Yamanashi

Yamanashi prefecture (山梨県 Yamanashi-ken) is in the central Chubu region of the main Japanese island Honshu. Just hours from Tokyo by bus, train, or car, Yamanashi is good for a day trip from the big city and allows travelers to experience the "inaka" (rural) Japan. Yamanashi's major city, Kofu, lies at the center of this bowl-shaped prefecture, with some of Japan's most famous mountains rising along the horizon. On a clear day, a visitor can see Mt. Fuji to the south, Japan's second highest peak Kitadake and the majestic Minami Alps to the west, and the eight fractured peaks of Yatsugatake to the north. Yamanashi offers a wealth of cultural experiences and outdoor excursions to those searching for the offbeat side of Japan. Most foreign visitors overlook Yamanashi, but this small prefecture might be the ideal destination for a traveler tired of Tokyo's crowds.

Understand

Yamanashi is quite unusual amongst Japanese provinces in that its borders have remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years. Formerly known as Kai Province (甲斐国), the majority of the prefecture is formed of the Kofu Basin, a flat plain in the centre of the prefecture surrounded by virtually impassible natural mountain barriers. Kai was once the base of the famous samurai leader Takeda Shingen, a man who once looked certain to unite the whole of Japan until his mysterious death whilst on campaign. The people of Yamanashi celebrate him to this day.

Though in terms of natural geography and history part of the Chubu region of Japan, in modern times Yamanashi has much closer links to Tokyo and the broader Kanto region. Its dialect is close to that of Tokyo albeit peppered with some unique local vocabulary.

For traveller Yamanashi might be seen to be composed of several regions which are not easily accessible by each other. One is the Kofu basin, a large urban sprawl centred on Kofu city. The other significant area is the south eastern Fuji Yoshida area, home to Mount Fuji. There are also several other less prominent and more rural areas such as Hokuto and Minobu.

Cities

Get in

By plane

There are no airports in Yamanashi. Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports are accessible by bus from Yamanashi; however, services to Yamanashi from these airports are rare. Haneda with its location towards the west of Tokyo rather than in central Chiba is by far recommended for access to Yamanashi, the journey from Narita to Kofu can take up to four hours by train.

By train

You can access Yamanashi by three lines, the Chuo Line (中央線) from Matsumoto to the west and Tokyo to the east, the Minobu Line(身延線) from Shizuoka to the south, and the Koumi Line (小海線) from Ueda and eastern Nagano, by the border with Gunma, to the north. From Shizuoka you can connect to the Shinkansen which can be used to access Osaka and Nagoya, from Nagoya however the quicker option is to ride conventional express trains on the chuo line, switching between the Azusa and the Shinano at Shiojiri in Nagano. For both of these cities the bus is a quicker and cheaper alternative.

The super express trains of the Chuo line are the Kaiji (かいじ), Azusa(あずさ), and Super Azusa(スーパーあずさ). The fastest of these trains runs from Shinjuku to Kofu in just 1 hour 25 minutes. Compared to the highway bus, it is much faster, but also much more expensive. Local trains can also be used to get from Tokyo to Yamanashi with a change of train usually required from Tokyo's chuo$ rapid to the standard chuo line in Takao or occasionally Otsuki. This takes around 2 to 2 1/2 hours and costs half the price of the express train.

From special shops express tickets can be bought for 3,000 yen rather than the standard 3,500 yen (local tickets can also be bought for 200 yen savings). Several of these can be found in Tokyo including near Shinjuku station. In Kofu one can be found right in front of the station.

The super express of the Minobu line is called the Fujikawa(ふじかわ). Each day, it makes 7 round trip runs between Kofu Station(甲府駅) and Shizuoka Station(静岡駅) in approximately 2 hours.

By bus

Highway bus services link Kofu to other cities, Shinjuku, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya. Four different companies make these runs. They are the Yamanashikotsu, Keio, Fujikyukou, and Kintetsu bus companies. Bus service may be cheaper, but the train is generally much faster and, other than of the route which goes to Shinjuku, are comparably fewer in number.

Long-distance buses use terminals in Kofu Station (甲府駅) and Fujiyoshida Station (富士吉田駅). From Kofu Station you can take buses to Shinjuku, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Narita Airport (成田空港 NRT), and Haneda Airport (羽田空港 HND). Fujiyoshida station (富士吉田駅) has bus services to and from Shinjuku, Tokyo, Kyoto Station (Hachijo), and Osaka.

Get around

Many points in Yamanashi can be reached by the JR Chuo or JR Minobu train lines, with Kofu Station as a transportation hub for the prefecture. The southeast part of the prefecture is accessible by the private Fuji Kyu line which connects to the Chuo line at Otsuki. The Fuji Kyu line, Minobu line and Koumi line are all single tracked so services tend to be infrequent and somewhat slow. The chuo line is largely double tracked hence has two or three local trains and two or three expresses per hour each way.

Most cities throughout the prefecture have local bus lines in addition to trains.

Public transportation in Yamanashi isn't the best and even the central Kofu Urban Area itself is designed around the idea that most people have cars. Driving is highly recommended to be able to see the entire prefecture.

See

Takeda Shrine in Kofu

Do

Eat

Hōtō

Yamanashi is famous for its grapes and peaches. The centre of the prefecture lies in a basin and has quite a unique climate which makes its fruit very sweet. Yamanashi is the centre of Japanese wine making, with many companies large and small making wine in Yamanashi. Due to the sweetness of Yamanashi's fruit the wine from Yamanashi also tends to have a somewhat sweeter taste than is the norm, this can have rather mixed results when it comes to Yamanashi red wines, however Yamanashi white wines are delicious.

Hōtō is a wheat noodle that looks like wide udon. In winter, Yamanashi gets really cold, so it is sometimes eaten at home or in restaurants. The ingredients of Hōtō contains various vegetables, including: burdock, pumpkin, radish, carrot, taro, sweet potato etc. Its base is miso soup.

Basashimi is another local speciality; raw horse meat.

Drink

Due to the car centric design of Yamanashi and the proximity of Tokyo there is little in the way of night life to be found in this prefecture. There are some pubs to be found in Kofu however and as previously mentioned Yamanashi is the Japanese wine capital hence day drinking opportunities are many, such as vineyard tours and Katsunuma's wine cave.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 05, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.