Over the weekend, little Kaiju and I headed west to Yamanashi Prefecture for a play date in Kofu with cats, a castle, and plenty of trains.
Kofu is close enough to Tokyo that it can easily be explored on a day trip, so here’s what my little Kaiju and I did on our playdate!
Right smack in the middle of Yamanashi Prefecture is Kofu, the capital and largest city. Plenty of mountains, including Mt. Fuji to the South, surround Kofu, which rests inside a mountain basin. The city gets plenty of sunshine throughout the year and our sunny Saturday was no exception!
Cats, Cats, and More Cats!
With the lovely @missnoire and her beautiful girls as our guide, our first stop was the Yamanashi Prefectural Office in search of cats!
She’s posted on her Instagram feed and Stories about the cats that live on the grounds, but I’m so so sure I’ve seen a tidbit about the cats on a Japanese news program. Here’s a Japanese blog post about the cats (just visit for the cat photos. You won’t be disappointed!).
We only saw four, but there’s more than 10 that live on the grounds of the Yamanashi Prefectural Office.
The grounds are open to the public 24/7, 365 days a year and there’s benches, a grassy space, and coverings to sit under when it’s rainy or too hot.
It’s a great place to relax with little ones! Plus, it’s only minutes away from Kofu Station, so you can stop by before or after exploring the city.
Yamanashi Prefectural Office
1-chōme-6-1 Marunouchi, Kofu, Yamanashi 400-0031
Kofu Castle Ruins
Afterwards, we headed to Kofu Castle (well, the ruins of Kofu Castle), which rests in Maizuru Castle Park, a short walk from Kofu Station.
What remains of the castle was built in 1583, and it has ties to Tokugawa Ieyasu, of legendary Tokugawa Shogunate.
(Tokugawa Ieyasu, by the way, is “the guy” enshrined in the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture!)
The hilly park offers amazing views of Kofu and the mountains, and there’s lots of room for little ones to run around.
You can really feel history come alive as you look down on Kofu City and take in the surroundings.
This is a place you definitely want to check out in the springtime for hamani. With a late April visit I managed to see plenty of fluffy pink yaezakura (layered cherry blossoms).
I can only imagine how beautiful the park looks with somei yoshino cherry trees in bloom!
NOTE: The castle is wheelchair/stroller friendly, but some of the lookouts are only accessible via stairs.
1 Chome-5 Marunouchi, Kofu, Yamanashi 400-0031
Parks & Trainspotting
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One of my absolute favorite things about Maizuru Park was a quaint playground located inside an old moat!
What made this spot so special for little Kaiju and me is that it was near Kofu Station and across from a train crossing.
Whenever we heard the “clang clang” of the level crossing, we rushed to see the trains.
Lastly, we can’t talk about trains in Kofu without a section dedicated to the E353 series train that took us to/from Shinjuku to Kofu!
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How to Get to Kofu City
Access to Kofu from Shinjuku Station is via the Super Azusa, Azusa or Kaiji limited express trains. It’s only a 90 minute train ride and if your little ones love trains, you’ll have so much fun spotting different train lines and even rail yards, too!
The Super Azusa, Azusa or Kaiji limited express trains are very popular for visitors heading to Mount Fuji and all seats are reserved. So, it’s best to buy your tickets in advance at a JR Ticket Office (みどりの窓口 | midori no madoguchi).
Another option is to arrive at Shinjuku Station early in order to have time to buy tickets or wait for a train that has enough seats for your group.
I also want to mention that if your kids are old enough to sit by themselves (but not old enough to require a train ticket), it may be worth it to purchase a seat for them on the way to Kofu.
Shinjuku-Otsuki is where the bulk of the passengers ride so it’s best to have tickets for everyone unless you want to share your lap! Coming back to Shinjuku should be no problem, though.
Super Azusa, Azusa or Kaiji limited express trains depart from Tracks 9 and 10 at Shinjuku Station and there are attendants on the platform ready to assist if you need help buying a ticket.
Next time we return to Yamanashi, we’ve got to hit up Otsuki for the Yamanashi Prefectural Maglev Exhibition Center. Looks like my girl’s love of trains is really rubbing off on me!🤣
Bonus: The Food of Kofu City
LUNCH: Vegan Burger from Fluunt
Fluunt specializes in “vegan junk food” and is about 10 minutes away from Kofu Station. The lunch sets are only around 1,000 yen for your choice of burger and side dish. I got a vegan cheeseburger, vegan karaage (fried chicken bites) and french fries for 1,200 yen. I’m sure it would have cost much more in Tokyo! The restaurant also sells organic ingredients and has a mini-library, as well as kitchen toys and coloring pages for kiddies.
DESSERT: Shingen Mochi Parfait
Shingen mochi (信玄餅), a classic Japanese sweet from Yamanashi Prefecture, is soft, chewy pieces of mochi (rice cake) coated in kinako (roasted soybean powder) and topped with kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup), all to your liking. This parfait takes it to the next level with creamy soft serve, a shingen mochi cookie, and a waffle cone/cup.
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I also picked up a box set of 4 Shingen mochi flavored pudding and I wish I went for the biggest size. It’s wonderfully creamy with a hint of kinako powder in each bite.
Koshu Yume Kouji 1 Chome−1−25 Marunouchi, Kofu, Yamanashi 400-0031
〒400-0031 山梨県甲府市丸の内１丁目１−25 甲州夢小路内
Aside from Shingen mochi, Yamanashi is famous throughout Japan for its fruit, especially peaches, cherries, and wine. It’s also the heart of Japan’s wine country, so when little Kaiju is fully weaned, I’m totally signing up to visit a vineyard.