On the outskirts of Yamanashi’s capital city Kofu is a spot so scenic that it has inspired poems and became the object of paintings. No wonder it’s a Japan Heritage Site. The Shosenkyo Gorge is beautiful at any time of year, but really is breathtaking in the fall when the foliage enhances the surrounding landscape of the Arakawa River, cliffs and jagged rocks. It’s perfect for a day trip from Tokyo, so there’s no excuses to not visit.
Start from Nagatoro Bridge
The recommended route for best views of the Shosenkyo Gorge starts at the Nagatoro Bridge and ends near the Shosenkyo Bridge. It is five kilometers long and takes about 90 minutes. Many people walk one way and take the bus back, but you can also do a loop. It’s an enjoyable experience with two thirds of the route being pretty much flat road and the last third has more of an incline, although not too steep.
On weekends and holidays and occasionally at other times, the road is closed off allowing people to freely walk without worrying about cars zipping by. But if you prefer to go by car, go when the road is open and drive carefully through the narrow road as some people might be walking. The last third is simply a footpath.
As you move through the gorge, the scenery is a gift that keeps on giving. While the trees are the main attraction, there are many interesting rock formations to see. Signs point out all kinds of rock formations and what they resemble. For example, there are the “Camel,” “Cat” and Puffer Fish” rocks to name a few. Each point of interest has a bar code to scan for more information about the site, just make sure you choose the English language option.
If you want to get off the road and walk through the trees, cross over at the Aria Bridge and you can walk for a kilometer over the dirt path to the small temple of Rakanji and its cemetery where you will cross back over the Rankanji Bridge.
Some Highlights from the Shosenkyo Gorge
During the stroll, there are some places that you shouldn’t miss. For lovers, it’s the Lover’s Bridge, where it is said that if couples cross the bridge, it will forever seal their love. You’ll find this bridge about a third of the way into the walk. Another highlight is Ishimon where granite rocks create a tunnel. Also near there is the spectacular beauty of the 30 meters high Sengataki waterfall.
But the main place to see is Kakuenpo. This is the place that makes Shosenkyo famous. This granite monolith reaches a height of 180 meters making it the highest point in the gorge. Atop the cliff is a section just a few meters wide where a monk named Kakuen from the Edo Period practiced Zen meditation, thus giving it its name. Next to Kakuenpo is Yume no Matsushima. This cliff area full of Japanese red pines that reminds people of the famous scenic view in Miyagi called Matsushima.
Shopping and Food Suggestions
At the end of the gorge, there is a rest area with numerous shops and restaurants. Many of the shops there sell gems and semi-precious stones. That is because the area was once Yamanashi’s center for crystal mining. The clerks tell you that some of the stones have special powers and will bargain with you. In honor of that history and based on a fountain that once existed at Kofu Station is the Crystal Fountain decorated in crystals.
For the last bit of nature, take the ropeway up to the top where you can see views of Mount Fuji, the Japanese Alps and other famous mountains like Yatsugatake. The top is also a famed power spot.
After all that walking and sightseeing, why not rest your legs and warm up in the chill of the autumn air with Yamanashi’s specialty dish houtou. This is a miso soup full of chunks of vegetables and super thick noodles that are the signature of Yamanashi. Hearty and flavorful, you’ll often get it in a hot iron bowl. Many small restaurants at both ends of the hike as well as stalls along the trail make it easy to find and enjoy.
How to Get There
The Shoseknyo Gorge is easily accessible from Shinjuku, or anywhere on the JR Chuo Line. Just take a bus or train directly to Kofu.
The bus starts from Shinjuku and runs along the Chuo Expressway. It takes two hours and costs ¥2,200 one way.
The Azusa or Kaiji Express trains run along the Chuo Train Line. Both trains take around 90 minutes and cost ¥3,890.
From Kofu Station take a bus from stand number Four to Shosenkyo. It takes 30 minutes and costs ¥600 to Shosenkyoguchi (昇仙峡口) Station. That is right at the Nagatoro Bridge.
The bus continues on to Shosenkyo (in the middle of the gorge). That takes 40 minutes and costs ¥840 yen. Finally, if you want to ride until the end, stay on the bus until Shosenkyotaki Ue Station (昇仙峡滝上). It takes 50 minutes and costs ¥920.
All photos courtesy of Shosenkyo Tourism Association, unless indicated otherwise.