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Yamanashi Prefecture is one of Japan’s best off-the-beaten-path destinations for wandering and letting yourself be taken in the breathtaking views of mountains, lakes, and natural parks. Yamanashi is a must-see for all outdoor enthusiasts. What’s more, it’s only a 1 hour and 30 minutes train ride from Tokyo, making it easy to fit into any travel itinerary.

Yamanashi’s mountain ranges are home to several temples and religious sites. In this article, we’ll introduce a couple of remarkable spots that will transform your trip to Japan into a spiritual journey you’ll be proud to share with your friends. If we’ve piqued your interest, keep reading!

Finding Inner Peace at the Minobusan Kuonji Temple

The first spot on our list is located on Mount Minobu in the Southern Japanese Alps. The Minobusan Kuonji Temple (身延山久遠寺) was established in 1274 and is the head temple of Nichiren Buddhism, an order founded by Nichiren whose teachings advocate for people to spread peace within themselves and throughout the world in accordance with the Lotus Sutra. Following his departure, the priest’s ashes were returned to the Minobusan Kuonji Temple after his final journey to propagate the Dharma.

priests in a temple

The Minobusan Kuonji Temple is not only a significant spot for Buddhist doctrine but also a beautiful sightseeing destination, with the beautiful cherry trees on his premises (including a centuries-old weeping cherry tree) attracting many visitors each year.

Immerse yourself in the temple’s peaceful surroundings of the temple and join the many pilgrims who walk up its 287 “steps of enlightenment,” a path that leads to the complex’s magnificent five-story pagoda.

Visitors can attend the temple services in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

Hone Your Spirit with a Hike to the Shichimensan Keishin-in

The Shichimensan Keishin-in (七面山敬慎院) is another Buddhist temple located right at the top of Mount Shichimen, in the Southern Japanese Alps, at an elevation of 1982m. It is only accessible on foot via one of two hiking trails: the Omotesando trail and the Urasando trail. Both hikes are not for the faint of heart, with the ascent taking between four and five hours. The sight from the temple, however, is worth it: after a mountain trail that takes you through stone lanterns, waterfalls, and other mystical landscapes, a stunning view of Mount Fuji greets you at the summit. Guests who spend the night at the temple can also enjoy a magnificent sunrise over the Southern Alps.

person standing under a waterfall

The temple grounds offer lodgings for pilgrims and visitors that accommodate up to 1,000 guests. Spending the night at the temple is an opportunity not to miss, as it’ll give you a chance to experience the life of a Buddhist monk. Overnight stays include two vegetarian meals.

A Once-in-a-lifetime Experience: Diamond Fuji

Make the climb to the Shichimen-san Keishin-in temple in spring or fall to have a chance to take in the view of a lifetime: the so-called Diamond Fuji (ダイアモンド富士). This rare natural phenomenon occurs only twice a year when the sun rises or sets directly behind Mount Fuji, making its peak sparkle like a diamond. While the exact dates vary each year, the phenomenon occurs around the spring equinox (March 20 or March 21) and the autumnal equinox (September 22 or September 23).

Mt. Fuji during sunset and a person infront

The best place to enjoy Diamond Fuji is the observatory of the Keishin-in, just a short walk away from the temple premises.

How to Get to Yamanashi Prefecture

The Yamanashi main center is easily accessible by JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and other major cities. Kofu Station and Otsuki Station are two main hubs from which you can travel to all other destinations via local trains and buses. For those on a tighter budget, the Azusa or Kaiji Limited Express from Shinjuku Station can take you directly to Yamanashi’s Kofu Station via the JR Chuo Line (approx. 1 hour and 30 min.) An even cheaper option is to take one of the highway buses departing from all major cities in Japan.

While checking popular tourist spots off your list is an excellent way to travel, some experiences are worth deviating from the larger cities for a few days. We hope this article inspired you to grab your backpack and embark on a spiritual journey through Yamanashi’s mountains!

Sponsored by: Yamanashi Prefecture

Anna Toccoli

Anna Toccoli

Italian freelance translator. From 2014 until 2019, I lived in Tokyo first as a student and then as a worker in the Japanese 2D entertainment industry. I've seen my fair share of weird things and enjoy talking about them with whoever will listen. My hobbies are playing video games, hoarding Lego, and learning everything there is to know about the latest crazes in Japanese pop culture.

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