Yamanashi Prefecture is inviting anytime, but autumn is the best time to visit this scenic Japanese countryside. It’s only an hour and a half from the gates of Yokota. Known throughout Japan for its deliciously sweet purple grapes, Yamanashi Prefecture offers a ten mile drive along a stretch of Highway 20, from Katsunuma to Kofu, lined with what seems like endless vineyards. Travelers soon see the numerous stands set up to sell grapes. Select a stand and enjoy a generous taste-testing beneath a grape arbor. Customers are often invited to sit and enjoy some sweet tea. You can by grapes by the kilo or pick your own. Grape-picking equipment is usually provided. In the summer months, peaches are offered for sale along the roadside, but people are not permitted to pick their own peaches.
When you decide you’ve seen one too many grapes, continue along Highway 20, past Kofu to the southwest corner of Chichibu Tama National Park. On a clear day, Mt. Daibosatsu will appear as a beacon. Shosenkyo Gorge runs through forested slopes and dramatic rock formations. It is one of the most scenic river valleys in Japan. See separate entry.
DIRECTIONS: Exit from Fussa Gate and turn left on Route 16 South to Hachioji. At Hachioji, get on the Chuo Expressway.(Do not take the the Hachioji Bypass.) Once on the expressway two signs will appear; one for Shinjuku and the other for Nagoya. Take the road to Nagoya. Stay on the Chuo until Otsuki. (Toll: ¥1300.) Take the Otsuki exit and that will lead to Highway 20. Turn right and stay on Highway 20. The grapes will be straight ahead; no turns, no confusion. To get to Shosenkyo Gorge, continue along Highway 20 as it passes through the outskirts of Kofu. Soon you’ll see signs for “Shosenkyo.” There are several. All will take you to the right, passing under the Chuo Expressway, to a winding road called Shosenkyo Line. It’ll take you right to the gorge parking lot. Fee: ¥1000. GPS for Shosenkyo Gorge parking: 35.72617,138.54987. – Pam Watson. Directions verified and modified by Liz Ruskin Sept. 2011