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Otsuki: The Gateway to Mount Fuji

Looking for an escape from Tokyo? Explore Otsuki in Yamanashi Prefecture and discover the charms of small-town Japan at the foot of its tallest mountain.

By 5 min read

Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture symbolizes Japan’s culture and deep-rooted love for nature. Climbing Mount Fuji is seen as a personal challenge and an opportunity for self-reflection, and some climbers undertake the journey as a pilgrimage. In many ways, Otsuki serves as the welcoming gateway to an authentic Japanese experience, embracing traditional cuisine, spiritual practices and the warm hospitality of its locals.

Called by the allure of the mountain, travelers are drawn to cultural treasures in this charming city. The shadow of Mount Fuji graces Otsuki’s skyline, setting the stage for exploring Japan’s heritage. Locals take pride in offering traditional Japanese cuisine, echoing the region’s agricultural roots. Its natural beauty invites visitors to immerse themselves in the season’s colors.

Otsuki is opening its doors for those seeking a genuine encounter in rural Japan—an excellent starting point for a journey into Japanese tradition. Otsuki’s allure is not just in its destinations but in its accessibility from Tokyo. A mere hour away via the Azusa or Kaiji Limited Express train or the Chuo line from Shinjuku station, Otsuki is the perfect destination for a day trip or a quick weekend getaway.

Bridging History and Culture

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Beautiful fall colors and Saruhashi Bridge.

Spanning a deep gorge above the Katsura River, Saruhashi Bridge is a timeless marvel, intertwining history, beauty and engineering. Its name, “Monkey Bridge,” originates from its distinctive arched design resembling interconnected monkeys’ backs. Dating back to the Nara period, it proudly stands as one of Japan’s finest bridges and is officially listed as a Place of Scenic Beauty of Japan.

Approaching Saruhashi unveils a gentle curve against the backdrop of the serene Katsura River—a tranquil beauty in motion. Today, Saruhashi Bridge is a beloved tourist magnet. As autumn arrives, it becomes a haven for koyo (autumn leaves) lovers, decorating the surroundings in vibrant hues.

Near the foot of the bridge, the shop Daikokuya offers more than just a picturesque setting—it serves as an office for the Otsuki City Tourism Association, a souvenir shop and restaurant where visitors can immerse themselves in the charms of Otsuki. A local pride, the soba is a crowd favorite served with freshly fried, crispy tempura.

The restaurant also offers tea, coffee and sweets, with Saruhashi Bridge as your backdrop, for a delightful pause in your exploration.

Discover New Heights

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A birds-eye view of small-town Japan.

Beyond the famed silhouette of Mount Fuji lies a treasure trove of natural wonders in the eastern reaches of Yamanashi. Only a 15-minute walk from JR Otsuki station, Mount Iwadono proudly stands at 634 meters and is recognized among the 100 most famous mountains in the region. Surpassing the height of the Tokyo Skytree, this mountain promises more than just lofty peaks.

Traversing the trails around Mount Iwadono’s summits unveils a symphony of nature’s offerings, with panoramic views of Mount Fuji. Spots and trails for hiking, fishing, camping and local onsen (hot springs) are dotted around the mountain. Midway up the mountain is Fureai no Yakata, a beautiful Japanese-style medieval mansion serving as a rest stop and museum.

Here, visitors can peruse impressive photographs of Mount Fuji, catch their breath and enjoy a sweeping view of Otsuki city from the second-floor observation room.

Traditional Sake, Sweets and Udon

Sake artisans at work.

Visit Otsuki’s Sasaichi Sake Brewery, a brewing legacy spanning 360 years. Sasaichi Sake Brewery brews prestigious and traditional Japanese sake using crystal-clear water from the foothills of Mount Fuji and high-quality sake rice produced thanks to the rich nature of Yamanashi Prefecture. Moreover, Sasaichi Sake Brewery is not only a premium sake brand but also serves as a cultural ambassador for Yamanashi.

At their contemporary on-site brewery shop, guests can savor more than just sake—savor and purchase non-alcoholic delights like soft-serve ice cream and shaved ice made with sake lees.

Just minutes from the brewery is Sasago Mochi, which many consider Otsuki’s true claim to fame. In the past, Sasago-mochi rice cakes gained fame by being sold on trains traversing the Sasago Tunnel, Japan’s longest tunnel. These delectable rice cakes quickly became a sensation and a must-try for anyone passing through the area. 

Sasaichi Sake, Sasago Mochi and Yoshidaya Udon.

While they may no longer be a daily delight for commuters, Sasago Mochi remains a cherished local delicacy. Crafted using sticky rice and Otsuki mugwort, these treats are generously filled with a subtly sweet bean paste. Another favorite is the sake manju, a steamed sake cake made from the sake lees sourced from Sasaichi Sake Brewery.

Yoshidaya, conveniently opposite the Otsuki station ticket gate, has the town’s best udon noodles. Whether you fancy them warm, cold or dipped, Yoshida udon guarantees a distinctive taste experience. Yoshidaya is celebrated for the nostalgic flavor of its udon noodles, offering a firm texture achieved through the passed-down traditional methods of hand kneading. 

The udon bowl is trimmed with horse meat and finely sliced kinpira (chopped burdock root) crafted with a special homemade recipe.

Plan Your Visit

The slick Azusa Express will take you from Shinjuku to Otsuki in an hour.

Otsuki’s allure is not just in its destinations but in its access from Tokyo. A mere hour away via the Azusa or Kaiji Limited Express train or the Chuo Line from Shinjuku station, Otsuki is the perfect destination for a day trip or a quick weekend getaway. When you arrive at Otsuki Station, make the Otsuki Tourist Information Center your first stop.

This center serves as the starting point for your adventure, offering valuable information to sweeten your travel experience in Otsuki City. If you have concerns about your destination, the friendly staff will support and assist with your visit.

In the heart of Yamanashi, Otsuki is a gateway—an invitation to unravel the layers of Mount Fuji’s magic. From the historic Saruhashi Bridge to the natural wonders of Mount Iwadono, the sake-infused heritage at Sasaichi Sake Brewery to the century-old sweetness of Sasago Mochi and the culinary twists at Yoshidaya—Otsuki offers an immersive experience for every traveler.

Embrace the call of Mount Fuji and discover Otsuki—a town that beckons you to explore, savor and create lasting memories in the shadow of Japan’s most iconic peak.

Plan Your Trip

Truly the “gateway” to Fuji.

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