Mitake Shōsenkyō (御嶽昇仙峡) is a beautiful and spectacular 5 km long gorge in the Chichibu Tamai Kai National Park. Shōsenkyō is considered by many Japanese travel magazines as one of the most beautiful places in the country to see the famous red coloured autumn leaves (mid October till end November). If the weather is fine in all seasons it is an excellent day trip from Tokyo that is almost unknown to foreign tourists.
The gorge and the views from the ropeway summit are really nice. If you need to make a choice and you are not afraid of hiking in nature then personally I would recommend this trip in favor of the day trip to Mt. Takao. Strangely Shōsenkyō is not even covered in the Rough guide nor the Michelin guide, that in my humble view surprisingly attributes the full three stars to Mt. Takao.
I’ll let you judge by the pictures.
There are direct limited express trains from Shinjuku (Tokyo) to Kōfu the capital of Yamanashi prefecture. Kōfu (甲府市) is located 100 km West of Tokyo. The trajectory on the Chuo line takes about 90 minutes and reserved seats are necessary. Along the route you can enjoy the Yamanashi landscape which is one of the most important fruits and wine producing areas of Japan. The JR East website provides in English timetables.
From Kōfu station take the bus to Shōsenkyō Guchi. Depending on the traffic the ride takes about 35 to 40 minutes. The bus timetables are in Japanese only.
My tip is to avoid the weekends in peak season and autumn. Although there are sometimes extra busses the queues at the bus stops can be huge.
A well paved hiking road (about 4,5 km) that slowly climbs follows the Arakawa River from the Nagatoro Bridge (right at the Shōsenkyō guchi stop) to the Sengataki Waterfall. Along the this beautiful mountain river you will enjoy some really dramatic views of the narrow gorge and surrounding forest.
About half way there are a number of “Izakaya” style restaurants with terraces along the river where you can refresh if you make the walk in the hot summer season. If you are visiting the area in the cold season then you absolutely have to try the Hōtō hot pot for lunch.
Hōtō is a typical local dish from Yamanashi and is made of flat white noodles in a miso broth. It is a quite special dish and Wikipedia has a whole page on Hōtō explaining the recipe in detail.
Especially if you make the walk with children they will enjoy the many interestingly shaped rocks which are named after animals or items like Fuji san, a mushroom (see the picture here below) etc.
After about 4 km you will arrive at the most narrow section of the gorge from where you will climb on a steep track along the 30 meter high waterfall.
Above the waterfall there is a small village with souvenir shops (they specialize in mountain crystal) and some restaurants. From here it is about a 10 minute walk to the ropeway base station.
Shosenkyo ropeway and Fuji san viewpoint
By now you will agree with me that it only makes sense to make this trip when the weather is nice. If you are even more lucky and the sky is clear (especially in the colder months) then a must visit is the Fuji san viewpoint at the top of the ropeway. Unfortunately the Shōsenkyō ropeway website is only in Japanese. Nevertheless even if you don’t speak Japanese it is worth taking a look for the many nice pictures covering the area in the 4 seasons.
The view from the ropeway car is stunning and gives an arial view of the Arakawa dam, the Chichibu mountain range and the Alps still covered with some snow end of March.
Then on a clear day from the top of the observation post on Mount Rakanji, the summit station of the ropeway, you will enjoy breathtaking views of the Japanese Alps and Fuji san.
After returning with the ropeway take the bus from the village back to Kōfu station. The bus stop is named Shōsenkyō Taki Ue.
A special thank you to Chie and Kentoman for being our local guides on this trip.