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Peach Trees and Rural Retreat Kofu Basin

Kofu Basin

Dried Daikon Radish


The Kofu Basin, in Yamanashi Prefecture, lies north of Mt. Fuji. In mid-April, when peach flowers blossom, the landscape becomes a carpet of pink. Over time, many farmers here switched from silk farming to fruit cultivation, taking advantage of demand, climate and geography. Now often called a "kingdom of fruits" Yamanashi is the largest domestic peach producer.
On this edition of "Journeys in Japan," German national Lana Bergmann, who is studying film, visits Kofu when the peach flowers are in full bloom. And she is shown how farmers produce the delicious fruit. She then heads to a nearby mountain village to spend the night in a house built more than a century ago. Villagers tell her about a Japanese way of life in harmony with nature and share the wisdom that made it possible. This journey introduces viewers to beautiful rural landscapes.

Peach Farms in the Kofu Basin
With its long hours of sunlight, temperature differences between day and night, and renowned clear water, the Kofu Basin has all the conditions to make it ideal for fruit cultivation. In the Ichinomiya area of Fuefuki City, peach orchards extend as far as you can see. Farmers here put a lot of time and effort in maintaining the quality of peaches they produce. The distribution of peaches from this area begins in early July. Visitors can enjoy peach picking until August.

Hachijoen (Peach orchard)
Access: From Isawa-Onsen Station on the JR Chuo Line, take a bus for about 20 minutes.

Doukeian: An Old House for Hands-on Experience
The community of Ashigawa, near the Kofu Basin, offers visitors a glimpse of an old way of life in a mountain village. Visitors are welcome to stay at Doukeian, a recently renovated home built over 100 years ago. They can take a close look at the features of a traditional farmhouse from its thatched roof, which regulates heat, to the way it is constructed by fitting wood and binding with straw ropes in place of nails. They can try their hand at splitting firewood to heat a traditional Goemon-buro bath, as well as making a fire at a hearth for cooking their own meals.

Tenkororin-mura Doukeian
Access: From Isawa-Onsen Station, take a bus bound for Oshuku and get off at Kami-Ashigawa. The house is 25 minutes on foot from the bus stop. (A pick-up and drop-off service to and from the nearest station can be arranged.)
Rates: 10,000 yen/ 10:00 a.m. to sundown (whole house, one party)
20,000 yen/ overnight stay (whole house, one party)

Typical Mountain Cuisine: Dried Daikon Radish, Homemade Miso, Edible Wild Plants
Traditional wisdom for life in the mountains is very much alive in Ashigawa. Villagers still prepare preserved foods, such as dried daikon radish and homemade miso for consumption during winter. From spring to early summer, sprouts of edible wild plants add seasonal touches to local dishes. Many of these are sold in the village store.

Ogosso-ya: local produce shop
Access: From Isawa-Onsen Station, take a bus bound for Oshuku and get off at Kami-Ashigawa.

Terraced Fields with Stone Walls
Although Ashigawa has little flat land, people created fertile farmlands here by building terraced fields with stonewalls using the rocks unearthed when the village was originally settled. These stonewalls have been constructed by stacking larger stones outside and smaller ones inside to allow air and water permeation. Villagers have maintained them for generations by careful maintenance.

Hoto is a typical local dish, developed due to the region's terrain being unsuitable for rice cultivation. Locals eat these wheat noodles served in a broth with homemade miso almost daily. They also proudly serve it to visitors and guests as an expression of hospitality. Visitors can sample Ashigawa's hoto at an auto campsite in the village.

It takes about 1.5 hours from Tokyo on the JR Chuo Line trains to reach the areas featured in this program.

Travel Log - Traveler:

Travel Log

Traveler:Lana Bergmann, student (Germany)
Date :Apr. 8 - Apr. 13 2013

Lana Bergmann
The Kofu Basin is in Yamanashi Prefecture and is surrounded by mountains. It is a great place to visit with its views of Mt. Fuji and the Southern Alps. The best time to travel to the mountainous area is during the peach blossom season. Japan's most famous place for peach cultivation becomes covered in pink as far as you can see. It takes some time to reach the area by train and bus, but once there you can enjoy its numerous hiking spots and the friendly and welcoming people. For instance, while strolling around the peach orchards I met a farming couple and learned how difficult and complicated it is to grow large, sweet peaches. The average age of the people in the area is over 50. They have many interesting stories from the past about their local traditions and childhood encounters with wild animals. I felt like I was sitting in an amazing interactive history class.

I was also lucky to meet a delightful older couple that has lived in the mountains since their birth. They taught me about traditional local food and its preparation. I also got to stay in a wonderful traditional Japanese house with a thatched roof. I recommend this place for everyone who is interested in historical buildings, great hiking spots and entertaining stories about the good old days.