Shosenkyo is a wild mix of tiny mountain paths, golden rock formations and beautiful waterfalls. The gorge, at the southernmost entrance of the Chichibu Tama-Kai National Park is known among Japanese to be the most beautiful of the country, especially during fall. And the area is also famous for its gems, traded in whole Japan for several centuries. Even if the visitors are slightly less numerous than in the past, the gorge should not be missed while traveling in Yamanashi.
About two hours from Tokyo, the Shosenkyo gorge is one of Japan’s most secret landscape, definitely unknown by most of the travelers. Yet the sight is registered in many Japanese lists, from the 100 landscapes of Heisei, to the 100 clear waters of the country or the most beautiful gorges. According to a poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun, Shosenkyo is no less than Japan’s second magnificent place, right after Fuji-san.
The road leading to Shosenkyo gorge offers by itself many impressive sights, while running through the Okuchichibu mountains. From there, the Kakuenbo rock overlooking the gorge appears after a short tunnel and is impossible to miss.
The main hiking trail follows the Arakawa river for 4 kilometers. Parkings are conveniently enough open at each end. From the furthest one, many shops are selling local gems – some of them really impressive and/or expensive. One of the cheapest souvenir being the cup of tiny gems to fill in person from the container.
Along the path, the Senga-taki waterfalls is 30m high, with a beautiful green and golden rock. And not far away, the famous Kakuenbo overview the tiny vale. The huge rock was named after the monk Kakuen, who often used the top of it for ascetic training.
Along the road, many coins are to be seen in every corners of the rocks – some of them in a way that it is difficult to understand how the people managed to stick them up there and how they are still holding in place.
During the main touristic season, from Golden week to fall, it is possible to follow the river further downstream with a carriage ride. Finally, a trip to Shosenkyo might also be the right time to reach Hokuto and check Japan’s oldest Sakura tree, the Jindai Zakura.
How to get there?
To visit the gorge, one first needs to reach Kofu station. Using the JR Chuo line, the main city of Yamanashi is only 90 minutes from Shinjuku (4310 yens). A cheaper way to reach the city is to travel by highway bus (2000 yens for 2 hours), also from Shinjuku. Then several buses are reaching Shosenkyo gorge from the station (30 to 50 minutes depending on the last stop – three available – for 590, 820 or 900 yens).