Japan by Prefecture: Yamanashi (山梨県)

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

Yamanashi Prefecture

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’!

Grape picking

Grape picking

(Image source)

Of course, the most famous feature of Yamanashi Prefecture is Mount Fuji (富士山).

Mt. Fuji and Katsuragawa River © T.Satoh/© JNTO

Mt. Fuji © T.Satoh/© JNTO

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:

Mt. Fuji & Chureito Peace Pagoda (Sengen Park) ©Fujiyoshida City/© JNTO

Mt. Fuji & Chureito Peace Pagoda (Sengen Park) ©Fujiyoshida City/© JNTO

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).

Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes

Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes

(Image source)

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.

Fuji Q Highland

Fuji Q Highland

(Image source)

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?

Fuji Shibazakura Festival ©Akira Okada/© JNTO

Fuji Shibazakura Festival ©Akira Okada/© JNTO

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.

Shosenkyo Gorge ©Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Shosenkyo Gorge ©Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

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!

Yamanashi Omiyage

Yamanashi Omiyage

 (Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & own photos)

  ☆★☆

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!

8 thoughts on “Japan by Prefecture: Yamanashi (山梨県)

  1. Nagano is one of my favourite prefectures in Japan and we visit quite often from home base in Gifu. A few suggestions are:

    Matsumoto – famous for its beautiful original castle, Matsumoto-jo, which is one of the best in Japan

    Kamikochi – a popular mountain resort located in the Japan Alps and famous for its mountain scenery and hiking

    Karuizawa – a popular resort town that is a summer escape for people from Tokyo

    Nagano is also famous for its delicious soba.

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  2. Well, Yamanashi Prefecture is always worth a visit and if it’s just for Mt. Fuji. 😉
    I love the Fuji Lakes and the Chureito Pagoda and have been there many times.

    Nagano? Snow monkeys!!!
    Matsumoto Castle!
    Those were my two highlights. ^^

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  3. Nagano Prefecture is great!
    – The Suwa Fireworks festival lasts all summer with very short fireworks shows every night and 1 big night along with a slightly smaller New Fireworks show.
    – The Okaya Taiko festival has something like 300+ drummers on stage at once. I heard it it is the largest in Japan, but can’t back that claim up.
    – Matsumoto has a wonderful taiko festival as well which takes place over two days at the castle and downtown. Matsumoto also has a fun soba festival and an ice sculpture festival. (Not at the same time).
    – Azumino City north of Matsumoto and Azumi part of the western part of Matsumoto are great places for hiking and also some great cafes/restaurants.
    – Azumino City also has the Daio Wasabi Farm!
    – Great hiking anywhere.
    – Basashi is famous, along with apples. Any apple flavored omiyage is a great option.
    – Narai-juku south of Shiojiri has a museum showing how the Nagano Olympic Medals were made along with some great exampled of lacquered objects. The town itself is home to lacque shops and great to walk through.
    – Kamikochi is kamikochi!
    – Lots of great places to drive including the drive between Matsumoto and Takayama in Gifu and the Venus Line starting in Chino.
    That should help get your started!

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  4. This is my favourite post so far, since it’s my Japanese hometown ^^ Thanks for posting so many great things about Yamanashi! I was hoping to be able to contribute, but moving across the country made that a little difficult.

    One thing I’d like to mention to you (for when you visit ^^) or for anyone else who bothers to read this comment, is the Shingen-ko matsuri (信玄公祭り) in Kofu, since I didn’t see it on your post. It is the biggest samurai parade in Japan. It’s a 3-day matsuri dedicated to Takeda Shingen, a famous samurai/daimyo. The celebrations are held April 12, the date of Shingen’s death, and the parade is the first Saturday before April 12. As a foreign student, I was invited to participitate in the parade, by wearing traditional samurai retainer armor, or women’s kimono. I also saw many foreign tourists and families participating in it. It’s not very hot so parading around is no problem, and people cheer and take photos while you march around. It was really a lot of fun.

    I hope you’ll have a chance to visit Yamanashi soon!

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