Shosenkyo Gorge near Kofu in Yamanashi Prefecture must be one of the most spectacular leaf viewing spots in Japan. The four kilometre walk runs beside the Arakawa River, as it forces its way through granite walls and round the boulders in the riverbed. In November the foliage hanging over the water is green, red, orange, yellow and all shades in between while the grey crags and blue sky make a stunning contrast.
To reach Shosenkyo take a bus from outside Kofu Station. According to the timetable there is a bus roughly every forty minutes but at weekends in November, the peak tourist time, the sheer number of people wanting to use the service requires extra vehicles.
There are three bus stops that access the gorge. The lower bus stop is just before Nagatoro-bashi and takes about 30 minutes (590 yen). Dismounting at this stop does require walking up the gorge but it is not that steep and has the advantage ending at the furthest stop and thus being first in line for the return buses. It also means you will end your walk near the Shosenkyo Ropeway where there are many shops, restaurants and cafes.
From the lower bus stop cross the Nagatoro bridge and walk through the car park to find the road along the river. This is paved and easy walking. It is closed to cars on weekends and the only vehicles you encounter are horse drawn.
There are places to stop and view the river and scenery, picnic areas, and one or two shops and cafes along this stretch of the road. After about three kilometres the road becomes a path and passes through the Ishimon, which is like a doorway of rock with a granite overhang that almost touches a boulder the other side. Beyond is the most spectacular part of the gorge with a focus of colours and rock formations including Kakuenpo the highest rock wall in the gorge and the thirty metre high Sengataki waterfall. People have pushed one yen coins into crevasses in the rocks along the trail and at times the rock wall overhangs the pathway.
One yen coins
Above the waterfall, the path enters an area of tourist shops, many selling rocks, crystals and jewellery, and restaurants, cafes and museums. In the autumn, stalls sell roasted chestnuts, dried fruits, baked sweet potatoes and persimmon. The Shosenkyo ropeway goes up to an observation platform for a view of the surrounding mountains including Fuji on a clear day.
Horse drawn vehicle
Cross Seikan-bashi to find the return bus stop or continue to walk along the road for another kilometre or so to reach Arakawa Dam and the Nosen Lake formed behind it. The foliage around here is also very colourful and there is a view back towards Shosenkyo with the ropeway and surrounding hills.
View of lake from Arakawa Dam
A free map of the gorge can be collected from the person selling bus tickets at Kofu Station or from some of the cafes and shops along the way. There is parking at Nagatoro-bashi and around the Shosenkyo ropeway station. Kofu is on the JR East Chuo Main Line and JR Central Minobu Line. It takes around 90 minutes to reach Kofu from Shinjuku Station.
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