Just a short walk from Ushiku Station lays Japan’s first full scale winery, Chateau Kamiya.
The winery’s original owner and namesake, Denbe Kamiya, had succumbed to an unknown sickness at a young age with no hopes of recovery. However, after drinking small amounts of wine presented to him by a French acquaintance, Kamiya slowly regained his strength and made a miraculous recovery. This fateful encounter with wine sparked a dream within him to bring full scale wine production to Japan, and to open his own winery.
In order for this dream to be realized, years later, Kamiya’s adopted son Denzo traveled to one of France’s largest wine regions, Bordeaux, and studied various ways to cultivate grapes, different fermenting techniques, and how to use the machinery involved in wine making. After spending two years abroad, Denzo brought his newly acquired knowledge and techniques, along with his multitude of notes, machinery, and samples back to Japan and opened the Kamiya Vineyard with his father in Ushiku. Although it may seem strange to choose Ushiku for the location of their new venture, the open plains offered plenty of room for expansion and its close vicinity to the Joban Train Line offered easy access to Tokyo. After the huge success of transplanting over 6,000 trees, Kamiya made the final decision to make Ushiku the main site of his operations, and in 1903, after over two years of construction, Chateau Kamiya, Japan’s first full scale winery (from cultivation to bottling) finally became a reality.
Over the years, Chateau Kamiya grew to include several restaurants, and even started growing wheat to make its own bread in order to keep up with demand. Even further expanding its product lines, the Kamiya family started importing wines from various parts of Japan and the world, and bottled them for distribution. Also, they started brewing their own drafts of beer in 1998, and even opened an outdoor all-you-can-drink and eat beer garden on the grounds so that visitors can enjoy their great tasting beers (which have won various gold metals throughout the world).
Today, Chateau Kamiya still produces wine full scale, but after being sold to its current owner, Oenon Group, and after becoming a National Important Cultural Property in 2008, they no longer sell their wines or beers to third parties. Although this means they produce on a much smaller scale than when the chateau was first built, it has no effect in the quality or taste of its products.
Chateau Kamiya’s great products can be purchased at one of the gift shops on the grounds (unfortunately, due to the March 11th earthquake several of the buildings and restaurants on the grounds are closed for restoration), enjoyed at the beer garden (most popular in March and April, when up to 3,000 visitors come to enjoy the spring cherry blossoms while eating and drinking to their hearts content) or restaurant, and can also be purchased online from anywhere in Japan at their homepage or on Rakuten Shopping. They also offer bottle etching for a small fee, a service to create a wonderful, one of a kind gift that is sure to please on any occasion! If you are a beer or wine fan, you can’t miss Chateau Kamiya.
Contact Info and Access:
3-20-1 Chuo, Ushiku-shi, Ibaraki 300-1234 (map)
A short walk from the JR Joban Line Ushiku Station, or a short drive from the intersection of route 408 and route 6 (parking is available, but please don’t drink and drive!!!)