Shosenkyo, Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture 昇仙峡
Shosenkyo is scenically sublime, and in national polls of Japan's favorite beauty spots is usually among the top five. The picturesque Arakawa River (a tributary of the Fuji River) flows from Mt Kimpu (2595m) and Mt Kokushi (2592m) before it enters the Kofu Basin.
Shosenkyo is where the river narrows, running through the steep gorge with its towering, granite crags - some up to 50m high.
The most scenic and popular section of the gorge begins at Senga-Taki Falls and continues downstream 4km to Tenjinmori. Nearby Sen-ga-Taki Falls is a cluster of souvenir shops and cafes. Also, check out Yakumo Shrine, founded in 1564 - last restored in 1968 - that enshrines the (somewhat conflicted!) god of both fortune in war and marital harmony. There is also the Shosenkyo Shadow Picture Museum or Kage-no-mori (Tel: 055 287 2511) and the Shippo Museum (Tel: 055 254 8151) of cloisonne.
Walking down Shosenkyo Gorge, keep an eye out for the many cliffs and rock formations along the way. They have been given names such as Tengu-Iwa (Goblin Rock), Toryu-Iwa (Ascending Dragon Rock), Jimmen-Seki (Human Face Rock), and Rakuda-Ishi (Camel Rock).
All along the trail, outdoor restaurants serve soba and freshly grilled river trout along the way - which you may be asked to catch yourself with a net.
The whole area is scattered with hiking trails leading farther into the surrounding Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park and to various onsen hot springs.
Less than 10 minutes' walk north of Sengataki waterfall is the Sengataki station of the Shosenkyo Ropeway taking you on a 5 minute, 1km-long ride, 300m up to Panorama-dai station, an observation station on Mt. Rakanji with views of Mount Fuji to the south, the Southern Alps to the west, and the Chichibu Mountain Range to the east (most notably Mt. Kimpu - AKA Mt. Kimpo). Just 10 minutes tramp from the station is craggy Yasaburo-take Peak, 1,058m above sea level, easily climbable, for the best possible panorama view. 1000 yen round-trip for adults. Departs about every 20 minutes between 9am and 5.10pm (Apr 1 - Nov 30) or 4.10pm (Dec 1 - Mar 31), 365 days a year.
Access - Getting to Shosenkyo
From Tokyo - train & bus
Access to Kofu from Tokyo or Shinjuku stations 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.
From Kofu City - bus
Yamanashi Kotsu buses run from Kofu Station. From Kofu Station it is a 29 minute ride to Shosenkyo Guchi (Nagatoro Bridge) bus stop (570 yen), a further 12 minutes to Greenline Shosenkyo bus stop (800 yen), and a further 7 minutes to the terminal stop, Shosenkyo Taki Ue (i.e., Sen-ga-Taki Falls) (870 yen). Choose your bus stop according to how far you want to walk back down the gorge.
Kofu City - Taxi
A taxi to Kofu station from Shosenkyo Guchi can be bargained down to about 3,000 yen.
For getting around town, there is a tourist loop bus, the Kofu City Shuttle, which passes by many of Kofu's main attractions. The shuttle bus runs between 11am-6pm. There are bus stops at the north and south exits of JR Kofu Station. Check with the tourist office for the bus you need.
Taxi company phone numbers: Meitetsu 055 241 3232, Marusan 055 224 6181, Nansei 055 226 5434.
The Tourist Information Office is in Kofu Station.