Aboard the sake train: A locomotive treat awaits rugby visitors to Saitama

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  • Rugby World Cup host city Kumagaya is offering international rugby fans the chance to sample Japanese sake while riding on its scenic mountain train, the SL Paleo Express.

    The SL Paleo Express is a steam locomotive that runs through Chichibu between Kumagaya City and Chichibu City in Saitama Prefecture.

    From September 1 through October 14, the retro train will be decked out in rugby paraphernalia and feature a bar offering a selection of locally brewed rice wine. Passengers will be able to try different types of sake while taking in the breathtaking natural scenery of the Arakawa gorge and the Chichibu mountains.

    The SL Paleo Express chugs through the spectacular mountains of Saitama Prefecture.

    Fans in town for the Rugby World Cup are invited to explore the areas surrounding Kumagaya before and after the three matches taking place at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium where Russia will play Samoa on September 24, Georgia will go against Uruguay on September 29, and Argentina will face the USA on October 9.

    Just one hour by train from central Tokyo, Kumagaya is the gateway to some of the best outdoor adventures to be had in Japan. Whitewater rafting, canyoning, a canyon swing, bungee jumping, hiking, and camping are all popular activities in the area.

    Nagatoro is a popular place for outdoor activities like kayaking and whitewater rafting.

    Locals are keen to welcome visitors from overseas and join in on the rugby celebrations. Nearby Gyoda City is showing its support for the Japanese national rugby team with its impressive rugby-themed rice paddy art.

    Gyoda City’s rice paddies have been transformed into a rugby-themed message of support.

    Recently, Saitama Prefecture has been making waves in the sake industry in Japan as young brewers adopt the generations-old technique of rice wine-making for bolder varieties. This is also a great chance for those new to sake to discover some up-and-coming craft brews.


    Date: The train will operate every Saturday, Sunday, public holiday and on the days of matches at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium between September 1 and October 14.

    Time: The SL Paleo Express makes one return journey in a day, departing from Kumagaya Station at 10:10 a.m.

    Price: Tickets for a seat on the SL Paleo Express cost ¥720 (for a reserved seat) and ¥510 (regular seat), plus the regular train fare between your chosen stops. Sake on the train will be priced at ¥500 per glass. The ticket price will increase from October. Book online(Japanese) or on the day at Kumagaya Station.

    Rugby and Sake SL Paleo Express Media Preview

    Date: September 1

    Time: 9:30 a.m.
    Place: Kumagaya Station

    Schedule: After a short presentation and opening ceremony (Japanese and English) with a sake toast, members of the press will board the rugby and sake steam train to Chichibu.

    Price: Free

    How to sign up: Email a3950-10@pref.saitama.lg.jp to secure your spot at the media preview. Please include your name, nationality, the name of the media you represent and your primary email address.

    Deadline to register: August 28, 2019