Kikisake Ressha – The Iwakuni Sake Train

I could have sworn that I had posted before about the Kikisake Ressha, which runs from Iwakuni Station up into the mountains along the Nishiki River, ending at Nishiki-cho, but I can’t find it, so I guess this is my first!

As mentioned, the train follows the course of the Nishiki river, which is Yamaguchi’s longest and directly supplies brewing water for two Iwakuni breweries: Sakai Shuzo and Yaoshin Shuzo. The river is fed by countless streams and springs along the way, and its waters are clean and bright–perfect for all kinds of fish and even the endangered Giant Japanese Salamander. Nishiki-cho, which is home to Horie Sakaba, has adopted the salamander as its mascot and even has a facility dedicated to safeguarding wayward and injured creatures that find themselves in the wrong spot.

This train is a special event organized by the private railroad company Nishikigawa Tetsudo. For four days in spring and fall, matching the cherry blossom and fall leaf seasons, trains slowly meander up from Iwakuni so that riders can enjoy the scenery along with five 180ml bottles of sake: one from each Iwakuni brewery. That’s Dassai, Kinkan Kuromatsu, Gangi, Gokyo, and Kinsuzume. There is also a lunch box provided, and along with return tickets it costs 8,000 yen a person.

It is so, so worth it. I actually ended up riding twice in a row this year, to make up for missed chances in the past and to take friends along. The scenery, the companionship, and the sake all made for a wonderful couple of days.

Andy Russell, my friend and cohost of Sake Deep Dive, joined me the second day and we took the chance to wander around Nishiki-cho. We stopped by Horie Sakaba, but the highlight was enjoying some Kinsuzume along the riverside.

Here are some pictures that help convey some of the sheer pleasantness.

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