By Cathy Cawood
For those looking for a great weekend escape from the city, the Green Tourism options in the Otsuki City area are not to be missed. Just an hour from Shinjuku Station by Central Express Limited, Otsuki City in Yamanashi Prefecture offers an appealing mix of agriculture, foods and fresh air. Otsuka is making strong efforts to revitalize the area by creating and promoting all new sightseeing itineraries where tourists can experience the rural area and interact with the locals.
Mount Iwadono is the perfect place to start your tour and get a full view of the city from up high. This is mountain climbing for beginners and the summit of 634 meters can be reached in about 40 to 50 minutes one way. The views of Mount Fuji from the summit are a very welcome addition.
Otsuki City is nested in a valley between multiple hills and mountains. Due to its near proximity to Mount Fuji, sunny days are perfect for a hike up one of the nearby trails that will provide stunning views of the mountain. The valley also provides ample opportunities to experience agriculture activities throughout the year. The farm work is a welcome escape from Tokyo's concrete jungle and a few hours outside provides a sense of regaining one's balance with nature.
After pulling some locally grown vegetables, the obvious next step is to eat them! Local chef experiences are also part of the fun in Otsuki City. Our chef gathered our harvested vegetables and instructed us in local cooking methods in informative and educational lunch session. "Otsukake Dango" is the dish of choice in Otsuki City. This large nabe style bowl is a miso based soup filled to the brim with seasonal vegetables and dumplings. The chewy dumplings make for a deliciously good contrast to the crisp vegetables.
Soon after eating our trip continued with a visit to "Fukasagi Dam". After passing through the mountain path filled with beautiful autumn leaves we were guided by the local expert and descended into the dam itself via elevator. At a depth of over 50 meters down and looking up at the fast pouring water from below, the visit proved to be an interesting experience.
We also had a chance to visit a few of the top sightseeing spots in Otsuki. Saru Bridge, or Saruhashi, is one of Japan's three strange and unusual bridges. There was a local legend that a bridge was once built without using a bridge pike or traditional bridge building methods. This structure was rumored to have been built with hints from the appearance of local monkeys crossing the river by forming a bridge with their bodies. Hence the bridge was named Saru (monkey) Bridge and the formation appears to be made by layers of roofing material. Many tourists visit this beautiful area and the autumnal leaves provide an even more magnificent view.
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