Nestled in a natural basin surrounded by mountains on all sides and with Mount Fuji gracing its southern skyline, Kofu City in Yamanashi Prefecture is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by travellers looking for a day trip or a short overnight escape from Tokyo. The city is easily accessible via the Asuza Limited Express Train from Shinjuku Station, which takes approximately 90 minutes. Alternatively, highway buses departing from Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal can get you to Kofu in just over two hours.
What to do at Kofu City
1. Visit landmarks related to Shingen Takeda, the warlord of Kofu
Takeda Shrine in Kofu. (Photo from: Kofu Tourism)
Kofu City is deeply intertwined with the legacy of Takeda Shingen, a legendary warlord who played a pivotal role in the period of Warring States in the 16th century. Hence, the city features historical landmarks related to him — the Takeda Shrine is situated on the site of the Tsutsujigasaki fortified residence, where the Takeda clan held sway during the Warring States period. The recently opened Shingen Museum is close to the shrine, offering insights into the clan's history. A short walk away lies Takeda Shingen’s grave, which is shrouded in secrecy as per his will. Additionally, a statue of Nobutora Takeda, Shingen's father and the city's founder, graces the north exit of Kofu station.
The city is home to the Shingen-Ko Festival. This annual celebration usually happens in October, honouring Takeda Shingen, who coincidentally also holds the record for the world’s largest gathering of samurai. The festival's centrepiece is the "Koshu Battalion Deployment," a mesmerising reenactment of warriors marching to the battlefield of Kawanakajima, where Takeda Shingen clashed with his rival, Uesugi Kenshin. Over 1,000 participants don samurai attire, transforming Kofu into a living picture scroll of the Warring States era. The parade starts from Maizuru Castle Park and proceeds to the castle park’s South Square, allowing visitors to witness this captivating historical reenactment.
These landmarks and commemorative festivals are enduring connections to the city's rich historical heritage, bearing the influence of Takeda Shingen and his clan.
2. Have a drink (or two) at the city's many wineries
Kofu's connection to winemaking dates back 140 years, when techniques from France were embraced, and the region's 90 wineries produce Koshu wine, renowned for complementing Japanese cuisine. Sadoya Winery, founded in 1917, stands as one of the city's oldest wineries and reflects a Southern France-inspired ambience — the winery cultivates grape varieties like Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon, akin to Bordeaux's traditions and offers wines such as ‘Château Brillant’ and ‘Kofu Sparkling’. Visitors can embark on tours and tastings in Japanese and dine at ‘Real D’Or’, a French-inspired restaurant on the estate.
Just a 3-minute walk from Sadoya Winery is Koshu Yumekoji, which features a diverse selection of stores that showcase locally sourced products, including a wide range of regional wines and traditional handicrafts. The site also boasts several eateries and cafes where guests can savour the flavours of the area's cuisine and indulge in regional desserts.