Page 1


introducing its land and culture to a wordwide audience.

magazine aimed at promoting Yamanashi Prefecture by

The Yamanashi Grapevine is a freely distributed annual


Cherry Picking and Jam Making in the Fruit Kingdom


Unlocking the Secrets of the Yamanashi Peach

– What is Hidden Behind the Sweetness? –


No Fruits No Life


A Visit to Misawa Winery


Places Where We Want to Stay Again - Hotorinite Inn - HOSHINOYA Fuji -




Forest Adventure


Climbing the Tallest Mountain in Japan


A Delightful Trip Aboard the Fujisan View Express


Indonesian Battalion in Shingen-Ko Festival


Editor's Note 02


The Yamanashi Grapevine is written and edited by Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) from the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, with the assistance of trainees and exchange staff from Yamanashi's sister states.


Cherry Picking and Jam Making in the Fruit Kingdom by : Kendra Evans (former CIR from the United Kingdom)



rapes and peaches are the famous fruit of

gave farms in the area an edge in sales over the northern

Yamanashi, with more of these grown here than

prefectures of Hokkaido and Aomori, which have the largest

anywhere else in Japan. But up in the mountains

cherry growing areas in Japan after Yamagata. Cherries

of Minami-Alps City, the farms are famous for a different kind

became, and still are, a profitable choice for farmers in

of fruit: cherries.

Minami-Alps City.

Ono Orchid & Orchard Farm in Minami-Alps City has been

Of course, there is still a huge amount of work involved

growing cherries on Yamanashi soil since the 40th year

to produce these cherries. In the early years of cherry

of the Meiji Period (1907). Mr. Takashi Ono, the seventh

growing, the fruits had to be picked before the rainy season,

generation head of the Ono family, takes pride in the long

which would otherwise damage the cherries still on the

history of his farm and the high quality of his fruit. While

trees. Today, Mr. Ono and many other cherry farmers use

Yamanashi Prefecture has only the fourth largest area of

greenhouses, which help to protect the fruit and allow for

cherry tree farms in the country, it is second for sales of

a longer harvesting period. The trees, however, bear fruit

cherries after Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan, which

between late May and late June, which still only gives

produces 70% of domestic cherries.

farmers a month to pick, box and sell as many cherries as they can. This one month is incredibly labour intensive and is

According to Mr. Ono, this is in large part due to the history

their busiest time of the year – but the rest of the year is all a

of cherry growing. Across most of Japan it is difficult to grow

build up to harvest time.

a variety of fruit in one place, but in Yamanashi, the climate

Many things can affect the quality of cherries: the water

and soil suit many different kinds of produce. Its reputation

purity, the amount of sunlight, the thinness of the leaves.

as the “Fruit Kingdom,” coupled with its proximity to Tokyo,

Leaves at the top of the tree receive the most nutrients

meant that from as early as the Meiji Period shipments of

from the soil and the most light from the sun, so usually

high-quality, fresh fruit from Yamanashi direct to the capital

the fruits that grow at the top are redder, brighter and more


delicious. An interesting fact is that they also need cold in

then takes care of the processing, labeling, and bottling for

winter. Cherries thrive in cold northern Japan – as well as

them. Tourists who come to Happy Park can also experience

in Yamanashi, thanks to its extreme weather – because

jam-making for themselves. We were fortunately able to do

low winter temperatures help them bloom later in the

so during our visit.

year. Minami-Alps City in particular not only has delicious

The jam making process was much easier than I thought it

water from the Minami Alps mountains, but it is also at a

would be. First, you pluck the stems and remove the seeds

high elevation with long sunlight hours. Within Yamanashi

from the fruit with a special tool. Then, the fruit is put into a

Prefecture, this is the best location for growing good cherries.

large pan over heat with skin still intact. After stirring it for

Mr. Ono taught us the best way to pick cherries from a tree.

a while, you add some sugar and a small amount of yuzu

Under the leaves on the branches of the tree are small

puree. Usually for jam, lemon puree is added, but lemons

nodules, brown and triangular-

are not grown in Yamanashi, and the

shaped. Cherries always grow from

mission of Happy Park is to promote

these nodules, and they always grow

local agriculture, so Yamanashi Yuzu

in the same place. If you are too

is used instead. Once the fruit has

forceful when you pick the cherries,

broken down and is simmering, the

you risk impacting future growth. The

heat is turned off, ready to be put into

best way to pick cherries is to hold it


by the fruit, twist it slightly, then pull it

We received a brief lesson on how to

away from the branch in the opposite

seal the jars. They must be cleaned

direction to how it is growing.

and soaked in hot water beforehand to neutralize any bacteria, but if the

There are several different types of

lid is not properly closed, too much

cherries grown at Mr. Ono’s orchard.

air or bacteria can get into the jam

His own personal favourite is the

and contaminate it, so it is very

Takasago, a strong flavoured cherry

important to close it correctly. We

with a bright colour and slightly sour

poured the mix into our jars, sealed

taste. There is also the Sato-nishiki,

them, and then put them in a hot

a firm, juicy cherry, and the Beni-

water bath for thirty minutes. Done!

shugo, which I liked the most. It is strong and sweet, and reminded me

From visiting Ono Orchid and Orchard

of the cherries you can find in the UK. If you come to Ono

Farm and seeing how cherries grow, to visiting Happy Park

Orchid and Orchard Farm during the cherry picking season,

and seeing how the fruit is cooked and sold, it became clear

you can pay a flat rate to spend 40 minutes eating as many

just how important fruit farming is in the Minami-Alps region

cherries as you would like straight from the trees. Tourists

and in Yamanashi Prefecture as a whole. Cherries are just

from across Japan come to Minami-Alps City for cherry

one of the many fruit that are grown with love and care,

picking. But that is not all there is to do here.

enjoyed both in and out of the prefecture. Anyone visiting Yamanashi Prefecture during fruit picking season should

Mr. Ono also runs a local NGO called Happy Park, which

definitely try it for themselves to see how delicious this

specializes in agricultural production, sales, and community

important produce truly is.

outreach. Happy Park is a hub for local produce as well as a pleasant location for lunch at their restaurant. They also hold cultural events such as the Cherry Festival, which this year included a cherry seed spitting competition! But, for Mr. Ono, Happy Park’s most fundamental activity is jam-making. Mr. Ono produces many different jams and marmalades from his fruits, and his organization even won the 2017 Dalemain World Marmalade Award in the UK in March for his Japanese Yuzu and Gold Leaf Marmalade (under the name “South Alps Farm Field Trip”). He also makes jams for other farms in the area, who send their homegrown fruits to Happy Park, which


Unlocking the Secrets of the Yamanashi Peach – What is Hidden Behind the Sweetness? – by : Mengdi Wang (Exchange Staff from Sichuan, China)

One of life’s simple pleasures: biting out of a chilled, sweet, and fresh peach on a hot summer day and then feeling the rich juice glide down your throat until it quenches your thirst. Therefore, I was excited when summer came as Yamanashi Prefecture is well known for producing some of the best peaches in the world – peaches with a lovely appearance, tender flesh, and an elegant sweetness. Yet, I was disappointed when I saw the exceptionally high price of these peaches at a local supermarket. Peaches were first documented around the 10th century in China, my motherland, and they were later introduced to Europe before being commercialized around the world. Nowadays peach production in China accounts for more than half of the total market in the world. Hence, what makes such ordinary and cheap fruit in the Chinese market so much more expensive in Japan? To find the reasons behind such a steep price tag, I began my peach journey one sunny day in July.

Yamanashi Peaches: Merely a “Gift from Nature”?

particularly suitable for growing sun-loving fruits, especially peaches, of which Yamanashi produces the highest yield


countrywide. However, is it safe to stop here and draw the

addition, the dramatic change in temperature between day

Mr. Horii, the owner of Takara Peach Orchard, which is

and night helps greatly in fruits’ sugar accumulation. Also,

located in Ichinomiya Town in Fuefuki City, a place known

rivers running across the region provide the land with rich

for being “the best land for peaches,” resigned his position in

irrigation. Given these natural characteristics, Yamanashi is

an IT company in Tokyo around eleven years ago and came

ocated in Central Japan, Yamanashi Prefecture

conclusion that peaches in Yamanashi are expensive merely

enjoys the longest hours of daylight in the country

because they are what you could call a “gift from nature”?

and thus the climate is warmer than elsewhere. In


back to Yamanashi to help his wife in the orchard founded

labor accounts for only twenty. Nevertheless, to me it seems

by her grandfather more than sixty years ago. Even though

that the natural environment pales in comparison to Mr.

it was not an easy decision for him at first to say goodbye

Horii’s efforts, as he tirelessly nurtures his peaches in order

to the bustling entertainment in one of the biggest cities in

to make them as delicious as possible. As Kazuo Inamori, a

the world and, instead, to return to a peaceful and small

representative figure in the Japanese business world, once

town surrounded by mountains, Mr. Horii eventually came

said when describing his method to success, “you cannot

to embrace his new life as a fruit farmer, having the time

expect to achieve anything unless you never stop working

and space now to invite his friends over for barbeques in

harder than everyone else.”

the spring and enjoy the pleasures offered by sunshine and blooming flowers.

Winners Never Quit, and Quitters Never Win

When I first learned that only three persons take care of this

After Takara Peach Orchard, I headed for Tanzawa Orchard

orchard, which produces about sixty thousand peaches per

to look for more answers. Unlike Mr. Horii, who switched to

year, I immediately took it for granted that raising such an

work as a farmer later in life, Mr. Tanzawa has been engaged

extensive amount of fruit was thanks to the help of modern

in the field of fruit planting his entire lifetime. Mr. Tanzawa

technology. Yet, this was not the case.

used to work in the Department of Agriculture for Yamanashi

music as the slender branches in the orchard become full of

Prefecture and, now, he runs his own nectarine orchard with Peaches in Takara Peach Orchard are not grown in

his family. Though most peaches produced in Yamanashi are

greenhouses but in the open field, where they have full

pink in appearance and milky white in flesh, the nectarines

access to sunshine, soil, and rainfall, each of which helps

from Mr. Tanzawa’s orchard, with their smooth skin and

them to preserve their natural qualities. Peach farmers’

yellow flesh, are also well-known for their ideal balance

busiest period begins when the flowers bloom in spring. Mr.

between sweetness and tartness and should absolutely not

Horii’s family will pollinate each flower manually to get as

be missed.

many buds as possible, remove the less prominent buds by


hand to assure the rest have enough space to grow, monitor

Nectarines are not a cross between a peach and a plum as is

the remaining buds carefully to track their growth, and wrap

commonly believed but in fact a variant of a peach. Despite the

their peaches one by one to protect them from birds and

subtle genetic variant between the two, they are almost identical.

insects. As a result, a perfect, juicy, and sweet peach is

The main physical difference is that peaches have a fuzzy

ready to be harvested when the weather becomes warmer.

coating whereas nectarines are smooth and without a coating.

According to Mr. Horii, Yamanashi’s natural environment

The story begins when Mr. Tanzawa was sent to California

accounts for eighty percent of the role in cultivating fruit while

by Yamanashi Prefecture as a trainee in agriculture more

than four decades ago. When he first came across the

nectarines at his own orchard, Mr. Tanzawa nowadays

charming sight of ripe nectarines, whose skin caught the light

devotes himself to being a nectarine missionary of sorts,

of the sun and shone with a deep red color, he went to take

teaching his cultivation techniques at other orchards and

a bite. Feeling the sweet juice running down his chin, Mr.

agricultural colleges.

Tanzawa decided immediately that he wanted to introduce these nectarines to Yamanashi, where there were no

“The road ahead will be long and our climb will be steep”. As

nectarines planted at the time. However, this would require

implied by this Chinese verse, Mr. Tanzawa will most likely

much effort.

never quit his journey but continue with passion and effort to create an even more perfect nectarine.

It took years to transform the fruit and adapt its flavor to Japan’s sweet tooth by breeding new varieties. The time at

Monozukuri as a Key Principle

which to harvest the fruit was also a problem. Compared

After visiting these two orchards, I was impressed by the

with other countries, where much of the fruit crop is used for

spirit of working hard and focusing on a single career for

processing into juice, jams, or wines, and thus its appearance

a lifetime. This experience reminded me of the Japanese

tends to be of little concern, the Japanese prefer eating table

word monozukuri, a term that describes the Japanese style

fruits or giving fruit as gifts, and thus fruits need both look

of manufacturing with an intangible sense of responsibility,

and taste good. Unfortunately, the season for harvesting

an emphasis on quality, attention to detail, and dedication

nectarines is quite short. Nectarines are best served when

to continuous improvement. This craftsmanship concept is

ripe, but not overly so. If the nectarine is not fully ripened,

not only vital to Japan’s strength in manufacturing, but it also

it will taste sour and hard; however, if it is fully ripened, its

acts as a fundamental philosophy that guides Japanese in

delicate body can be easily damaged when displayed in

their attempt to make things as best as possible in almost

stores. It took time and effort for Mr. Tanzawa to find a way

every field.

to overcome such issues. But even when other fruit farmers in Yamanashi had given up raising nectarines, he, with the

I realized that more than the natural environment, it is the

help of his wife and daughter, kept trying: wrapping the

unremitting efforts and the sense of craftsmanship among

fruits manually, putting mirrors to reflect all sides of their

farmers in Yamanashi Prefecture that contribute to the

appearance, checking the fruits every day, and choosing the

making of such sweet gifts. However, can such a simple

best-ripened ones. Thanks to Mr. Tanzawa’s commitment to

answer in such a neat package really cover every possibility?

promote the nectarine in Japan, more and more customers

If you, too, are interested in exploring the fruits of Yamanashi,

are now able to enjoy such a wonderful treat in the summer.

come visit the orchards here and find out for yourself one

However, Mr. Tanzawa is not satisfied yet. Beyond raising

summer day what is hidden behind the sweetness.


No Fruits No Life by : Aurora Pop (CIR from France)

Coming from France, one of the top producers of wine in the world, I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to live and work in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan’s top producing wine region. Yamanashi is the place to be if you want to discover more about the production of grapes and wine. In fact, this is the prefecture where the Japanese wine industry first began. During the late 19th century, the Dainippon Yamanashi Wine Company was founded in Kofu City, the capital, by Takano Masanari and Tsuchiya Ryuken. They traveled to France, where they learned French techniques of growing grapes and producing wine, and returned to Japan to implement these techniques here. Now, the “Country of the Rising Sun” has become the “Country of the Raisin Sun” (raisin , in French, meaning “grape”).

Yamanashi’s Incredible Grapes



grapes for daily consumption. Both are well known in Japan, famous for their high quality and beautiful appearance.

nlike in France, where grapes are mostly grown

In France, it is the end product that we talk most about

for producing wine, grape cultivators in Yamanashi

but not so much about the grapes. Therefore, until visiting

grow two varieties: grapes for producing wine and

a beautiful grapevine in Fuefuki City, I never could have

In France, we do not wrap grapes but usually pick them immediately once they ripen or fall to the ground. I have never seen this technique before coming to Yamanashi, and I was really impressed by the amount of work and dedication that is needed to cultivate them. It also requires a lot of technical knowledge to grow grapes in so many different shapes and colors. Mister Higuchi also told us that there are more than thirty varieties of grapes in Yamanashi. We had the chance to taste 17 of them. The names of the grapes we tasted were, for example, My Heart (which is shaped like a heart), Scarlet (because of its color), Miss X, Shine Muscat, Shirogane, Pione, Violet King, Kotopi, Rosario Bianco, Queen Nina, and many more. Their tastes and colors, but also their shapes and names, were very different from one another. It was so fun to explore! Appearance sells in Japan. Japanese people like to buy big and good looking fruits. French people, however, tend to think big and shiny means full of GMOs! But fruits in Yamanashi are grown to be big and beautiful without using artificial substances. Of course, the natural techniques used also require a lot more effort on behalf of the cultivator, which is why Yamanashi grapes are considered “high class imagined that grapes could be so diverse and intriguing to

grapes.” Mister Higuchi explained that their price, therefore,

taste and observe.

is not cheap, a bunch of his grapes typically costing from

During my visit to the grapevine, I found myself comparing

five-thousand to twenty-thousand yen (roughly $40 to $180)

the grapes we ate to artwork, in which a vibrant color palette

and sometimes more.

is used to accomplish a beautiful landscape painting. There

They look incredible, though, do they not? Imagine this.

are no other words to describe the amount of effort and

These grapes could even become a fashion, or a new trend,

mastery that must have been necessary to produce such

perhaps incentivizing children to even eat more fruits and

color and intricacy.

stay healthy. Models could appear on TV or in magazines

One of these grape “artists” I had the chance to speak to was

talking about their little stashes of their “high class grapes,”

Mister Higuchi, who emphasized that growing grapes is “like

which they keep inside their purses for special occasions.

creating a beautiful piece of artwork.” He then let us in on

Imagine them wearing outfits that match the colors of their

some of the secrets to his grape cultures.

grapes. It would be so interesting to see this fruit become

The first was location. Yamanashi is the best place in all

such a fashionable trend!

of Japan for growing grapes because it receives the least amount of rainfall but the most daylight hours. Another

Yamanashi’s Exceptional Wine

important factor is the attention and care given to the grapes.

As any proud French person would do, it is important

Mister Higuchi wraps them in water-repellent paper bags,

that I also talk about how Yamanashi grapes are used for

which helps give them a certain shape. The bags also help to

producing wine. I had the chance to learn about grapes for

protect the grapes from diseases and insects, eliminating the

winemaking during an event called “Wine Tourism,” which

need to spray them with insecticide and thus keeping their

is held in Yamanashi every year during spring and autumn.

skins beautiful and healthy.

The event promotes its winemaking regions such as Koshu,



Fuefuki, Kofu, Yamanashi (the city), and Kai, and when

structure at a certain distance from the ground, which works

visiting the wineries in these cities you can learn about their

well in the highly humid summertime weather here.

history as well as about the winemaking process itself. You

The second type is the European and American style of

can also taste some of the best wine in Japan.

cultivation called kakine saibai in Japanese, or the process of

After paying a fee for participating in Wine Tourism, you are

growing grapes on hedges. With this method, there are few

given a wine glass from one of the reception desks, which

harvests and the grapes accumulate more sugar thanks to

are located by the train stations in each city, and you can

being easily reachable by sunlight.

then taste wine to your heart’s content. In our case, we had

Wine Tourism is also a great opportunity to meet other wine

gone to Katsunuma Budokyo Station, in Koshu City. You

lovers from all over the country and even overseas. Many of the

may also glass holder necklace made of inden, which is one

Japanese with whom I talked that day came from Tokyo just to

of Yamanashi’s traditional crafts, if you would like to take

attend this event having been attracted by the superb reputation

the tour in style. I loved the idea and design of the glass, as

of Yamanashi wine. I was amazed, also, to see that the owners

this is what you will be using for all wine tastings during the

of all of the wineries spoke fluent French. It turns out that many

tour, helping to reduce the amount of waste produced by

of them have gone to France to learn about the winemaking

the event, and it also becomes a charming souvenir! After

process just as Takano Masanari and Tsuchiya Ryuken had

receiving our glasses, we departed via the free bus to get to

done more than a century ago. I felt like I was home.

each of the wineries and vineyards.

Visiting magnificent wineries, tasting all kinds of wine,

During the tour, I was amazed to see two types of vineyards

meeting new people, and admiring beautiful landscapes. I

in Yamanashi. The first type is called tanashiki saibai in

will remember those vineyards for a very long time. Once you

Japanese, or the process of growing grapes on a grapevine

have visited them, the memories will remain forever in your

trellis so that grapes can grow horizontally on an overhead

heart, and you will want to come back.

A Visit to Misawa Winery by : Kendra Evans (former CIR from the United Kingdom)


ou can hardly talk about Yamanashi without talking about wine. Yamanashi is the

number one domestic producer of grapes in Japan, and a significant amount of those grapes go towards making wine. There are over 80 wineries dotted around the prefecture, each with their own history. One of the most popular Yamanashi wines, both domestically and internationally, is Grace Wine. Established in 1923 in Katsunuma under the name Choutarou-in Wine, the company has grown and evolved throughout the years. It was one of the first wineries to make an internationally renowned Koshu wine (made from the local Koshu grape), first winning Best Japanese Wine in the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition and a bronze in the London International Wine Challenge in 2009, and then continuing to scoop up awards in Hong Kong, London and Tokyo in subsequent years. Koshu from Grace Wine is an excellent example of the Japanese wine industry, and is a very popular choice for wine lovers in Japan. Grace Wine has its main winery in Katsunuma, the center for Yamanashi wine. However, they also have a 12 hectare vineyard in the mountains of Akeno, Hokuto City, set up in 2002 by fourth generation and current head of Grace Wine, Mr. Shigekazu Misawa. We were very kindly invited to Akeno, to visit the Akeno vineyard and to find out more about grapes, wine, and Mr. Misawa’s company.


Akeno Vineyard

as Koshu. Thus the wines made from

during the rainy season or typhoons.

these grapes are also known as Koshu

Instead of using plastic covers, one of

The Grace Wine Akeno Vineyard is


his vineyard tactics specific to Akeno

located 700m above sea level, with

Growing Grapes

west. In 2015, the sunlight hours in this

In Japan, with its rainy season and

to create natural drainage. The rain,

area were ranked the longest in Japan;

typhoons, the pergola or canopy style

instead of pooling on the ground or

from April, when the vines begin to

overhead vines are usually preferable

even on the plant, flows down into

grow green, to October, when the

to the vertical vines. Grapes do not

the small valley. This is Mr. Misawa’s

grapes are harvested, there is plenty

need much water, and too much rain

very own drainage measure he put in

of light. Yamanashi also has very low

can often lead to disease. Pergolas

place himself, and is rarely found on

annual rainfall, and clouds can rarely

help to encourage airflow as well

other vineyards. However, it definitely

make it past the Minami Alps to reach

as increasing the yield. Mr. Misawa

seems to be doing the trick!

the farms on the Akeno hills, reducing

estimates that with one hectare a

the plants’ unnecessary water intake.

farmer can grow enough grapes for

In fact, the grape cultivation at Akeno

These features, combined with the

150 hectolitres of wine if grown on a

is currently the subject of many

clean air and rich soil, make Akeno

pergola, but only 50-70 hectolitres if

agricultural studies and research.

an excellent location for growing wine

grown vertically.

There is a machine installed in


However, Mr. Misawa does not use

the vineyard to record almost all

pergolas. His cultivation techniques

the details of the plants and their

On this farm, Mr. Misawa grows

lend themselves better to the vertical

environment over the next couple

several types of grapes, including

vines. There are several reasons

of years for future research into

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and

for this. Firstly, the vines need to be

grape cultivation, and students from

Koshu, the native grape of Yamanashi.

pruned very severely. The smaller the

universities in Yamanashi work at

The Koshu grape came to Japan

grape bunches, the better the wine,

Akeno over the summer to learn more

almost 1000 years ago, most probably

and so any sub shoots or extra growth

about wine grapes and how to grow

via the Silk Road. Grapes were

has to be trimmed. The fruit comes

them. We spoke to one girl doing

not only seen as good offerings at

in around the third shoot on the vine,

research at Akeno, who said she

Buddhist temples, but were said to

so there is a long stretch across all

hopes to run her own winery someday.

have healing abilities and were eaten

the vines where the grapes grow.

The wine industry is an important part

as medicine. Koshu, the old name for

By growing the vines vertically, both

of the identity of Yamanashi, and so

Yamanashi Prefecture, proved to have

pruning and harvesting are much less

it is good to know that young people

the perfect climate for growing these

time consuming and labour intensive,

are interested in continuing this work.

grapes domestically, and soon many

and also more efficient. Plus, the

I hope that the industry continues to

farms began to cultivate the fruit. It

view of the rows and rows of vines

grow in the future.

was not until centuries later that they

stretching out across the landscape is

were used to make wine, by which

truly stunning.

hill, with run off on either side down

Making Wine So what is the best kind of grape for

time the grape had come to be known


is to have the vines grow on a slight

the Minami Alps mountain range to the

You may have seen

wine? Unlike table grapes, each grape

grapes growing in

has to be small. Small buds have a

vineyards in Japan

lower pH, which makes them more

before. Often there are

resistant to disease. Since there is not

plastic covers on each

much space for extra growth on the

bunch of grapes. These

vines, and there has to be so much

are also to protect

pruning, if a disease wipes out even

from rain. Although

just a few plants, it can significantly

the rain is rare in

affect the output, so it is good to keep

Akeno, Mr. Misawa

the risk to a minimum. However, as

still needs to protect

the grapes ripen and become less

his fruit, particularly

vulnerable to disease, the pH rises –

the Extra Brut 2011 sparkling rose (my favourite type of wine), described as “history-making” by Ch’ng Poh Tiong of Decanter as it won the first Platinum award for sparkling wine in Asia. It was rich and flavourful, with some citrus hints. We were also able to try his newest 2016 Grace Koshu, a delicate white wine renowned for its pairings with Japanese cuisine. When asked which would be his favourite wine which is, according to Mr. Misawa,

amongst his products, Mr. Misawa told

much better for his wine. White or red,

us he does not have a favourite – like

it is very important to keep the plant

children, he cares for all of them equally

relatively short, and trim below the fruit

and each has its strong points. I think

line, to make sure the nutrients from

it is clear from the flavour of Grace

the soil are going to the fruit.

Wine alone that Mr. Misawa’s efforts in

Once the grapes have been grown and

his growing techniques and cultivation

harvested, they are made into wine.

choices definitely show through in the

We went down into the wine cellars to

finished product.

see the result of Mr. Misawa’s grapegrowing efforts. Inside, it was filled with

Wine specialists and reporters across

barrels, which can store almost 100

the world have been drawn to Grace

bottles of wine each. Mr. Misawa told

Wine, as a standout among Yamanashi

us that his red wines are usually aged

wineries. This is not to say other Koshu

for around two years, while white wine

wines have not found their way abroad

only needs nine months. He is working

– but Grace Wine has a very strong

on building up a collection of vintages

forward-facing attitude to the wine

of his own wine, and selling a few older

industry. Mr. Misawa has helped to

bottles every year at auction.

organize the annual prefectural Wine

He also showed us his library, a beautiful

Promotion in London, and often travels

small building tucked away amongst the

to promote and further the reputation

trees. The library contains many works

of Grace Wine and Koshu as a whole

in English, French, Japanese and more,

in many foreign countries. And even

all about wine. Some of these books

beyond Mr. Misawa’s work, the current

are priceless, and it is perhaps the

chief winemaker and future fifth master,

largest collection of wine-related books

Mr. Misawa’s daughter Ayana, also

in Yamanashi. Many were donated to

takes a very international approach to

Mr. Misawa by Mr. Hiroshi Yamamoto,

wine. She studied in France, Chile and

a famous Japanese wine scholar and

Australia, and experienced working

lawyer. He feared that upon his death

in wineries abroad, before returning

the collection would be sold off and

to Yamanashi to focus on her family’s

separated, and so he gave them to Mr.

business. When Mr. Misawa retires,

Misawa, so that they might be kept in

Ms. Misawa will continue the work he

one place for future wine scholars.

has done – and develop it even further – to share Yamanashi wine with the

Lastly, we visited the store area of the

rest of the world. I hope that those of

winery, and were very kindly allowed

you reading will find the chance to try

to try two of Grace Wine’s Platinum

some Yamanashi wine for yourselves

award-winning wines. The first was

in the future.


Places Where We Want to Stay Again by : Soon Hee Woo (Exchange Staff from Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea)

Dear Readers: when you came to Japan, where did you stay? Or, if you are planning to come to Japan, are there any specific places where you would like to stay? Business hotels, guest houses, local inns, traditional ryokan: the list goes on. There are countless types of places to stay in Japan and if you are, like me, the type of person who struggles when it comes to choosing where, keep reading and this article may inspire you! We will introduce two places to stay in Yamanashi. Each offers a completely different experience, but both are highly rated and beloved by Japanese and foreigners alike.

Hotorinite Inn : Experience Culture, Experience Heart The Place There are five lakes around Mt. Fuji, and Hotorinite Inn is located just in front of one of them, Lake Yamanaka. A unique inn, chosen as the number one place to stay in Japan by the reservation website, it has also been highly rated by the site’s users for many years. Hotorinite Inn was a budget resort owned by the same family for more than sixty years, but in 2011 it was renovated by its third generation and the current owner, Mr. Takamura Naoki, along with his wife and son. They made the place more convenient and comfortable for customers, improving and adding to the facilities and services year by year.

The Facilities From the outside, the inn looks as if it was a typical three-story house, but inside you can find three western style rooms and ten Japanese style rooms as well as relaxation spaces (a book corner, a massage corner, and a bonsai room) and common areas


(bathing rooms, toilets, a refrigerator, and a beverage corner). On the first floor also is a soy sauce stall, at which you can buy soy sauce from all over the country. Outside, bicycles are available for use by any guest, including child seats for those with kids. The bonsai room on the second floor captivated us the most. The space used to be one of the guest rooms, but Mr. Takamura turned it into a bonsai themed room in order to create a pleasant area that guests can enjoy. We felt relaxed just by walking through and exploring this room and it was also a good opportunity to learn about the art of cultivating miniature sized trees.

The Guests Extremely popular among foreigners, around eighty percent of the guests come from other countries. Most guests are from Asian countries, the majority being Taiwanese, Chinese, and Thai guests, but many tourists also come from Europe and America, and during our visit we happened to bump into a couple of visitors from Germany. Some years ago, it was typical for reservations to have been made by groups of ten or more, but nowadays as the style of traveling has changed, the number of solo travelers has increased.

The Heart The thoughtful service provided by the owner himself is beyond comparison. A former musician, Mr. Takamura had no experience with hotel management but he knew that he wanted to work somewhere that he could interact and communicate with people. He used the facilities that were once run by his family and started Hotorinite Inn, creating services and thinking up strategies to assist and serve his guests. For starters, for each group of incoming guests he spends thirty minutes giving an overview of the facilities and its surrounding areas including what to see and where to eat, utilizing a map he made himself to illustrate each location and give directions. Of course, there is plenty of other material that he provides, but one item in particular caught our eyes. Given the increasing number of visitors with diet restrictions due to health, culture, or religious reasons, and because many of them face problems when they are not able to communicate these restrictions in Japanese, Mr. Takamura provides a simple chart, also made by himself, that can be used at any store to explain what kinds of foods cannot be consumed by the guest. Mr. Takamura kindly helps his guests not only before they check in by providing them with directions on how to get to Hotorinite Inn, but also when they check out by explaining what is the best way for them to reach their next destination – a service that I have never seen before. From these apparently small actions, he shows his thoughtfulness to all guests, making them feel at home.



Reconnect with Nature, Reconnect with Yourself

The Place Located on top of a hill from where you have a beautiful view of Lake Kawaguchi, HOSHINOYA Fuji is the first glamping resort in Japan, where you can fully enjoy the best of what nature has to offer . But what does “glamping” mean? A mix of glamorous and camping, the word glamping might not be well known worldwide but it is attracting a lot of attention lately. Usually, when camping, it is necessary to prepare food, drinks, a tent, and other miscellaneous supplies, but glamping provides you with everything, ready to be used, including comfortable accommodations. It is a hassle-free way to enjoy camp activities and thus is gaining in popularity. HOSHINOYA Fuji is a place where you can escape from your daily routine while enjoying a variety of outdoor activities. Moreover, it is a place to get in touch with nature and heal the body and soul.

The Facilities After leaving your car in the parking lot and checking in at the reception area, guests choose a special backpack full of camping tools. A glamping guide escorts you uphill in HOSHINOYA Fuji’s customized Jeep, taking you through a secluded road. This road takes you from one world and into another: a world full of nature. About one hundred meters higher than the check-in area, you arrive to an area with the cabins, a front desk, a restaurant, and outdoor facilities. There are forty cabins


Places where we want to stay again

in total, all private, and coming in four different arrangements to cater to different group sizes. Unlike normal camping accommodations, each is equipped with a bath and other amenities, providing a comfortable and relaxing ambience. The front desk is open 24/7, able to provide support in both Japanese and English for guests during their stay, and depending on staff availability, support is also provided in Chinese and Korean. Guests can enjoy preparing their own meals outdoors at the “Forest Kitchen,” having it prepared by a chef at the dining hall, or eating on the cabin’s terrace while appreciating the majestic scenery of Mt. Fuji. The menu is diverse and anyone regardless of religion or culture can find something to appreciate. There are also plenty of outdoor activities and spots to enjoy, bringing you closer to nature. Immersed in a sea of giant trees there is a wooden deck with comfortable chairs, a library café, and hammocks where guests can relax while having a drink next to the bonfire. After the sunset, the pathways are illuminated by gentle lighting that perfectly suits the nature around them and the stars that shine brightly in the night sky.

The Experience It is captivating to gaze upon Mt. Fuji from within the cabin, to see the changes in the natural environment as each of Japan’s four seasons pass by, and to reconnect with nature. But guests staying at HOSHINOYA Fuji can also participate in several activities that are only available in Yamanashi, such as the hunting tour, which impressed us the most. With the guidance of a professional hunter, those willing to take part in this tour can step into the forests located at the foot of Mt. Fuji and watch a hunt from up close. Through this experience, it is possible to learn about the entire process of hunting, from shooting an animal to preparing it to be an ingredient. Besides this tour, guests are also offered seasonal activities such as a luxurious Mt. Fuji climbing tour in the summer and horse riding in the autumn, the latter being a prime season to admire autumn foliage.

Home o f M t. F u ji , Y a m Prefectu anashi re has a wide div o f to u r ersity is t s p o ts th a t apprec c a n be iated t hrough season o u t all s. But beyond beautifu these l places are also accomm amazing o d a ti o n s th a t w tu rn y o il l h e lp u r tr ip to J a p a n in unforgett to a n able one . From th and wa e cozy r m -h e a r te d H o In n to th to r in it e e g la m o rous ca experien m p in g ce at HO SHINOY why not A Fuji, stay in Y amanas time you hi next come to Japan?




Forest Adventure by : Justin Ehringhaus (CIR from the United States)


e are all too familiar with the typical equation when it comes to visiting a famed historical metropolis or a renowned cultural property: 1) you struggle through throngs of tourists to get to said location; 2) you spend precious moments at said location taking a snapshot (or, if you are lucky and do not mind angry glares, a selfie); and 3) you are forced to evacuate the area as quickly as possible or risk getting shoved aside by an unforgiving line of tourists. However, it is never too late to take steps into the unknown – to ignite your sense of adventure by leaving your guidebook, and the already well-traveled path that it details, behind. And you, the reader, have already taken your first steps by opening the pages of this magazine. Yamanashi Prefecture, a land whose many facets and various charms have yet to be thoroughly documented or discovered by the tourist, is an ideal location to embark on any number of adventures. This article focuses on one in particular that removes you from the hustle and bustle of city life and puts you into the quiet company of trees. But this is no summer picnic – in this adventure it is your task to navigate in and between those trees, relying only on your own balance, dexterity, and strength.


Welcome to Forest Adventure

intent here was to ensure that we could manage the equipment

We set off in the morning by car. An hour and a half away

course. The staff member, of course, would monitor us from below

from Kofu City, the prefectural capital, the journey took us into

– but he would not be accompanying us.

the northeasternmost parts of the prefecture. The drive was

Successfully completed, we ascended into the treetops, now

smooth, the roads having been recently renovated. And what a

confident in our readiness to embark on the first of five stages in

picturesque day.

the Adventure Course. Each segment posed various challenges:

responsibly by ourselves before taking our first steps onto the real

climbing, crawling, balancing, swinging, hanging, gliding, or We stepped out of the car to be greeted by clear blue skies and

jumping. One by one we committed ourselves to each task at

rolling green hills. “FOREST ADVENTURE KOSUGE,” the sign

hand, trusting the strength of the ropes we were clipped to and

read up ahead. Before us were steps leading to a thinned forest

putting our physical abilities to the test.

clearing, and from the parking lot below we could see hints of

At points in each stage, an “extra difficult” route was available.

intricate wooden obstacles, crisscrossing ropes and slacklines,

It took every ounce of my energy and concentration not to fall

and long-stretching zip-lines. I felt my excitement awakened, ready

at these points. Tip toeing across hanging wooden poles with a

for any challenge that lay ahead.

diameter the size of a small tomato was

The concept had originally been

not an easy task.

developed in France in 1997 by the

Laughing together with (and sometimes

company Altus, but it has since then

at) my coworkers as we attempted

been exported to over fifteen different

(and sometimes failed) to make it

countries. Forest Adventure in Kosuge

past each obstacle is what made

Village is one of twenty-five other

this day most memorable. Unlike the

parks in Japan under the same name.

throngs of people through which one

Opened in 2013, it is known for having

must fight when visiting the typical

the most scenic zip-slide view in Japan.

tourist destination, this day took place

Yamanashi Prefecture is home to another

in the absolute stillness of the rural

Forest Adventure park in Narusawa Village. This was the first to

countryside. Surrounded by nothing but lush woodland and proud

be created in Japan and the most famous. Located nearby the

mountaintops, the only thought on my mind was the task in front

base of Mt. Fuji, it allows for stunning views of Japan’s most iconic

of me: to work together with my coworkers to make it through the

mountain – from the unique perspective of up in the trees.

treetop course. The experience became an opportunity to see

One of the goals of constructing these treetop courses is to

and to know each other in a new light. That, and an opportunity

revitalize otherwise neglected forest areas. Almost 67% of Japan

to amount a collective total of almost five hundred photographs

is forested, yet much of that number is unattended to, resulting

– or at least more than the blurry scraps of a single selfie that

in canopy growth too dense for sunlight to any longer reach the

my friends on social media seem to garner when uploading their

ground. To re-stimulate the growth of diverse species of plants,

visits to the Louvre or The Great Wall.

human intervention is required to thin these forests. Forest

While living and learning in Japan, it is up to you how you spend

Adventure accomplishes this, but it also provides lovers of the

your time whether here as a temporary traveler or as a permanent

outdoors with an experience unlike any other.

resident. And while it is a valuable experience to visit the most well-

When visiting a Forest Adventure park, the goal for the adventurer

known cultural heritage sites and the most famous cities in order

is to have fun, to stay safe, and to challenge oneself. With courses

to learn more about Japan’s history, culture, art, music, literature,

available for children (Canopy Course), for families (Discovery

or whatever else is of interest to you, it is my belief that there is

Course), and for adults (Adventure Course), there is plenty of

beauty in exploring the unknown. Yamanashi Prefecture is a prime

opportunity for all ages and all persons to meet and exceed each

location to do just that, and Forest Adventure is an example of a

of those goals without ever stepping outside of one’s comfort

getaway that not only brings you away from the city and into the


countryside but also places you up into the trees, from which point

After signing an agreement (also available in English) in

you can see and feel Japan’s natural beauty for yourself, up close.

recognition of the possibility of injury, our first task when arriving

It is also a fun and unique experience, especially for those like me

was to learn the safety protocol. A staff member gave a brief,

and my coworkers who had never before embarked on such a

verbal overview of the harness, the carabiners, and the pulley

treetop adventure. And, like the best of adventures, it is also one

cable system before detailing our first task: without instruction,

that brings you closer to those traveling alongside you.

we were to navigate a miniature, practice course on our own. The

May your adventure start soon. Best of luck!


Climbing the Tallest Mountain in Japan by : Yuri Yuhara (CIR from Brazil)

Every summer, visitors from all around the world challenge themselves to reach the top of the 3,776 meter (12,395 foot) Mt. Fuji, otherwise known as Fujisan in Japanese.

To Climb or Not to Climb Mt. Fuji?

Recognized as a World Heritage Site since 2013 under the title, “Mt. Fuji: Object of Worship, Wellspring of Art,” this mountain has been a pilgrimage destination and has inspired countless pieces of artwork and poetry since ancient times. The number of climbers increases year by year, and near the summit the routes can become extremely crowded before dawn, when long lines can be seen from afar as the head lamps of climbers illuminate the trails, in the middle of the pitch black mountain. Many difficulties stand in the way between the point of departure and the summit, but none seem to faze those whose desire it is to reach the top of tallest mountain in Japan.

and for ascetic Buddhism. Shrines, and temples dedicated to


irst off – to climb. Mt. Fuji's unique cone shape and its intermittent volcanic activity make it a sacred place for Shintoism, the Japanese ethnic religion,

the worship of Mt. Fuji can be found in the surrounding areas as well as throughout Japan. Therefore, the journey to the top of Mt. Fuji is considered by many to be a spiritual one. To others, it is a way of demonstrating resilience, a challenge for the body and mind. And for some it is simply a visit to the highest point in Japan. There are many reasons that might lead one to climb Mt. Fuji, but this is a task not accomplishable without a certain degree of preparation. During 2017's summer climbing season, more than 172 thousand people climbed Mt. Fuji through the Yoshida Route, in Yamanashi Prefecture, from a total of 285 thousand climbers. Most of them are far from experienced climbers, and this fact leads to a common misconception among travelers that reaching the top of Mt. Fuji is an easy task. But it is not that simple, and difficulties involved can be a determining factor for one not to climb. Without adequate hiking gear, not to mention physical strength, it is unlikely that one can make it. The sheer height itself is a challenge that not many are willing to accept. The weather in the mountains


also can change rapidly; the difference in temperature between the 5th Station, where most people start climbing,

Journey to the Top

and the summit can be 15 °C (59 °F) or more. Trails, too,

There are four routes to the top of Mt. Fuji: the Yoshida

can become tricky to navigate at certain points, requiring

Route, starting in Yamanashi Prefecture, and the Subashiri,

one to be in good physical condition as well as the use of

Gotemba and Fujinomiya routes, starting in Shizuoka

sturdy boots, gloves, raingear, and so on. Finally, it is not

Prefecture. The Yoshida Route is the most popular one,

uncommon for there to be sudden rainfall, which can cause

offering two separate trails for the ascent and the descent

less-than-desirable climbing conditions and pose a danger

as well as a number of huts for overnight stays. It is easily

even to experienced climbers.

accessible by bus from Shinjuku, Lake Kawaguchi, or Fujisan stations, and most commonly climbers start climbing from the

It is not unusual to spot unadvised climbers wearing flip flops

Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. It was from there, 2,305 meters

and summer shorts climbing Mt. Fuji. These are the climbers

(7,562 feet) above sea level, that we departed. We began

who find themselves struggling the most, or even getting

our climb at noon, envisioning what it would be like to watch

injured, due to their inappropriate footwear and inadequate

the sunrise from the summit of Japan’s tallest mountain.

preparation. Especially in the upper parts of the mountain, where it is hard to seek specialized help, the only option

With a group as large as ours, it took six hours to reach the

becomes to call for a police rescue.

hut we had made a reservation at, which was located at the 8.5 Station (3,450 meters or 11,319 feet above sea level). A

Due to all the difficulties listed above, the reasons not to

smaller group might be able to reach this point in less time.

climb may outweigh the reasons to climb. Many residents

Reservations are required for staying at any of the huts,

in Yamanashi, for instance, insist that Mt. Fuji is a mountain

in which you are given a warm meal and a place to sleep.

to be seen, not to be climbed. But, aware of the conditions

Most people, however, stay only for a few hours as an early

and prepared both physically and mentally to the best of our

morning wakeup is necessary to make it to the summit before

abilities, we, a group of a dozen foreigners hoping to make

sunrise. Some of the huts also sell food and drinks for those

this summer unforgettable, decided to accept the challenge

who only want to make a quick rest stop.

of climbing the most iconic mountain in Japan and departed

Staying at any of the huts is far from a comfortable

for Mt. Fuji during the last weekend of the climbing season.

experience. With dozens of climbers sharing the same


room, there is minimum space, no privacy, and – given that

as lack of sleep can result in fatigue or, even worse, injury.

the huts are not connected to a water supply network – no

Some of our group’s members were affected by altitude

showers. But we were all grateful to have a spot under a roof

sickness, but fortunately everyone was able to make it to the

where we could rest our bodies and warm our hands with hot

hut to rest and resume the climb the next morning.

tea and blankets. Even with all the difficulties, the stunning views made From the 8.5 Station, it would require yet another hour and

everything worth it. During the ascent, at the summit, and

a half of hiking. Despite the rain, cold, and darkness that we

upon descending, the true beauty of the climb involved more

set foot into upon exiting the hut, we were all excited for our

than just impressive natural landscapes. It was also the

arrival to the summit from which we could view the sunrise.

view of so many different climbers from so many different countries – all gathered in the same place, all heading for

There is a reason the climbing season only lasts from the

the same destination – that made the hike an unforgettable

beginning of July to the beginning of September. This is the

experience. Independent of each person’s country, culture,

only period when the top of Mt. Fuji is free of snow and ice.

age, or life experiences, everyone was facing the same

But that is not to say the weather is ideal. Even in summer,

challenges. But seeing that it was Mt. Fuji that had invited

as we experienced for ourselves, weather changes rapidly;

such a diverse crowd made me realize how awe-inspiring

within seconds a cloudy day can become a hot day, a hot

it is, not only for the people of Japan, with their long history

day can then turn into a rainy and chilly day.

and deep tradition of artwork and poetry dedicated to this mountain, but also for the entire world. As a World Heritage

An even greater concern for climbers is altitude sickness.

Site, this is a title that is more than well-deserved.

Due to the high altitude, even people in perfect physical condition can suffer from severe headaches, difficulties in breathing, nausea, dehydration, and the like. Taking regular

More information about the climbing season, trails, equipment, huts, and transportation can be found here:

breaks and drinking sufficient water helps to prevent this,

and it is recommended to rest at one of the huts on the way


A Delightful Trip Aboard the Fujisan View Express by : Andre Amorim (former Trainee from Minas Gerais, Brazil)

Usually we use trains to move from place to place – from Point A to Point B. But some trains can be more than just a transportation method. During the cold month of December, several of my coworkers and I took our first steps aboard the Fujisan View Express, a train that gives one the pleasure of enjoying views of Mount Fuji as well as access to the many attractions in areas nearby. Continue reading to find out more . . .


History and Features of the Train


he Fujikyu Railway was founded in 1926 as Fuji Electric Railway. Before then, the same route was used as a horsecar road to connect the Fujiyoshida

textile industry in Yamanashi to Tokyo. In 1929, trains started to run from within Yamanashi, connecting Otsuki to Fujiyoshida, and then the line was extended to Kawaguchiko. This helped boost tourism in the Fuji Five Lakes area. The railway company runs two additional types of express trains that take passengers from Kawaguchiko to Otsuki. The first, a blue and white train covered with drawings of Mt. Fuji, the Fujisan Express, started running in 2014. The second, a

end-point; in under an hour, passengers can feel the climate

red train, the Fujisan View Express, started running in 2016.

differences between Kawaguchiko and Otsuki.

Each trip lasts about forty five minutes. And, since this is Japan, the trains depart from and arrive at each station neither a second too late nor a second too early.

Local Attractions and Specialty Products

The blue and white Fujisan Express is painted with fifty

The trains make brief stops at several other stations during

different Mt. Fuji characters that were selected from over a

the trip, and nearby each of these are beautiful locations from

hundred designs in a contest. The most voted on characters

which to enjoy views of Mt. Fuji and its surrounding scenery.

can also be seen embroidered on headrest covers on the

For example, the cable car on Mt. Tenjo in Kawaguchiko

train seats. This train is very popular among children, and all

Town is widely known for being a great way to take up-high

sorts of keychains, magnets, binders, and even socks with the

photographs of Mt. Fuji. Another scenic spot is the Arakura

characters featured on them are sold onboard.

Mountain in Fujiyoshida City, and its Chureito Pagoda is

But our goal for this issue of The Grapevine was to ride the red

known for being one of the most famous places in Japan for

Fujisan View Express train. Designed by the famous Mitooka

taking a photograph of Mt. Fuji with cherry blossoms in the

Eiji, this train is retro in style, resembling an antique hotel or

foreground. But Mt. Fuji is not the only place of interest. Although the number of passengers taking this train line has increased significantly since Japan’s most famous mountain became a World Heritage Site, there is much more to be enjoyed. A pamphlet with information about nearby attractions is distributed to all passengers riding either of the express trains and staff onboard are prepared to answer any questions to help tourists make the best of their trip. As for local attractions, for example, at the end of the line in Otsuki City is the Yamanashi Prefectural Maglev Exhibition Center, where it is possible to see tests of, and learn about, this high speed train. It is also a good place to go to see


a countryside house. With an interior made out of wood, it

beautiful landscapes and unique spots such as Saruhashi, or

emulates a cozy livingroom atmosphere while also blending in

the “Monkey Bridge” in English, which is known for its one-of-

with the landscape.

a-kind structural design.

Both trains, the Fujisan Express and the Fujisan View

As for specialty products, you may enjoy local food and drink aboard

Express, are designed to give passengers a great view of Mt.

the Fujisan View Express train when taking first class. For example,

Fuji. They travel at an average speed of fifty kmh (31 mph),

available for these passengers is rice beer made in Kiyosato;

slightly slower in comparison to typical express trains because

roasted green tea, or hojicha in Japanese, which is very popular

their route is full of slopes and curves. The speed decreases

among foreigners; a seasonal sweets box; bento lunch boxes; and

in the more sinuous stretches and slopes and also in places

so on. The sweets box is prepared by the chef pâtissier from Fujikyu

from where it is possible to see breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji

Highland Resort Hotel, and it always features local ingredients such

– to passengers’ delight. There is a difference of five hundred

as Yamanashi’s famous grapes, blueberries, or peaches – the roll

meters (1640 feet) in elevation between the start- and the

cake filled with the seasonal fruits being the most popular.

Curiosities about Tourists and their Preferences

to mean that they are much closer to Mt. Fuji than they are

Passenger demand is greatest during the summer, when

by foot. Yet, this is not the case; Mt. Fuji is about twenty

the Mt. Fuji climbing season is at its peak and thousands

kilometers (12.4 miles) from the station. The train’s staff

of climbers from all over the world head to Kawaguchiko.

encounter this misunderstanding frequently, and so it is

Others board to visit the famous FujiQ Highland amusement

necessary for them to be able to explain in other languages

park or the Fuji Five Lakes. Winter attracts fewer visitors

the location of, and methods by which, to reach Mt. Fuji.

than in summer, especially during January and February, but

Mr. Katsumata wishes that tourists coming to Yamanashi

on the other hand this is the best time to see Mt. Fuji covered

Prefecture have the chance to enjoy as many of its local

with snow. The extra space on and around the train during

specialties such as fruits, wine, and crafts as possible. He

the winter also makes it a prime time for taking photographs.

believes that all of these are both cultural and valuable

But no matter the season, for me it was stepping aboard and

assets of this land and he would be happy if the express

riding the Fujisan View Express itself that made this trip so

trains operated by Fujikyu Railway help passengers get to


know more about the prefecture beyond just Mt. Fuji.

We interviewed Mr. Katsumata, assistant manager of Fujikyu

In this way, Fujisan View Express offers much more to the

Railway, who emphasized the importance of language

tourist than just a method of transportation. With its cozy

training for onboard staff. It is estimated that forty percent

interior, beautiful landscapes, and unique products that

of passengers are non-Japanese. Among them, the most

can be enjoyed from the comfort of your seat, 45 minutes

frequent are Chinese, followed by Filipinos and others from

seemed to pass by amazingly fast. The service and attention

Southeast Asia. Given the influx of foreign tourists, it is

we received onboard made our ride even better, and we

essential that staff undergo specific language training in both

were all grateful for the kind staff onboard, all of whom do an

English and Mandarin in order to be able to communicate

outstanding job when it comes to answering the questions

with and answer questions from foreign passengers as well

of passengers, even those of foreigner passengers such as

as handle emergency situations should any arise.

myself, in languages besides Japanese.

in reality. Consequently, they plan their trips with it in mind that reaching the mountain is an easy walk from the station

Mr. Katsumata explained that language training especially comes in handy when foreign hikers going to Mt. Fuji board

To you, dear reader, remember this: Come and be enchanted

the train. Foreigners oftentimes confuse “Mt. Fuji Station”

by this experience. Come ride aboard the Fujisan View Express!


Every year on the first weekend of April, Yamanashi Prefecture

the Indonesian Battalion had to be prepared to face the cold and

holds a major event in its capital, Kofu City, called the Shingen-Ko

the wind. Not that this would be easy – us Indonesians are from a

Festival. In order to celebrate the heroism of Takeda Shingen, who

tropical country after all!

was lord of Yamanashi Prefecture (called Kai Province at the time) during the Warring States Period in the 16th Century and one of

On the day of the festival, after all battalions had changed into

the strongest warlords at the time, this festival reenacts the war

samurai attire, we strolled around to enjoy the festival’s food stalls

deployment ceremony. This is the largest samurai parade in the

and rehearse. The parade started from four o’clock. All battalions

world, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2012

marched from the Yamanashi Prefectural Government office to

when more than one thousand “samurai” participated. By going to

Kofu Castle, where the war deployment ceremony would be held.

this parade, you can experience for yourself the heroic spirit and

We enjoyed the cherry blossoms along the walk. Even so, we were

historic atmosphere created by this event.

worried about the cloudy weather, but thank God there was no rain. Phew, we were saved!

Yamanashi Prefecture has been trying to attract more tourists from Southeast Asia and from Indonesia in particular. In 2013, the

Once at the castle, all battalions began parading to the downtown

Prefecture signed an agreement with the airline Garuda Indonesia

area. The Fuu battalion was deployed first, followed by the Rin, the

to promote tourism on both sides. Thanks to the close relationship

Ka, the Zan, and finally the Honjin battalions. First, we marched to

between them, representatives from Garuda Indonesia had the

Kofu Station. The “General” from each battalion was mounted on

privilege to participate as the first ever foreign battalion in the

horse, and one by one they and their battalion were deployed by

Shingen-Ko Festival. This year would be the 46th festival, held in

“Takeda Shingen.” We were surprised when we saw many people

2017 from April 7th to the 9th. Around forty people from Garuda

waiting to see the samurai parade on both sides of the road.

Indonesia, including Indonesian celebrities who helped promote

Some of them even greeted us in Indonesian thanks to the festival

this event to their social media followers, took part in the parade,

announcers who had kindly introduced the Indonesian Battalion

and they were all extremely excited to march through downtown

to everyone present. Then, as we marched, we waved to the

Kofu dressed as samurai along with the other battalions, of which

crowd, giving high fives to the kids and taking pictures with crowd

there were five: the Fuu (wind), the Rin (forest), the Ka (fire), the

members. What a festival! We really enjoyed it.

Zan (mountain), and the Honjin (main). It was here, the main battalion, where the Indonesian Battalion marched.

The photos and videos uploaded by the Indonesian celebrities to their social media accounts helped to attract much attention.


Before the big day, the Indonesian Battalion was told to be

Garuda Indonesia also published an article about the festival in

prepared rain or shine. The parade would be held no matter the

their inflight magazine, which can be accessed online helping to

weather conditions as long as there were no major storms, and

spread the news to other media outlets in Indonesia. We were all

based on previous festival data the festival was held twenty six

happy that our participation in this festival helped raise awareness

times when it was sunny, six times when raining, one time when

about Indonesia and the relationship between Indonesia and

snowing, one time during a spring storm, and so on. At the least,

Yamanashi. See you during the next Shingen-Ko Festival!

The Grapevine, a publication supported by The Osano Memorial Foundation, has been promoting Yamanashi Prefecture to an English speaking audience worldwide for almost thirty years. This year, on top of receiving a new design for the magazine, we have also revisited some of Yamanashi's old favorites – from peaches, grapes, and wine to, of course, Mt. Fuji and the ShingenKo Festival. In order to show the different ways of enjoying each of these, we have set out to learn about the cultivation of fruits and wine making, ridden one of the most unique trains in the country, visited accommodations with breathtaking views and heartwarming services, and participated in the famous and historic Shingen-Ko Festival. At the same time, we aimed to show important aspects of Yamanashi that are still unknown to the general public such as an amazing cherry production in Minami Alps City to a wilderness adventure course in Kosuge Village. Discovering new places, or rediscovering well-known ones, we hope you enjoy this edition of The Grapevine and come visit and revisit Yamanashi.

Editor Profile Kendra Evans

Aurora Pop

Mengdi Wang

Soon Hee Woo


Justin Ehringhaus

Yuri Yuhara



Andre Amorim andre.amorim.908579

Fadly Agustimahir fadly.agustimahir

Global Tourism and Exchange Division Yamanashi Prefectural Government 1-6-1 Marunouchi, Kofu City Yamanashi Prefecture, 400-8501 Japan TEL: +81 055-223-1435 For any questions, comments, or suggestions, contact us at : Past editions of The Grapevine are available online at :


Profile for Yamanashi Grapevine

The Yamanashi Grapevine 2018 Issue 1  

The Yamanashi Grapevine is a freely distributed annual magazine aimed at promoting Yamanashi Prefecture by introducing its land and culture...

The Yamanashi Grapevine 2018 Issue 1  

The Yamanashi Grapevine is a freely distributed annual magazine aimed at promoting Yamanashi Prefecture by introducing its land and culture...