Yamanashi Prefecture – The King and Queen of Mountains
Around a quarter of Yamanashi Prefecture is designated as National Parks, and two of Japan’s tallest mountains reside within one of them.
Yamanashi-ken (山梨県) is a land-locked prefecture consisting of 13 cities, with Kofu City as its capital. It is the home of Japan’s tallest and second tallest mountains – Mount Fuji and Mount Kita respectively, making it the King and the Queen of the mountains.
Around a quarter of Yamanashi is designated as National Parks, and 78% designated as forests, making it one of Japan’s most densely wooded prefectures. Being amongst some of Japan’s highly-populated areas – namely Tokyo, Kanagawa and Saitama – Yamanashi always makes for a convenient city escape.
The key industries of Yamanashi are jewellery making, robotics and also fruit. The topography of this prefecture have helped Yamanashi to become Japan’s leading producer of peaches, grapes, plums and wine. Or as they say in Japanese momo (桃), budou (ぶどう), ume (梅) and wain (ワイン)!
Kofu City (甲府市)
A major airstrike in 1945, left much of Kofu damaged unfortunately. But after agricultural land reforms were later introduced, and the number of independent farms increased, the area began to prosper. Today Kofu is the economic centre of Yamanashi-ken with numerous shrines around the city dedicated to Takeda Shingen – a powerful feudal lord who resided here in the 1500’s.
National Parks (国立公園)
The largest national parks that cover parts of Yamanashi are The Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (富士箱根伊豆国立公園), The Minami Alps National Park (南アルプス国立公園), and The Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (秩父多摩甲斐国立公園).
With numerous peaks over 3,000 meters, The Minami Alps National Park is a favourite amongst avid hikers, and is noted as one of Japan’s major mountain parks. The park was established in 1964 – which also makes it one of the oldest – and spans areas around Yamanashi, Shizuoka and Nagano Prefectures.
The Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park lies between Saitama, Yamanashi, Nagano and Tokyo Prefectures. It it the source of several major rivers including the River Arakawa, where one of Japan’s most magnificent gorges, Mitake Shosenkyo (御岳昇仙峡), can be found.
The Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is vast and covers land in Yamanashi, Shizuoka and Kanagawa Prefectures. Unsurprisingly though, it is most famous for its inclusion of Fuji-san and the surrounding scenic area known as Fuji Five Lakes.
Fuji Five Lakes (富士五湖)
Often used a resting place for those basking in the magnificence of Fuji-san, Fuji Five Lakes consists of the lakes Kawaguchiko, Yamanakako, Saiko, Shojiko and Motosuko. Of the five, Yamanakako is the largest, Shojiko is the smallest and Kawaguchiko is the most popular and most developed. Kawaguchiko is particularly favoured because it offers fantastic views of Mount Fuji, and has the greatest range of tourist attractions.
Mount Fuji (富士山)
Whether you call it Fuji-san, Fujiyama or Mount Fuji doesn’t matter. What matters is that Yamanashi is its official home, and as Japan’s highest mountain – at 3776 meters – it would be tough to think of another landmark more significant. As such, it has been named as “One of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, “One of Japan’s Historic Sites” and a “Special Place of Scenic Beauty”.
The first ascent of 富士山 is believed to have been around 1400 years ago but these days, thousands of visitors attempt to reach the summit every year. The official hiking season for Fuji is from early July to mid-September although experienced climbers may visit during off-season. Hiking between September and July doesn’t come highly recommended due to the extreme weather conditions and risks of avalanches. The busiest period is during Obon Week – one of the nation’s three major holiday weeks. If you prefer camaraderie, this is the hiking week for you!
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