsumyōkō station the winter resort of town of Yuzawa with its terminus at Echigo-Yuzawa station.
Ryuto Shu*Kura: In service between Jōetsumyōkō and Niigata station.
Riding the Koshino Shu*Kura with the Japan Rail Pass.
The train is covered by the JR Pass and a variety of JR East Regional Passes. On board drinks and food are available at extra cost. Due to limited seating options, seat reservations are required before boarding the train and are recommended to be made at least 3 days in advance on weekdays and at least 10 days during weekends and public holidays. Seat reservations can be made at any JR ticket window, this has to be done in person.
Tips for riding:
- For operating schedule and timetable, please see the JR East website.
- The first train service of the day generally departs at 10 o'clock in the morning from Jōetsumyōkō station. This may be a bit too early for some to drink alcohol, it may be better to take the return trip that starts around 15:00 hours.
- While alcohol is served, passengers are requested not to overindulge.
- Be sure to make prior seat reservations, as seats can sell out quickly.
Picture (c) by JR-East, all rights reserved.