Planet Wine: Ikeda “Wine Castle,” Hokkaido, Japan.

ikeda wine castle by chatama

This very unusual structure may look like the fortified headquarters of a supervillain from a James Bond film, but believe it or not, it’s a winery. It’s located in the village of Ikeda, in Nakagawa District, Hokkaido, on the northernmost island of Japan. I was as surprised as you must be to find out that this forbidding building is the home of a winery, called Tokachi, which hosts the most important tourist event in Ikeda every year in October: a wine and food festival, featuring Tokachi wines, local beef, and locally-made crafts. There’s even a dairy next door that makes cheese and ice cream. Surprisingly friendly for a place that looks like it ought to be bristling with machine guns and missile batteries!

I confess that I know very little about viticulture in Japan, and Tokachi Winery’s website is in Japanese and can only be rendered into English through the use of unreliable web translators. From what I can tell Tokachi makes both red and white varietals, such as a red called (I think) Tsubaigeruto and a white called Kiyomi. I have no idea what varietals these are similar to, but I imagine they must be at least related to the grape strains we’re familiar with in Western countries. Being in the north of Japan and enjoying cooler winters, my guess–and it is just a guess–is that you might find the same sort of grapes growing here that you would see in northern Germany or perhaps Oregon and Canada.

It really is amazing the places in our world where wine is produced. In a million years I would never have guessed a castle in Hokkaido would be a winery. But, that’s part of the magic of wine–learning about the world!

The photo of Ikeda Wine Castle is by Wikimedia Commons user Chatama and is used under GNU Free Documentation License.


  1. Wow, thats so interesing, it is truly a fortress at first glance I thought it might be a prison, I was wrong. Well I know little, ok nothing about Japanese wine but would like to find out more. I just glanced up and saw Michelle also got the prison vibe from the structure,

    1. Yes, it does look like a prison! And Michelle’s impression is no accident–actually the snow prison in Inception was specifically intended to look like a Bond villain headquarters type of thing. It does look like you might see Daniel Craig rappelling down the side of the building at any moment.

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