History:The area of modern-day Yamanashi was known after the Taika Reforms (645) as Kai Province (甲斐国 Kai-no-kuni). It came under the control of a succession of military families. In the Heian Period and throughout the Kamakura Period, it was ruled by the Kai Genji (Minamoto). Later, the Takeda, a branch family of the Minamoto, consolidated their power in Kai. From his residence in Kōfu, Takeda Shingen expanded his influence into the provinces of Shinano (present-day Nagano) and Suruga (Shizuoka). He waged constant war against his northern archrival Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信, 1530-1578) of Echigo Province and was eventually defeated by the forces of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu. After the defeat of the Late Hōjō clan, Kai Province was ruled by a succession of Toyotomi retainers. In the Edo Period (1600-1868), it was directly controlled by the Tokugawa shogunate. Following the Meiji Restoration, it was renamed Kōfu Prefecture. It received its present name and borders after abolishing the han system in 1871.
Economy:Agriculture is the principal activity. Crops include rice, fruits, and vegetables. Yamanashi is famed for its peaches, plums, and, in particular, its grapes. The prefecture is well-known as the centre of Japan's wine production and has numerous vineyards. The industry is largely limited to light manufacturing such as textiles and crystal processing for jewellery. New industries include electrical goods, machinery, precision instruments, and robotics.
- 806,446 residents (July 2021)
- 4,465.27 square kilometres
- Population density: 181 inhabitants per square kilometre
Tourism:Due to its proximity to Tōkyō and its wealth of lakes and mountains, Yamanashi is a popular tourist destination. The greatest attractions are Mount Fuji and the string of five lakes at its base. Three national parks span part of the prefecture: the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (富士箱根伊豆国立公園 Fuji-Hakone-Izu Kokuritsu Kōen), the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (秩父多摩甲斐国立公園 Chichibu Tama Kai Kokuritsu Kōen), and the Minami Alps National Park (南アルプス国立公園 Minami Arupusu Kokuritsu Kōen). Hot springs include Masutomi Onsen, Sekisuiji Onsen, Isawa Onsen, Shimobe Onsen, Hottarakashi Onsen and Yamanami Onsen. Minobusan is the head temple of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism and attracts many tourists and pilgrims.
Regions of Yamanashi:Yamanashi Prefecture consists of six regions with their own distinctive character, culture, and traditions. Those regions are the Yasugatake area, the area around Kōfu and the Shōsenkyō Gorge, the area around Isawa Onsen, Kōshū and wineries, the Minami Alps and the area around Kuonji Temple, Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes, and the area around Ōtsuki and Uenohara.
Things to see:
Yasugatake:The Yasugatake Mountains and Yasugatake highland border Nagano Prefecture and offer stunning views.
- Kiyosato (清里), a lovely highland resort
- KEEP Farm (Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project), a dairy farm and resort, conference centre, and home of the Paul Rusch Memorial Museum and the Japan American Football Hall of Fame.
- Kobuchizawa, a centre of horse breeding, with ranches, stables, and country clubs.
- Hokuto Archaeological Museum
- Daigahara-shuku (台ヶ原宿), a historical post town along Kōshū Kaidō (甲州街道), the route that connected Edo and Kai Province.
Kōfu and the Shōsenkyō Gorge:Kōfu is the capital of Yamanashi Prefecture.
- Kōfu (甲府市) is the capital of Yamanashi. The main attractions are Kōfu Castle and the surrounding Maizuru Castle Park (舞鶴城公園), the Takeda Shrine (武田神社) and Shingen's Tsutsujigasaki Residence; the Takeda Shingen Festival takes place annually on the first Saturday in April; the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art (山梨県立美術館) with its collection with works by Millet, Corot, Rousseau, other Barbizon School artists, and major European landscape artists. Make sure you try hōtō (餺飥), a local speciality consisting of rich broth with thicker than usual udon.
- Shōsenkyō Gorge (昇仙峡), a scenic spot of great natural beauty just north of Kōfu. Free parking; two-hour hiking trip around the waterfalls and rocks; Shōsenkyō Kagee no Mori Museum (昇仙峡影絵の森美術館).
Isawa Onsen, Kōshū and the wineries:Isawa is just east of Kōfu and a prime destination for wine lovers. Isawa Onsen is a hot spring resort surrounded by impressive mountain ranges.
- Vineyards: most wineries are located in the Isawa area east of Kōfu. Grapes have been cultivated in Yamanashi since the early Meiji Period (1868-1912); several vineyards around Katsunuma Station organise tours and wine tastings, such as the Yamanashi Mars Winery, the Misaka Farm Grape House, and the Budo-no-Oka Wine Center. Several local farms offer strawberry, peach and grape picking.
- Fuefukigawa Fruit Park (山梨県笛吹川フルーツ公園), a popular family destination with gardens, play equipment and glass domes housing a fruit museum, greenhouse and more; famous for its night view (one of Japan's top three night-view spots).
- Ryūmonkyō Gorge (竜門峡) offers picturesque trails along Hikawa Valley (日川渓谷)
- Lake Otome (乙女湖), a heart-shaped artificial lake at an altitude of 1,500 metres.
- Nezu Memorial Museum (根津記念館) in Yamanashi City, the birthplace of Nezu Kaichirō (根津 嘉一郎, 1860-1940), a Japanese businessman and philanthropist who owned over 136 different businesses, including Tōbu Railway.
- Seihaku-ji Temple (清白寺), a Buddhist temple belonging to the Myōshin-ji branch of the Rinzai school of Japanese Zen Buddhism. Its butsudan was designated one of Japan's National Treasures.
Minami Alps and the Kuonji Temple area:The area between the imposing Southern Alps and Mount Fuji is home to a wealth of traditional Japanese cultures and crafts, such as kabuki, washi paper and suzuri inkstones.
- Minobusan Kuon-ji Temple (身延山久遠寺): the head temple of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, founded bu Nichiren in 1281; nineteen of its buildings were designated registered tangible cultural properties; it hosts one national treasure, a hanging scroll entitled "Summer Mountain" (絹本著色夏景山水図 Kenpon chakushoku kakei sansui-zu) and three important cultural properties.
- Akazawashuku (赤沢宿), a picturesque village with traditional buildings evoking an Edo-era atmosphere; the Akazawa Shiryōkan (赤沢資料館) houses a collection of artefacts depicting the lifestyle of the village across the centuries.
- Kitadake (北岳), the second-tallest mountain of Japan at 3,193 metres and part of the Akaishi Mountains or the Southern Alps.
Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes areaThe most popular and most-visited area of Yamanashi, thanks to the majestic Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes.
- Fuji Five Lakes (富士五湖 Fujigoko): located on the northern slopes of Mount Fuji, the group is composed of Lake Yamanaka (山中湖 Yamanaka-ko), Lake Kawaguchi (河口湖 Kawaguchi-ko), Lake Sai (西湖 Sai-ko), Lake Shōji (精進湖 Shōji-ko), and Lake Motosu (本栖湖 Motosu-ko). They were created when lava flow from Mount Fuji dammed valleys of the Misaka Mountains and later filled with rainwater and underground water. Characterised by an abundance of vegetation, vestiges of lava flows, and caves, the lakes are very popular with tourists and well developed. The largest lake is Lake Yamanaka (6.4 square kilometres), the smallest Lake Shōji (0.87 square kilometres), the deepest is Lake Motosu (126 metres), and the shallowest Lake Yamanaka (16 metres). Yamana-ko is also at the highest altitude (982 metres), Lake Kawaguchi at the lowest (831 metres). Lake Motosu is the most transparent (17 metres).
- Fuji-Q Highland, a popular theme park in Fujiyoshida with rollercoasters and haunted attractions, also features Thomas Land for young fans of Thomas the Tank Engine.
- Mishima Yukio Literary Museum (三島由紀夫文学館), exhibiting the works of one of Japan's most famous writers. The museum's building is a replica of Mishima's former residence.
Ōtsuki and Uenohara area
- Ōtsuki (大月市) can be reached from Shinjuku via JR Chuo Line in two hours. Located in a scenic valley, most of its attractions are located on the surrounding mountains; Iwadono-san (岩殿山), a 600-metres tall mountain via castle ruins; Zuigakuin (瑞岳院), a monastery founded in 1978 focusing on the teachings of Dogen; Saruhashi Bridge (猿橋), the "monkey bridge", a historic arch bridge officially listed as a Place of Scenic Beauty of Japan and one of Japan's three unique bridges; Sasago Gangaharasuriyama (雁ガ腹摺山), a peak that offers the most symmetrical view of Mount Fuji and the vantage point for the image of the mountain used on the old ¥500 banknotes.
- the Maglev Exhibition Center (山梨県立リニア見学センター) exhibits the technology behind next-generation magnetic levitation trains, set to begin operating along the new Linear Chuo Shinkansen line between Tōkyō and Nagoya in the late 2020s; with an observation room overlooking the test track on which the Maglev trains reach speeds of up to 600km/h.
- Yamanashi Tourism Organisation (multilingual)
- Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art (in English)
- Shosenkyo Gorge (in English)
- Seihaku-ji Temple (in Japanese)
- Fuefukigawa Fruit Park (in Japanese)
- Fuji-Q Highland (in Japanese and English)
- Minobusan Kuon-ji Temple (in English)
- Yukio Mishima Literary Museum (in English and Japanese)
- Yamanashi Prefectural Maglev Exhibition Center (in English)
- Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP) (in Japanese)
- In Japan, a Destination for Jewelry Lovers (New York Times, 25 August 2021)