Address: 2786 Onuta, Kai, Yamanashi 400-0103
Forget Napa Valley, Yamanashi prefecture right on the outskirts of Tokyo is known as Japan's 'wine country' for having a long history and cultivation of world-class vineyards, often unbeknownst to most visitors. Lower in humidity than the rest of the nation's counterparts, with rich volcanic soil and Pacific breezes, the region is a birthplace for Koshu grapes that accounts for 40% of the country’s production with over 80 wineries in the area. The close proximity to the mighty Mount Fuji also serves panoramic views along the sanctuary of grapes and vineyards.
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With a long history stretching back to 100 years ago, the Suntory-owned winery is the prime and leading vineyard the region has to offer. Located at a high altitude, the hills there overlook the Kofu Basin with the magnificent Mount Fuji to the south. As one of the largest alcohol producers in the country, Suntory is intimately involved in all aspects of wine-making, from soil preparation in the field to viticulture, vinification, aging and overall craftmanship - which you can observe through their winery tour. A winery visit will be incomplete without wine tasting fresh from the distillery, including the rarest and very mellow wines in the cellar. Access to the area takes around 90 minutes from Shinjuku station, you can take a shuttle bus from Kofu Station to get there.
Address: 2786 Onuta, Kai, Yamanashi 400-0103
Another of the older producers that can be traced back to the Meiji era, this winery symbolizes the birthplace of Japanese wine cultivation. The vast complex also boasts a hotel, onsen, vineyard, restaurant, gift shop and tasting cave - a one stop destination that lies next to magnificent panoramic views of the Minami-Alps and Kofu Basin. Wine connoisseurs and aficionados will be at home here, with only a mere 1,100 yen, you can freely taste among 40,000 bottles of 200 different brands. After sampling to your heart's content, afterwards you can take a moment to unwind by soaking in the 100% natural spring water of the onsen.
Address: 5093 Hishiyama, Katsunuma-cho, Koshu City, 409-1302
If you're interested in checking out a smaller, tight-knit winery that is happy to welcome English-speakers, Chateau Mercian is your best bet in the area. The Chateau is reputably known to be constantly stand on the cutting edge, being a world-class producer of Japanese wines where their produce has been featured in various international wine competitions and was also the first Japanese wine to appear in the world-famous wine magazine ‘Wine Spectator’.
Address: 1106-1 Katsunumacho Shimoiwasaki, Koshu, Yamanashi 409-1313
If you're feeling a little boozed up from all the Yamanashi wine, take a break and indulge in some locally grown fruits. Yamanashi has long since earned a strong reputation of being the kingdom of fruits for cultivating some of Japan's freshest and juiciest fruits all year round. Check out the different seasons below for each fruit to handpick them when they're at their ripest:
Cherries: June to July
Peaches: June to August
Plums: July to August
Grapes: August to September
Apples: October to December
Pears: August to November
Strawberries: January to May
Persimmons: October to November
As a main gateway to the Fuji Five Lakes area, Lake Kawaguchiko is a popular tourist destination that hosts a superb view of Mt. Fuji rising in the distance. Beyond that, if you're looking for a retreat into nature, the carpets of moss phlox, fields of lavender or autumn foliage all offer some beautiful scenery. For some of the best views over the surrounding area, take a ride on the Mt. Kachikachi Ropeway that will take you to the summit at an altitude of 1075 meters.
Unlike typical theme parks that focus on feeding your imagination with a land of fantasy and wonder, Fuji Q is the ultimate park for adrenaline junkies that fancy some of the most thrilling rides in the country. The park strives to be at the forefront of world record holders, and has been constantly opening new rides and attractions every five years. Currently the park has four major roller coasters and the infamous 'Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear' which is their terrifying haunted mansion, well-known as one of the longest and scariest haunted rides.
Address: 5 Chome-6-1 Shinnishihara, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi 403-0017
Whether you're a wine connoisseur or simply just seeking a natural retreat from the city, Japan's renowned wine country is a refreshment for the body and soul throughout the year. Along with the region's native Koshu grapes, you can walk around valleys of seemingly endless vineyards as well as other popular attractions the area is known for such as hot springs and joy rides.