It’s time for ‘Japan by Prefecture‘ again! This is the series that aims to provide the highlights of each prefecture of Japan, along with my personal favourites and suggestions from readers. This week, we’re looking at Yamanashi (山梨県).
Yamanashi Prefecture is part of the Chubu Region (中部地方) and the capital is Kofu (甲府). I’ve been to Yamanashi once, although I’m not sure exactly where I went! I was taken cherry picking and I know we passed by Lake Suwa (諏訪湖) in Nagano Prefecture and then headed towards the Southern Alps (南アルプス) or Akaishi Mountains (赤石山脈), a mountain range which borders Nagano, Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. You can read more about my cherry picking adventure here.
Actually, Yamanashi is known for its fruit production, with peaches, pears and grapes being the most famous. Strawberries, cherries, apples and blueberries are also all grown in Yamanashi. Some people call Yamanashi the ‘Kingdom of Fruit’!
Of course, the most famous feature of Yamanashi Prefecture is Mount Fuji (富士山).
Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 metres, straddles both Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. The mountain is worshipped as a sacred mountain, and is one of the main symbols of Japan. Mount Fuji is a notoriously shy mountain, and often hides entirely from view. However, on a clear day with the right weather conditions the mountain can be seen from Tokyo and Yokohama. Mount Fuji is open for climbing in July and August – something that’s on my bucket list but I’m not sure when I will get around to it!
As much as I would like to climb Mount Fuji one day, I’m also perfectly happy just to look at it, as it really is quite spectacular. A big thank you goes to Zooming Japan this week for telling me the name of the incredibly famous viewing point I’ve been wanting to add to my list of places to visit: Chureito Pagoda (忠霊塔). Chureito Pagoda overlooks Fujiyoshida City and Mount Fuji, and it’s the spot from which this iconic shot has been taken time and time again:
The first time I saw a picture like this I thought it must have been Photoshopped, but this is a real view you can see in Yamanashi Prefecture! The Chureito Pagoda is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built as a peace memorial in 1963.
Arakura Sengen Shrine and the Chureito Pagoda are in the area known as Fuji Five Lakes (富士五湖). This region is at the northern base of Mount Fuji, and includes the lakes Kawaguchiko (河口湖), Saiko (西湖), Yamanakako (山中湖), Shojiko (精進湖) and Motosuko (本栖湖).
While Yamanakako is the largest of the lakes, Kawaguchiko is the most accessible and most developed. Kawaguchiko is a hot spring resort town and is a good place to be based if you’re planning to climb Mount Fuji. It is also home to the Fuji Q Highland (富士急ハイランド) amusement park, which is home to some Guinness World Record breaking roller coasters.
Yamanashi Prefecture is home to a festival I would love to go to one day: the Fuji Shibazakura Festival (富士芝桜まつり). The festival, which runs from mid-April until the end of May/early June, celebrates shibazakura (pink moss or phlox moss) and takes place in the Fuji Five Lakes area. What could be more stunning that a view of Mount Fuji with a brilliant pink foreground and a blue sky?
In last week’s comments Japan Australia mentioned another place worth visiting in Yamanashi Prefecture: Mitake Shosenkyo (御嶽昇仙峡). The Shosenkyo Gorge is considered to be one of the most beautiful gorges in Japan. It is part of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (秩父多摩甲斐国立公園), which is at the intersection of Saitama, Yamanashi, Nagano and Tokyo prefectures. This is a great place to go for hiking, especially between late October and mid November when the autumn leaves are at their best.
The Omiyage Section
A lot of the souvenirs (or ‘omiyage’ / おみやげ) from Yamanashi Prefecture are either related to Mount Fuji or fruit. The prefecture is actually the centre of Japan’s wine industry, so if you’re going to buy Japanese wine this is the place to do it. Another famous souvenir from Yamanashi is Kikyo Shingen Mochi (桔梗信玄餅) (lit. balloon flower Shingen pounded rice cake) – pictured centre left. This sweet mochi eaten with brown sugar syrup and kinako (roasted soybean flour) comes wrapped in a traditional Japanese cloth or paper designed to look like one. Yamanashi also has its own Kit Kats: Koshinchiku Gentei Kyohou (巨峰) Kit Kats, which were a limited edition grape flavour. I don’t think these are available any more, which is a shame as I remember them being quite nice!
Next week I will be writing about Nagano (長野県). Have you been there? What’s good to eat there and what omiyage should I buy? What are the best sightseeing spots or hidden gems? Please do share your thoughts below, and join me next week for Japan by Prefecture!