Japan City Guides: Kofu Yamanashi Prefecture
- situated an hour and a half north-west of the capital.
- tranquil, floral city surrounded by hills.
- easy access from downtown Tokyo.
- area famous for wine and fruit production.
- beautiful Shosenkyo Gorge just outside town.
- old castle, shrines and onsen.
- traditional Japanese cuisine and shopping on offer.
- prefectural capital of Yamanashi.
Kofu, just 90 minutes by train from Tokyo, is the capital of Yamanashi Prefecture. The city lies in the Kofu Basin surrounded by mountains: Mount Fuji to the south, Mount Kimpu to the north and Mount Shirane and Mount Kai-koma to the west.
Kofu city is the largest town in Yamanashi and its econmic heart. Visitors come to sample the delicious local fruits and excellent wine, as well as take the healing waters in such onsen areas as Yumura Spa, within the city itself.
Kofu Castle (Tel: 055 227 6179), is situated not far from Kofu Station, in a hilly park area known as Maizurujo Koen (Maizuru Castle Park).
Kofu Castle was constructed in 1583 on the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the most important figures in Japanese history, and the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty.
Takeda Shrine, 2.5km to the north of the station by bus, is dedicated to Takeda Shingen (1521-1573), an important feudal lord of the area. The shrine's festival on the first weekend of April is one of the largest and most important events in the area. Takeda Shrine has a pleasant moat stocked with fish and birds and a Noh stage in the grounds. The never-say-die warrior attitude of Takeda Shingen attracts students who come to pray for success in exams or on their sports teams. The shrine's Treasure Hall displays swords, armor and documents of the Takeda Family.
Takeda Shingen is claimed as the founder of the Jodo sect Zenkoji Temple (Tel: 055 233 7570) to the east of the station in 1558. The temple is modeled after the famed temple of the same name in Nagano. At present (2009), the temple is undergoing renovation, but the huge entrance gate, a vast bell and the imposing pagoda can all be seen.
Kofu's Yamanashi Prefectural Science Center(Tel: 055 254 8151; admission 500 adults; 200 yen for school children), is a short bus ride from the station. The observatory, the space theater with its 20m diameter screen and a number of interactive displays are a hit with the kids. The museum is closed on Monday.
The Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art (Tel: 055 228 3324) displays work by French artist Jean Francois Millet and paintings by local artists. The grounds have sculptures by Rodin, Henry Moore and Aristide Maillol. From Kofu Station take a local bus for Nirasaki and alight at Kenritsu-Bijutsukan. Admission is 500 yen for adults and the museum is closed on Monday.
Shosenkyo Gorge (Mitake Shosenkyo), just 30 minutes by bus from Kofu, is one of Japan's most beautiful places, and is the scenic jewel of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. The picturesque Arakawa River runs through a steep gorge with towering, granite crags and flowing waterfalls. The most scenic section of the river is a 4km walk from Sen-ga-Taki Falls downstream to Tenjinmori, across the Nagatoro Bridge. Above Sen-ga-Taki Falls towers the gorge's most famous landmark, the 180m rocky prominence of Kakuenpo. Outdoor restaurants serve soba and freshly grilled river trout. The bus from Kofu stops at both places, so you can choose to walk up or down hill. A taxi to the station can be bargained down to about 3,000 yen. Buses run from Kofu Station via Yumura Onsen from 7.07am to 7.50pm.
View of Mt Fuji from Yamanashi Prefecture
Kofu's main shopping and eating area is around the station, where there are a number of restaurants in the Eclan department store and plenty of izakaya in the streets running south of the station. The Orion Street Arcade has a number of traditional shops and clothing stores. There is free wine tasting of local Yamanashi wines in the Eclan department store in the station building.
Access to Kofu from Tokyo or Shinjuku stations via Mitaka by the JR Chuo Line on the Super Azusa, Asusa or Kaiji Express trains to Matsumoto. Heading south take the slower JR Minobu Line to Fuji, Shimizu and Shizuoka via Shimobe spa and Minobu.
There are highway buses to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kawagoe and Nagoya as well as Narita and Hanada airports.
For getting around town, there is a tourist loop bus, the Kofu City Shuttle, which passes many of the Kofu's main sights. The shuttle runs between 11am-6pm. There are bus stops at the north and south exits of Kofu Station, check with the tourist office for the bus you need.
Some taxi company numbers include Meitetsu 055 241 3232, Marusan 055 224 6181 and Nansei 055 226 5434.
The Tourist Information Office is in Kofu Station.
View Kofu Map in a larger map