Mitake Shosenkyo (御嶽昇仙峡, Mitake Shōsenkyō), just north of central Kofu, is one of Japan's most beautiful gorges. It is part of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, which covers more than 1250 square kilometers of forested mountains, valleys and some rural towns in the prefectures of Yamanashi, Saitama, Nagano and Tokyo.
A hiking road leads for about four kilometers along the Arakawa River from the Nagatoro Bridge to the Sengataki Waterfall, offering beautiful scenery of the mountain river and the narrow valley. Many interestingly shaped rocks which resemble and are named after animals or items can be seen along the hike.
The lower section of the hiking road (about 3 kilometers) from the "Shosenkyo-guchi" bus stop (near the Nagatoro Bridge) to the "Greenline Shosenkyo" bus stop is paved and open to one-way motorized traffic, except on weekends from May to November, when it is for exclusive use by pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages.
The upper section of the hiking path (about 1 kilometer) from the "Greenline Shosenkyo" bus stop to the top of Sengataki Waterfall leads through the most spectacular part of the gorge and includes the sight of the 30 meter high waterfall. The gorge is particularly beautiful during the autumn leaf season, which typically reaches its peak around early to mid November.
Above the waterfall, there is a small village consisting of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants and the terminal bus stop "Shosenkyo Taki Ue". It is also the departure point of the Shosenkyo Ropeway, which provides access to an observation point with panoramic views of the Southern Japanese Alps and Mount Fuji on clear days.
At the southern end of the village is a shadowgraph museum that exhibits art created using cut pieces of paper and other materials placed over colored lights. Much of the shadow art is the work of one artist, and a theme of cute characters including animals and elves prevails, making for a nice atmosphere enjoyable for children. There are also rooms in the museum that host rotating exhibitions of other types of art.
The Shosenkyo Gorge is just north of central Kofu. Buses to the gorge leave in front of Kofu Station once every one or two hours. They take 30 minutes and cost 600 yen one way to "Shosenkyo-guchi", 40 minutes and 840 yen to "Greenline Shosenkyo", and 50 minutes and 920 yen to the terminal stop "Shosenkyo Taki Ue".
Note that during the winter from December through March, buses run only as far as Shosenkyo-guchi. During that time of the year, a separate mini bus provides on-demand transportation between Shosenkyo-guchi and the ropeway. The bus has to be called by phone (055-251-8899) and costs 300 yen per ride.