Japan’s wine country in the Fuji foothills
Pack a prized Yamanashi piece of fruit in your camping bag and head for the hills.
A ring of emerald mountains around low plains forms landlocked Yamanashi Prefecture in the Chubu region, a landscape ripe for outdoor activities. Hiking, climbing, fishing, camping and hot springs are all within easy reach, while fertile conditions have blessed the region with some of Japan’s most delicious fruit.
Peach, grape and plum are the fruity frontrunners, but you can also harvest your own strawberries, blueberries, apples, persimmons and pears.
Mount Fuji and Fuji Five Lakes
Mount Fuji is the highest peak in Yamanashi, reflected in the pristine waters of the Fuji Five Lakes. Kawaguchiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko, Motosuko and Saiko run along Fuji’s northern foot with Kawaguchiko being the main gateway to the region. Take the Fujikyu railway for a scenic approach, or hop on a direct bus from central Tokyo for easy access to Japan’s most iconic views.
Discover Chureito Pagoda
During late April through May, get your camera ready for the spectacularly photogenic shibakazura flower festival, where thousands of tiny pink and purple moss phlox form a giant flower carpet with Fuji as a backdrop.
Lake Saiko is the least developed, sadly notorious for the Aokigahara suicide forest at its southern shore. It’s still a beautiful place for hiking though, perhaps all the more so because of its mysterious aura.
The capital of Yamanashi, Kofu, is entirely surrounded by mountains. Tourists mostly go for the fruit, nature and hot springs.
One of the biggest draws of the city would be the wine tours available at well-established wineries such as Sadoya Winery that boasts over a century of history. Located just a short walk from the station, visitors can tour the grounds and sample some of the highest quality local wines.
Also in Kofu is Takeda Shrine, built on top of the former home of Takeda Shingen, a significant figure in Japanese history. The Takeda clan once ruled what is now called Yamanashi and some of its surrounding prefectures. Legends say if you visit the shrine and pick up three bundles of the golden needles from the sacred trident pine three that it will bring you good fortune.
Located north of Kofu Station is Shosenkyo Gorge. Offering breathtaking views of the surrounding nature, curiously formed rock formations and Mount Fuji on a good day, a trip to Shosenkyo Gorge is a great way to spend half a day. Arguably one of the best times to visit would be in autumn when the trees are mixed with hues of reds, oranges and yellows.
One of the first sights you’ll see is Nagatoro Bridge which not only has a long history and stunning architectural features but also serves as the starting point to your hike. A little farther up the trail, you’ll encounter the Bridge of Love and Rakanji Bridge but make sure to keep your eye out for some of the awesome rock formations, such as the rocks shaped like a cannon or a bean curd.
Ultimately whether you choose to hike or take the ropeway halfway up the gorge, end your visit to Shosenkyo Gorge with a trip to the Panorama Platform for a view of Mount Fuji.
Plan your trip to Yamanashi with the links below!