August 11, 2014

The Alpaca Farm in Nasu (and How to Get There)


Prepare to be charmed!

During our weekend in Nasu, we hopped on a bus from Nasu-yumoto to go say hi to alpacas! 

Nasu Alpaca Farm is the largest of its kind in Japan, with over 400 alpacas. In 1999, they started off with 200 alpacas that were chartered by air to Japan from the Andes. Although they struggled with taking care of the alpacas at first due to various reasons such as lack of medicine and medical knowledge regarding alpacas, after visitations from American veterinarians and importing medicine, the birthrate has stabilized in the recent years. 

The farm itself was fairly large and my friend and I started out just taking a stroll through the designated path, looking in on the alpacas roaming around inside the fenced areas. With their big fluffy body, perky ears, and eyes with the longest eyelashes I've ever seen, it was pretty darn hard not to fall for these shy but charming animals.

I'd actually never heard of alpacas until the Japanese fiber company Kuraray made a series of commercials featuring a fluffy white alpaca. I wasn't too sure what this commercial was actually promoting (...and still don't really) but it made a pretty big impression in Japan and alpacas became well known around 2009.

Obviously it's been a while since then but when my friend mentioned that there was an alpaca farm in Nasu, I had to go and see what these alpacas were all about! And lucky for us, we bumped into a Peruvian alpaca expert while we were there, who was kind enough to show us around and answer all our questions.

He explained that at this farm the alpacas get a haircut every two years. We were there a week ahead of their shearing season so they were at their peak fluffiness! We also learned that alpacas are native to the Andes region. When I asked about the alpacas in the wild, he surprised me by mentioning that currently all the alpacas are domesticated and have been that way for a while now. Who knew?

Alpacas are famous for their fleece, which is soft and water resistant. For that reason, very fine alpaca fiber is extremely valuable. One of the quirky things I noticed is that alpacas don't have any upper front teeth. They apparently don't need it as they feed on grass. Oh, and when they pee? They do it for a really really long time. At least a couple of minutes. (Too much information?)

I'm so glad we bumped into our "guide" because we had an amazing time learning about alpacas. He introduced us to the famous alpaca from the Kuraray commercials with the same amount of enthusiasm as when he introduced us to a blind alpaca. He said that sometimes they are born blind and/or deaf but receive the same amount of care and friendship from both the staff and the other alpacas. And I believe him because the minute he started talking, the blind alpaca perked up its ear and moseyed on over to be pet by him. It completely warmed my heart.

Have you ever spent time with alpacas? They are the sweetest animals ever. If you're ever in Nasu, you may enjoy an afternoon with an alpaca or two! x

Here are some photos:

Entrance was 800 yen for adults, 600 yen for jr high/high schoolers, and 400 yen for kids.
A brown alpaca enjoying the sunny day out in the field.
See? No front upper teeth!
When alpacas sit down, their hind legs look like they're kneeling.
Dainty legs!
This is my favorite picture of all time! Look at that expression!
This is the white alpaca from the commercial!
This was the baby corner, they were born this spring!
How can you resist this charming look?
This dark chocolate alpaca was prancing around for us to see.
Isn't this the fluffiest alpaca ever?
Our amazing guide taking an alpaca out for a walk.
This was his if-you-have-clean-hands-you-may-pat-me look (in my head).
So soft and warm!
We had a great day with our new furry friends!


1083 Oshima Nasu-machi, Nasu-gun, Tochigi JAPAN
栃木県那須郡那須町大字大島1083
TEL: 0287-77-1197
OPEN: 10:00am-4:00pm (closed Thursdays)
Entrance Fee: 800 yen


TRANSPORTATION TO THE NASU ALPACA FARM

I've gotten quite a few inquiries regarding how to get to the Alpaca Farm so I thought I'd add a little bit more information on that here.

So the bad news is, there is no public transportation from the nearest station to the Alpaca Farm on a daily basis.

The closest train station is Shin-Shirakawa Station on the JR Line. Both the Tohoku Shinkansen and local trains stop here and the station is approximately 15km away from the Alpaca Farm. Your choice is to rent a car (6,000-12,000yen for 12 hours, depending on the car) or to take a taxi (approximately 8,000yen one way).

Obviously this is quite a hassle for many, not to mention expensive. For those who do not have a drivers license or deep pockets to hire a taxi (like me!), you have two other choices.

1. TAKE THE BUS
I previously mentioned that there is no public transportation to the Alpaca Farm. But there IS a bus that operates for a limited time during certain times of the year, which is what we used as transportation in my post above. The bus operation varies from year to year, but I believe they operate both in the spring and fall. We were luckily traveling during the spring period and this bus is what we took to get to the Alpaca Farm.

Tsutsuji-goThe bus that operates during the spring season is called Tsutsuji-go (i.e. Azalea bus), probably because it coincides with the azalea season in the Nasu highlands. From the past couple of years, it seems that Tsutsuji-go operates from end of April/early May to mid to late June, depending on the year.

Momiji-goThe other bus that operates in the fall is called Momiji-go (i.e. Japanese Maple bus), again probably because it coincides with the fall foliage season when trees change color. This period seems to vary by year but basically Momiji-go runs from mid to late September to late October/early November.

The operating season for both of these buses seem to be announced within a month prior so it can be nerve-wrecking for people who want to plan ahead. But if you are lucky to be traveling during that season, you can get on the bus at Nasu Yumoto (in front of the Nasu-cho Kanko Kyokai-mae, i.e. Nasu Tourism Assosication) and they will drop you off at Nasu Alpaca Farm.

You may have already noticed that Nasu Yumoto is quite far from the nearest train station. So what we did is, took the local bus (Toya Transportation Bus) from Nasu Shiobara JR Station (you can also get on at the neighboring Kuro-iso JR Station) to Nasu Yumoto (approx. 50-60min), then changed onto the Tsutsuji-go bus all the way to the Alpaca Farm (approx. 30min).

Both the Tsutsuji-go and Momiji-go operate three round trips, meaning 3 buses to go and 3 buses to get back, so make sure you check the time schedule so you don't miss the last bus. When we went, we took the 11:40am bus and got there a little past noon. Then we took the 3pm bus back to Nasu Yumoto and got there around 3:30pm.

For your reference, here is when the bus was operating from previous years:
2017  Spring: Apr 29 - Jun 4  /  Fall: TBD
2016  Spring: Apr 29 - Jun 5  /  Fall: Sep 17 - Oct 23
2015  Spring: May 2 - Jun 14  /  Fall: Sep 19 - Oct 25
2014  Spring: Apr 26 - Jun 29  /  Fall: Oct 11 - Nov 3
*For up-to-date details on Tsutsuji-go/Momiji-go bus schedules, please contact Nasu Tourism Association at +81 (0)287 76 2619.

2. TAKE A BUS TOUR FROM TOKYO
There are bus tours from Tokyo that will take you to and from the Alpaca Farm. You can book through travel agencies such as H.I.S. or Hato Bus, and you won't have to worry about any of the transportation logistics in between. The price is also quite reasonable, somewhere in the range of 7,000 to 9,000yen.

Of course, there is always a down-side to tours, such as not being able to spend as much time as you would like at the Alpaca Farm, due to the tour schedule, which will most likely include other stops along the way. But on the other hand, you'll get to see other places in the Nasu area, which are likely difficult to access without a car, so depending on the itinerary it could end up being a win-win situation.

For your reference, here are some bus tours:
H.I.S. Tour: Alpaca Farm - Nasu Beer Garden - Strawberry Picking from Shinjuku
Hato Bus Tour: Strawberry Picking - Nasu Beer Garden - Alpaca Farm from Ikebukuro
*These tours are as of April 2017 and may not be current.

I hope this helps! x

12 comments:

  1. Awwww! How cute is that?! I had no idea that they didn't have front teeth. Very interesting. And I love that they all look so calm and happy :) 癒された〜 <3 Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It was a day of 癒し for me, too! What is it about animals that seem to just whip all your stress away? They were the sweetest ;D

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  2. Funny. I never learned about alpcas till I came to Japan. Looks like a fun place to visit.

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    1. I didn't know until a few years ago either!

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  3. Oh my god, death by cute fluffiness ! they look so relaxed and friendly :)

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    1. My thoughts exactly Sacha! They were really calm and sweet :)

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  4. Alpacas are the best things in the whole entire world!!!

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  5. Hi Kaori, chanced upon your blog when looking up info on the Alpaca Farm. I'm interested to visit the fluffy alpacas and am wondering if you mind sharing the method of reaching there via public transportation from Nasushiobara station? =) Thanks heaps!

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    1. Hi Grace,

      Thanks for your comment! I hope you get a chance to visit the Alpaca Farm!

      Regarding getting to the Alpaca farm via public transportation, there's pretty much only one way to get there and that's by bus. If you want to start at Nasu-shiobara, you'll want to take the regular bus (Higashino bus line) to Nasu-yumoto, then change to the Nasu Tsutsuji-go bus (it only runs from April 29th to June 5th!), which will take you to the entrance of the Alpaca farm.

      The regular bus stop is on the West exit of Nasu-shiobara Station and it takes about 50min to Nasu-yumoto. Once you get off there, the Nasu Tsutsuji-go bus stop is located right across the street in front of the Nasu Tourism Association hut. It’s about 20-30min (6 stops) to the Alpaca farm.

      Just be careful because the Nasu Tsutsuji-go bus only runs 3 times a day, leaving Nasu-yumoto at 9:40am/11:40am/1:40pm and the bus heading back from the Alpaca farm leaves at 11:05am/1:05pm/3:00pm. If you miss your last bus coming back, you’ll have to call a cab.

      The regular bus runs from 7:45am and the last bus back to Nasu-shiobara station leaves Nasu-yumoto at 4:50pm. Although if you miss that bus, you have an alternative of getting on a later bus that stops at Kuro-iso Station, which is just one stop away from Nasu-shiobara by train.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      PS: Here is a map of all the major bus stops and train stations I mentioned above:

      https://drive.google.com/open?id=1M9CUtIQjU3SDckpNvcT6zO9-QFE&usp=sharing

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  6. Hi Kaori,

    Thank you for the information! I plan to go there in the middle of June 2016.

    Reading your previous comment, it looks like the Nasu Tsutsuji-go bus is not operating after June 5th? Is there other way to reach the farm from Nasu-shiobara Station without taking cab?

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    1. I'm so sorry my reply is so late! I hope you somehow found a way to get here or the bus schedule was elongated.

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  7. Hi!
    Happen to see your post while finding ways to go to the ranch.
    Just to check if there's anyway from Tokyo to the ranch with public transport? Like shinsenken or JR?
    Planning to go during April!
    Looking forward to your reply!

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