Yamanashi 山梨 is a landlocked prefecture located in the Chubu region of Japan. Together with the neighbouring Shizuoka prefecture, it is known for being the home of Mt. Fuji. The iconic mountain has been the prime reason people visiting Yamanashi, but in reality there is more to see and do in the prefecture given the abundance of natural beauty and cultural heritage it has.
This article takes a look at several attractions other than Mt. Fuji that are worth exploring during your trip to Yamanashi.
- Shosenkyo 昇仙峡
Located in the north of Kofu city, Shosenkyo is a beautiful gorge which has been designated as one of the protected Special Places of Scenic Beauty. Visitors can enjoy the scenery of the ravine, filled with many uniquely shaped rocks and cliffs, by following either a 4 km trail from Shosenkyo Guchi bus stop (Nagatoro Bridge), or a 1 km trail from Greenline Shosenkyo bus stop. Both courses lead to the Sengataki Waterfall, which is one of the highlights of Shosenkyo. Although it is beautiful any time of year, the best time to visit Shosenkyo is from late October to mid-November, when the narrow pass is painted with dazzling autumn colours of red, yellow, and orange.
Access: From the bus terminal located at the south exit of Kofu Station 甲府駅, take a bus bound for Shosenkyo Taki Ue 昇仙峡滝上線 from platform 3, the ride takes about 30 minutes.
Bus fares and schedules: https://www.shosenkyo-kankoukyokai.com/en/access.html
- Fruit Picking フルーツ狩り
Yamanashi is the top producer of peaches, grapes, and plums in Japan but also famous for cherries, strawberries, apples, and more. The fruits from Yamanashi are among the best in the country, thanks to the fertile soil, quality water, and favourable climate. To taste these delicious fruits, the best way is through fruit picking – go to the orchard, pick them off the trees yourself and savour them right on the spot! It is a popular activity among visitors to Yamanashi. Although fruits are grown and harvested here year round, try to time your visit so that you get to enjoy your favourite fruit at the peak of freshness and flavour!
- Erinji Temple 恵林寺
Image: Yoshihide Urushihara on flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Yamanashi, formerly known as Kai province, was once the domain of Takeda Shingen 武田信玄, one of the most notable warlords of feudal Japan. Among the places associated with this prominent figure, Erinji is a temple of great importance and beauty as it was not only the family temple of the Takeda clan but also the place where Shingen laid to rest.
The temple was founded in 1330 by Zen Buddhist high priest Muso Soseki. Besides Shingen’s grave, it also hosts a number of attractions including an exquisite garden created by Soseki, important cultural properties such as the Sanmon gate and Red Gate, a museum exhibiting treasures related to Shingen, and a nightingale hallway which mimics the sound of a nightingale’s chirping when stepped on.
Admission: 300 yen (temple), 500 yen (museum), 700 yen (temple + museum)
Access: From Enzan Station 塩山駅 south exit, take a Nishizawa Keikoku-bound bus 西沢渓谷線 to Erinji-mae 恵林寺前 stop and walk for 5 minutes.
- Akeno Sunflower Festival 明野サンフラワーフェス
Image: mrhayata on flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Akeno area of Hokuto city is the sunniest place with the most sunshine hours in Japan, and nothing compliments the sunny climate better than a sea of sunflowers! If you’re visiting Yamanashi in summer, don’t miss the Akeno Sunflower Festival which is celebrated from late July to late August every year. The sight of 600,000 sunflowers blooming under the blue sky with the majestic mountains in the background is as stunning as it sounds. Expect to find sunflower related products such as sunflower soft serve and sunflower bread at the festival too!
Admission: free (parking fee 500 yen)
Access: From Nirasaki Station 韮崎駅, take a Mizugaki Line bus 茅ヶ岳・みずがき田園バス to Heidi-no-Mura Kurara-kan ハイジの村クララ館 stop, then walk for 5 minutes. Alternatively, the venue is 20 minutes by car from the station.
- Houtou ほうとう
A famous local dish consisting of thick flat noodles and assorted seasonal vegetables such as pumpkin, mushrooms, and carrot simmered in a rich miso-based broth. Hearty and tasty, it will warm you up even on the coldest winter day! You can find houtou at many restaurants and eateries across the prefecture. It is often served in an iron pot, and comes in quite a huge portion size so it is normal to share it. Although houtou is sometimes thought as a variant of udon, the locals regard them as completely different due to the way the dough is prepared.
- Narusawa Ice Cave 鳴沢氷穴 & Fugaku Wind Cave 富岳風穴
The main attraction of these caves is icicles and ice pillars that do not melt away even in summer. Located in the sea of trees of Aokigahara Jukai at the foot of Mt. Fuji, these national natural monuments also feature some lava formations and the remnants of seed and cocoon storage which remind visitors of their previous role as natural refrigerators. The two caves are within walking distance from each other, and with an average temperature of 3 degree Celsius throughout the year, it is cold in the caves so remember to put on a jacket during your visit.
Admission: 350 yen for each cave
Access: From Fujikyuko Line Kawaguchiko Station 河口湖駅, take a bus (bound for Shimobe Onsenkyo 下部温泉郷 or Shin-Fuji Station 新富士駅) to Hyoketsu (Ice Cave) or Fuketsu (Wind Cave) stop. Alternatively, the caves are 20 minutes by car from the Kawaguchiko IC.
- Fuefukigawa Fruits Park 笛吹川フルーツ公園
Image: Duke Yuin on flickr / CC BY 2.0
A public park that demonstrates the importance of fruit to yamanashi which is reputed to be the kingdom of fruit. The park features a host of fun and educational facilities, including the country’s largest fruit museum displaying the history of fruit growing, a tropical greenhouse where tropical fruit trees are nurtured, and fruit tree gardens which showcasing the eight traditional fruits of the old Kai province (present day Yamanashi).
There are also playground and water park for the kids, restaurant, and shop selling Yamanashi’s famous wine and fruit products. The park is one of the spots with great views, sitting on a hillside overlooking the Kofu Basin with Mt. Fuji in the background, the night scenery has even been chosen as one of the top night views of Japan!
Access: Buses bound for Fruits Park フルーツ公園 are available from Yamanashi-shi 山梨市駅 Station (200 yen one-way, three round trips a day).