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Yamanashi Prefecture, lying west of Tokyo, is most recognized for being the home of the majestic Mt. Fuji. It offers stunning attractions and fun activities, from beautiful lakes and parks to ancient shrines and roller-coaster rides. Here are some of the most recommended things to do and see in Yamanashi.
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Located on Japan’s mainland, Yamanashi Prefecture is part of the Chubu Region. The prefecture is best known for sharing ownership of Mt. Fuji with Shizuoka-ken. Aside from tourism, it is deeply involved in the agriculture industry - Yamanashi Grapes are particularly good.
We already have several articles focusing on Yamanashi’s biggest star, Mt. Fuji, have a look:
As well as Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park:
Fuji Q-Highland and Its Guiness World Ranking Rides
In this article, we’ll be focusing on other parts of Yamanashi not covered in our other articles that are well-deserving of your attention!
Without further ado, let’s jump into the 8 popular destinations aside from Fuji in Yamanashi.
Mount Fuji is surrounded by the Fuji Five Lakes individually named Kawaguchi, Yamanaka, Sai, Shoji, and Motosu. Though most people visit the lakes for a view of Mt. Fuji, the lakes themselves are plenty beautiful and fun.
Lake Kawaguchi is the most accessible lake and therefore the most visited. With a long coastline and spectacular views of Mount Fuji, it often serves as a camping base for Mount Fuji climbers. In addition, the lake is famous for various water sports, windsurfing, boat excursions, and fishing.
Lake Yamanaka is actually the nearest to Mount Fuji and offers a perfect spot for watching sunsets and sunrise in summer, including the coveted view of Diamond Fuji (when you catch the moment the sun aligns with the peak of Mount Fuji). Facilities around the lake include a flower garden, restaurants and souvenir shops.
Minobusan Kuon-Ji is the head temple of the Nichiren Sect of Buddhism. The temple was established in 1274 by Nichiren Shonin, a 13th century philosopher and Mahayana Buddhist monk. Many of his followers believe that he was the incarnation of Buddha. Nichiren Shonin had a difficult life facing many challenges when trying to promote his beliefs. He was even exiled twice! After his passing, his remains were brought to the mountain where Kuon-Ji is in honor of his last wishes.
Kuon-Ji is a highly popular temple attracting more than 1 million visitors a year. The 287 steps, called “the steps of enlightenment”, that lead to the temple hold great significance to followers of this faith.
Kofu Castle, also known as Maizuru Castle, was constructed in the late 16th century under the reign of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty. Its strategic location helped protect the west of Edo (former name of Tokyo). Although the main structure couldn't survive due to a fire in 1727, the reconstruction project erected the gates and Inari Yagura towers utilizing original traditional methods. Maizurujo Koen, a Japanese-style garden and park with a view of the rebuilt Yamanote Gomon gates, borders the castle.
On a clear day, the park's highest point, which is said to be where the castle-keep originally stood, provides an unobstructed panoramic view of the city, the Kofu basin, and mountains. People love to visit the park in the spring when the cherry trees are in full bloom, and see Mount Fuji in the background.
Close on Mondays.
A park with a defining theme of fruits makes Fuefukigawa Fruit Park different. Enjoy the different fruit trees in the park including cherries, apricots, plums, grapes, mangoes, and more. Locals recommend visiting during cherry blossom or peach season when the park is bathed in pink. With plenty of space to run around in, it makes for a great family outing with kids. You can also enjoy a view of the Kofu Basin and Mount Fuji from the park.
The park’s biggest highlight though is its night illumination, once selected as one of the 3 best night views in Japan. Next door to the fruit park is Yamanashi Fruits Onsen Pukupuku, where you can enjoy fruity onsens. Instead of the distinct sulphuric onsen scent, you will be welcomed with sweet fruity scents. The fruits used are according to what’s in season. The onsen’s night view terrace is also a great spot to enjoy the best night view in Japan.
Onsen Entrance Fee: 880 yen (Adult), 770 yen (Yamanashi-ken Adult Residents)
Picking the fruits is prohibited. If everyone picked a fruit… there would be none left…
Oishi Park on Lake Kawaguchi's north coast offers spectacular views of both the lake and Mt. Fuji. It is also famous for the wide variety of flowers blooming all year round. A red gray bricked walking path circling the park is lined on both sides with flowers, and so nicknamed the Flower Road. Come June and July, the park is blanketed with a field of lavenders, making it a beautiful backdrop for taking photos or a romantic stroll. Many visitors to the park boast of the excellent ice cream available for sale.
※ Yamanashi Tourism Org, “Flower Street in Oishi Park” ※ Town of Fujikawaguchiko, “Oishi Park”
An hour’s drive north of Lake Kawaguchi in the town of Yatsubo is Hottarakashi Onsen. There are two outdoor hot springs here, Kocchi (Here) and Acchi (There), “here and there”. Heh, punny. Kocchi is the original onsen, whilst Acchi is a newer, bigger bath. The entrance fee only covers usage of one bath, you’ll need to decide which one to go first beforehand. You can enjoy the views of Mount Fuji and Kofu Basin from either baths, but their different positions offer different views and perspectives.
Acchi opens 1-hour before the sunrise, this means it’s opening time will change throughout the year according to the seasons. This is because one of the best views from here is the sunrise. Imagine going as early as 4am for a bath.
Entrance Fee: 800 yen / onsen (Adult)
Yamanashi Prefecture is one of the largest wine-producing regions of Japan, which makes sense considering their grapes cultivating prowess. Although there are many vineyards in the region, Katsunuma in the town of Kofu is the best place to go.
Because this is where the history of Japanese wine-making first started. Read our article about wine in Japan here.
Which winery should you go to?
Try Château Mercian. Two tour courses are offered; Standard and Premium. For 1,000 yen, the Standard Course lasts 1-hour and includes 3 wine tastings, guided tours through the underground cellar, vineyard, and gallery. The Premium Tour costs 3,000 yen, lasts 1.5-hours, and includes 6 wine tastings, the guided tour has an additional visit through the winemaking facilities and explanations are more in-depth.
Around 40 winemakers are located in the Katsunuma area, several open year-round. Several are located on both sides of Katsunuma-Budokyo Station. Many of them offer wine tours for visitors. On the first Saturday of October, the annual Katsunuma Grape Festival is held in town where you can savor local wines made from Koshu and Muscat Bailey A grapes.
Located in Shimoyoshida, Shinsekai Kanpai Street is dotted with numerous retro-style diners and bars. The street reminds visitors of bygone days and has preserved its history within the abandoned buildings that have been converted into shops and pubs. Here, you will find various unique restaurants and bars offering old-style grilled chicken, Noble Pub with dance floors, Caribbean Music Bar Links - an Italian restaurant serving creamy pasta, and more. Most of the facilities remain open till midnight, a perfect place to experience the nightlife of Yamanashi.
As you can see, there’s way more to Yamanashi-ken than just Mount Fuji or Fuji Q Highland. Next time you come visit Mount Fuji, give some of these other places a chance and add them to your itinerary. Personally, the Fruit Park and Fruit Onsen experience is something to not miss out on and unique to this area. Hirosaki in Aomori-ken has apple baths sure, but pineapple, lemon, peach baths? That’s a rarity. I’d also drop by Katsunuma for some grapes and wine for a souvenir.
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