A Local’s Guide to Yamanashi: The 17 Best Things to Do, See and Eat

Yamanashi is most famous for being the home of Mt. Fuji, but we also have plenty of things to eat, see, and do while you’re here. Here are our top 17 choices of things to do in Yamanashi while you are studying in Japan.

1. Climb Mt Fuji

Climb Mt Fuji

If you plan to climb Mt Fuji while you’re in Japan, chances are you’ll do it from Yamanashi. The most popular route, the Yoshida trail, is used by more than half of all climbers each season. The Yoshida route’s 5th station is the most accessible by public transport from Tokyo and has more mountain huts to support climbers.  You can easily access the Yoshida 5th station by train from Shinjuku station, transferring at Otsuki and traveling on to Fujikawaguchi-ko station. From there buses take hikers up the Subaru Line road to the 5th station. If you have some time before or after your hike, you should definitely check out some of the other attractions around the Fuji Five Lakes area, including the Chireito Pagoda, Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway, Aokigahara, and its caves, and of course Fuji Q Highlands

2. Visit Fuji Q Highland

Fuji Q Highland

Theme park aficionados visiting Japan seeking more thrills than Disneyland, Disney Sea, or Universal Studios Japan have to offer should put a trip to Japan’s mecca of rollercoasters high on their itinerary. Home to 6 rollercoasters, including current and former world record holders for height, speed, and acceleration at launch. As well as only the 2nd 4th dimension roller coaster ever built. Fuji Q Highland is also renowned for its gigantic haunted houses, the Haunted Hospital, and the Hopeless Fortress, amongst many other rides.

Address: 5 Chome-6-1 Shinnishihara, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi 403-0017

3. Go Hiking in a UNESCO Biosphere Park

UNESCO Biosphere Park

Yamanashi is home to not one but two UNESCO Biosphere Parks. The Kobushi Biosphere Reserve spans most of the Kanto Mountains, including the main Okuchichibu ridge of 20 peaks rising above 2,000 meters. While the Minami-Alps Biosphere Reserve includes some of Japan’s tallest peaks, some over 3000m while also being home to a variety of orchards and vineyards.

In addition to the day and multi-day hiking trails in Yamanashi, there are also areas for a wide variety of outdoor activities such as nature-watching, camping, fishing, and skiing so it’s a popular area for tourists. Many seek to visit spots featured in the hit anime “ ゆるキャン△” (Laid-back Camp), which follows the camping adventures of a group of high school girls from Yamanashi.

4. Take a stroll around Shosenkyo


Located about 30 minutes drive north of Kofu lies one of Japan’s most stunning gorges, Shosenkyo. Known for its granite cliffs that at points seem to defy gravity, a paved trail takes visitors on a leisurely 4-kilometer hike along the Arakawa River from the Nagatoro Bridge to the 30-meter high Sengataki Waterfall. Along the way, you’ll spot many large and curiously shaped rocks such as Kameishi, Tofuishi, Ukiishi, Eboshiishi, Fuguishi, Daibutsuiwa, Saruiwa, Kumaishi, Ishimon, etc.

While Shosenkyo can be enjoyed year-round, Fall brings spectacular red and orange foliage to the area. The Sengataki Waterfall is also quite beautiful when flanked by snow in winter. Above the waterfall are a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as the Shosenkyo Ropeway. If you are visiting Shosenkyo on a clear day, a trip up the ropeway will reward you with sweeping views of Mt Fuji and the Southern Alps of Japan.

Address: Takanaricho, Kofu, Yamanashi 400-1214

5. Visit Oshino Hakkai

Oshino Hakkai

A little touristy but well worth a visit is this small village known for its 8 crystal clear ponds, all fed by snowmelt from Mt Fuji. That snowmelt is said to take over 80 years to be filtered down the mountain through porous layers of lava before emerging in the springs at Oshino Hakkai. The result is exceptionally clear water that is home to a variety of fish and plant species. In some of the ponds at Oshino Hakkai, you can even see the spring water emerging from the sand bed of the ponds, shifting the sand in mesmerizing patterns. While in others, the water emerges from the mouths of deep caves like lava flows. A walk along the Sakura (Cherry Blossom tree) lined banks of the Shinnasho River to watch its undulating water grasses is also a highlight. Restaurants in the area are well known for using produce grown on the plateau surrounding Oshino-Hakkai and are well worth a visit.

Address: Shibokusa, Oshino, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0511

6. Explore Aokigahara Jukai and it’s Ice Caves

Aokigahara Jukai

Some may wonder why a spot otherwise known as the “Suicide Forest” has made this list, but the 30 square kilometer forest of the Aokigahara Jukai, or the “Sea of Trees” which lies on the northwestern flank of Mt Fuji is such a beautiful and unique destination that we thought it deserves a spot here. There is a serenity to this place, often attributed to the lava floor which is said to absorb sound that must be experienced to be understood. In recent years the concept of “forest bathing” has found popularity both here in Japan and abroad, and the short trails in Aokigahara are an accessible place to experience it. Be sure not to wander off the marked paths however, the forest is incredibly thick and the undergrowth is tangled and treacherous. The area is said to be home to many caves, with three of the largest, Narusawa Ice Cave, Fugaku Wind Cave, and the Lake Sai Bat Cave open to the public. The Narusawa Ice Cave is frozen year-round.

Address: Narusawa, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0300

7. Go on a Scenic Drive

View of Mt Fuji from a Scenic Drive near Kofu

With its large number of mountain ranges, Yamanashi has some amazing scenic drives. Our roads will delight those who prefer to travel on two wheels too. Twisties abound on routes such as the 411, 140, 413, 300, 358, and 37, to name just a few. Pick a random onsen to arrive at and wash off that road dust. Along many mountain roads in Yamanashi, you’ll find a fantastic onsen and a mountain view awaiting you. In this author’s view, no trip to Yamanashi is complete without a spin around the Five Lakes of Fuji and past Aokigahara.

8. BBQ at Lake Shibire-ko

Lake Shibire-Ko

High above Kofu City on the way to Shimobe Onsen town, lies Lake Shibireko, a picturesque lake 850 meters above sea level. A popular spot for beating the summer heat, Shibire-ko is well known to locals as a great spot for a BBQ, with ample facilities for rent.  Once (or before?) you’ve had your BBQ fix, why not try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding, take a swan paddle boat or a canoe out for a spin, or take a leisurely stroll around the 1.2-kilometer circumference of the lake? If you want to spend the night, there are camping spaces and cabins for rent as well.

Address: 3353 Yamaho, Ichikawamisato, Nishiyatsushiro District, Yamanashi 409-3602

9. Relax at Hottarakashi Onsen (and many more!)

Onsen bath and wooden bucket

If bathing outdoors while taking in a sweeping view of the mountains surrounding Kofu, with Mt Fuji looming large above them all sounds like your kind of heaven, then Hottarakashi Onsen should be right up your alley. Located in the hills above the Fuefuki Fruits Park, which deserves an honourable mention in its own right, Hottarashi is a simple hot spring, but its views are unmatched. Just above the Fruits Park there is also a go kart track that is a favourite of many iCLA students. Enjoy local fair and an ice cream after your soak. Unless you want to pay for a bath towel, which you can take away as a souvenir of your trip, be sure to follow Douglas Adams famous advice and pack your own. If you’d like an onsen with a closer view of Fuji, the author recommends Fuji-yurari Onsen in Narusawa, which is also close to Aokigahara and the Ice Caves mentioned above, and Beni Fuji no Yu, near Lake Yamanaka.

Address: Hottarakashi Onsen 1669-18 Yatsubo, Yamanashi, 405-0036

Fuji-yurari Onsen 8532-5, Narusawa, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0320

Beni Fuji no Yu 865-776 Yamanaka, Yamanakako, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0501

10. Take a Walk up to Chiyoda-ko

Chiyoda Ko

If you are looking for great views and a good bit of exercise, you should consider a walk up to Lake Chiyoda in Kofu! The lake is located on the top of one of the mountains surrounding the city, just behind and upslope of Midorigaoka Sports Park. You get to walk through the narrow, cute streets of Kofu’s suburbs first, and then hike your way up the winding road to the lake. From this road you will have amazing views of Kofu, the mountains, and even Fuji – there is a designated photo stop along this road, but any spot is good. Beware of cars and of steep slopes, do not forget to rest along the way, and definitely bring a bottle of water! Your destination, Chiyoda Lake is nice and quiet, and home to many ducks and turtles.

Address: Shimoobinacho, Kofu, Yamanashi 400-0082

11. Visit the Observatory at the Yamanashi Prefectural Science Museum

Yamanashi Science Museum

Another local hike that comes with good views is visiting the Yamanashi Prefectural Science Museum. You can go there during the day, and enjoy the museum and tour the Observatory, but we suggest going at night. Aside from special events, the buildings are closed, but the viewing deck is not, and it overlooks the whole basin that Kofu sits in. The views at night are breathtaking, with lights flickering and the mountains looming. No one is around and it’s all very romantic. The museum and its viewing deck are located on the mountain behind Kanente station on the Minobu Line. It is recommended to approach from the East (around the Takeda district). This way you can find a small forest trail leading up to the top. Be sure to watch your step on the way up and down.

Address: 358-1 Atagomachi, Kofu, Yamanashi 400-0023

12. Visit the Yamanashi Prefectural Maglev Exhibition Center

Yamanashi Maglev Exhibition

Also home to the test track for the new Chou Linear Shinkansen the Yamanashi Prefectural Maglev Exhibition Center, you can find a number of entertaining exhibits on the technology beyond the train that promises to cut travel times from Kofu to Tokyo to approximately 25 minutes. If you time your visit right, you can see the maglev perform a test run at speeds of up to 500 km/hr. The first stage will run from Tokyo to Nagoya, with an extension planned to Osaka. The line itself has been under construction since 2014, and almost 90% of the 286-kilometer line to Nagoya will be built through tunnels or underground, through both urban areas and some of the tallest mountains in Japan. If you are interested in following the progress on this truly extraordinary feat of engineering, you should definitely check in on the project’s construction status.

Address:2381 Ogatayama, Tsuru, Yamanashi 402-0006

13. Visit the Hakushu Whiskey Factory

Ojiragawu Canyon and waterfall

In the northwest of Yamanashi lies the town of Hakushu, home of the famous Suntory distillery producing its eponymous celebrated whiskey. Suntory chose the site for its crystal clear waters, with springs fed by the majestic Southern Alps, something you can also see for yourself at the nearby Ojiragawu Canyon and waterfall (pictured above). Suntory operates tours of the factory where you can view the production process and warehouse before enjoying a tasting. There is also a Whisky Museum and shop, a Hakushu bar, a restaurant, and other facilities on site. Distillery tours were suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic and are due to re-open in August 2023 after a planned renovation so please check Hakushu’s website to check if they are open and to make a reservation before taking the drive out there.

Address: 2913-1 Hakushucho Torihara, Hokuto, Yamanashi 408-0316

14. Explore the birthplace of Nichiren Buddhism, Minobu-zan

Sakaura tree in full bloom at Kuon-ji

On the southwest side of Yamanashi lies the spiritual home of Nichiren Buddhism, Mount Minobu. In addition to visiting the main temple and hall of Kuon-ji temple, and riding the ropeway up Mt Minobu for a commanding view of Mt Fuji to the East, the Southern Alps of Japan to the West, and the Fuji River and valleys below to the South, visitors can also taste excellent local Yuba (tofu skin), at many local restaurants. For a fully immersive experience, many of the smaller temples around Kuon-ji offer overnight stays, where you can be treated to an amazing meal of Shojin Ryori (the traditional vegan diet of Japanese Buddhist monks), participate in the nightly meditation with the temple monk, and awaken early to catch the morning prayers at Kuon-ji.

Address: 3628 Minobu, Minamikoma District, Yamanashi 409-2524

15. Go Fruit Picking

Picking grapes in Yamanashi

Surrounding the cities of Kofu, Yamanashi-shi, Minami Alps and Isawa Onsen are a variety of orchards. Throughout the year you can visit some of these farms directly and pick fruit right off the trees! Bookings are required in advance, as you will be assigned a time for an “all you can eat” fruit picking session. You can do this almost year around with strawberries available from December to May, cherries from June to early July, Peaches from mid-June to late August, Plums from late June to mid-August, and Yamanashi’s most famous fruit the shine muscat and kyoho grapes available from August to October, depending on the varietal you are most hankering for.

16. Local Wine Tasting

Yamanashi Wine-Prefecture sign

The Koshu region is renowned in Japan for its large number of vineyards, with the areas east of Kofu City, such as Katsumuma and Enzan playing host to the majority of them. The growing of table grapes in Japan is said to go back as far as 718 AD and started in Katsunuma. Domestic wine-making first began in Japan in Katsunuma in 1875, so this region boasts many of the earliest vineyards in the country. The varieties grown in Koshu to match the high summer humidity of Japan include the Koshu grape, which leads to a light and fresh, dry white wine that sometimes almost seems carbonated, and the Muscat Bailey A, a sweet red variety. With a large number of vineyards around Yamanashi, you can visit many on a tasting tour. Be sure to have a designated driver though, as the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers in Japan is 0.0. If driving isn’t an option, there is an excellent wine-tasting area at the south exit of Isawa Onsen where you can try a variety of local wines.

17. Try Houtou noodles

A nabe full of Houtou noodles

After partaking in all the outdoor activities Yamanashi has to offer, you’ve probably got an empty stomach. The cuisine in Japan always delights, but something that often surprises visitors is the variety of regional dishes that are available. Each prefecture of Japan seems to have its own local specialty dishes and Yamanashi is no exception. We’ll cover the two most famous here, Houtou noodles and Tori-mots. Houtou is a hearty dish served in an iron “nabe” or pot. The name derives from the noodles, which are like udon but flatter and chunkier. The houtou noodles are served in a thick broth of miso, with vegetables like pumpkin, Hokusai, and mushrooms. “Abura-age” tofu adds protein and soaks up the flavor. Chicken or pork is the usual meat added, but is served in some restaurants as a vegetarian option.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yamanashi offers a blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, a low cost of living, making it an appealing place for both living and learning.

Yamanashi is known for its picturesque landscapes, Mount Fuji and the 5 lakes area, and as a hub for wine production and fruit orchards.

Living in Yamanashi can be a heartwarming experience. The semi-rural setting offers a tranquil lifestyle, complemented by the warmth and hospitality of its residents. This welcoming atmosphere helps ease the transition for newcomers, making it easier to settle and integrate into the local community.

Yamanashi boasts some of the most spectacular vantage points for viewing Mt. Fuji, offering clear, unobstructed views that attract visitors and photographers from around the world. About 80% of people that climb Mt. Fuji leave from the Yamanashi side of the mountain.

The region is well-served by public transport, including buses and trains, making it easy to navigate. Additionally, cycling and driving are popular for more personal exploration of its scenic routes.

The Japanese language includes over 50,000 kanji, though daily communication and literacy are possible with a much smaller subset of about 2,000 to 3,000 commonly used characters.



The author hopes that has given you a starting list of things to see and do in Yamanashi, but the truth is, there are so many things that could’ve made this list. There’s an abundance of organic and vegan cafes, temples and shrines, observation points and onsens that could’ve made the list. We hope that you’ll spend enough time here to explore them all for yourself.