Like Iowa, Yamanashi is a region in the middle of its country and is a major agricultural center, with grapes and peaches being its most notable products. However, unlike Iowa, Yamanashi has mountainous terrain and is even home to Japan’s tallest mountain- Mt Fuji. Iowa and Yamanashi became sister states in 1960 after Iowans donated 35 pigs and 100,000 bushels of corn to Yamanashi after the prefecture was hit by a typhoon.
Fuji-san, or Mt. Fuji, is the tallest mountain in Japan, standing at 3,776 m (12,388 ft). It has been a sacred site for centuries and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Because it is located on the border between Yamanashi and another prefecture, the Kofu Exchange group makes a yearly visit to the mountain’s fifth station. Here, students can take pictures, buy souvenirs, and even get ice cream.
Mitake Shosenkyo, or Shosenkyo Gorge, is a national park in Yamanashi Prefecture. It is famous for senga-taki, a 30-meter (or 100-foot) waterfall, huge rocks, gorgeous natural scenery, and its local food- hōtō noodles! While at Shosenkyo, the group is able to make and eat their own hōtō noodles, as well as shop and enjoy the beautiful rocks, streams, and waterfalls. Shosenkyo is a favorite for tourists and Japanese people alike!
Religion in Japan is very different from religion in America, and some of the biggest differences can be seen with a visit to a Japanese temple (Buddhist) or shrine (Shintoist). Before entering the religious site, everyone must perform a cleansing ritual, which involves rinsing the hands with water. Charms for luck, studying, or safe travel can often be found at temples and shrines.
This shrine is called Takeda-Jinja, because it is the shrine of Takeda Shingen, a famous samurai from the area. The Kofu group visits it and many other temples and shrines during the stay.
Matsumoto Castle, nicknamed “Crow Castle,” is actually located in a prefecture adjacent to Yamanashi. Matsumoto Castle is a medieval-style Japanese castle from Japan’s warring era. The exchange group will take a tour of the castle and its grounds.
After climbing almost 300 steps, the group will arrive at a temple on Mt. Minobu. Everyone will have a chance to explore, take pictures, and buy little souvenirs before taking a cable car further up the mountain, where the group will eat lunch and have ice cream.