Yamanashi is one of the two prefectures surrounding the famous Mt. Fuji. While it’s completely landlocked, nature is its biggest charm: three national parks, mountain-climbing, hot springs, and other outdoorsy enjoyment. It is also known for its high-quality local products.
How to Get There
Thankfully, Yamanashi is really close to Tokyo. Departing from Shinjuku Station, the Azusa or Kaiji Limited Express can take you directly to Yamanashi’s Kofu Station via the JR Chuo Line. With a switch at Otsuki Station to the Fujikyu Line, you can get to Kawaguchiko. Both trips take around an hour and a half to two hours, and cost just over 4,000 yen.
The JR Tokaido and Minobu Lines can get you to Kofu Station from both Nagoya and Osaka.
With Kofu Station as its center, the Chuo and Minobu lines can take you to most of the major attractions. The Fujikyu is another slower and more expensive option.
Many of Yamanashi’s cities have local buses in addition to trains.
Going around by car is probably the easiest way to get around, as Yamanashi is more rural with things pretty spread out.
What to See and What to Do
The most obvious is a climb up Mt. Fuji. But it requires some strong willpower to make it to the top, and since it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013, the number of visitors has shot up. So we also have some easier alternatives. The mountains also mean there are plenty of hot springs to choose from. Minami Alps National Park, Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, and Yatsugatake Chushin-Kogen Quasi-National Park offer picturesque scenery too. Another popular area is the Fuji Five Lakes Region surrounding Mt. Fuji’s northern base, comprised of Yamanaka-ko, Kawaguchi-ko, Sai-ko, Shoji-ko, and Motosu-ko. These are great places for outdoor sports and camping with the mountain in full view.
For Warring States Period fans, Yamanashi might be a real hit, as the capital city of Kofu was established by the daimyo (feudal lord) Takeda Shingen. There is his family temple Enrinji, and Shingen-ko Festival honors him with a parade of the “Takeda Army”.
If you’re a roller coaster fan, skip the Disney parks and head to Fuji-Q Highland instead.
Yamanashi’s traditional products are also very famous. The center of Japan’s wine production, Koshu wine in particular is world famous. Its grapes, peaches and plums are considered to be Japan’s best. Inden (deerskin goods with Japanese lacquered designs), kaiki (traditional silk textiles), washi (traditional paper), and jewelry products are also popular.