Paul Rusch Festival

By Kendra Evans

An American-style harvest festival held in the mountain fields of Kiyosato, the Paul Rusch Festival is a popular two-day event which promotes local agriculture and business, in celebration of Paul Rusch and his work in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Paul Rusch was an American priest, who worked in Kiyosato in both the pre- and post- war years as a missionary. He built the rural camp Seisenryo, originally an Anglican youth centre, but repurposed after the war as the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Program, or KEEP. The KEEP farm, with its focus on dairy farming and encouragement of community agriculture, helped shape the town of Kiyosato. Now, every October, the fields of Seisenryo fill with people, to celebrate Paul Rusch and his work.

Getting to Kiyosato from Kofu Station is fairly straightforward: the Chuo line takes you to Kobuchizawa, and from there you can take the Koumi line, which runs amongst the forests and gives spectacular views of the countryside. It takes about an hour and a half on the slow train.

Arriving in Kiyosato, the first thing to stick out was the architecture: European style houses, all bright colours, lining the road down the hill, with the Kobushi Mountains floating up in the distance. The autumn leaves of the trees, and the green and yellow of the Kiyosato picnic bus as it passed by us on the street all made for a cheerful first impression.

We rode the shuttle bus to the park, and were immediately stunned by the view. The Seisenryo Field is quite high up the Yatsugatake Mountains, and slopes slightly downwards to reveal a glimpse of the Kofu basin through the gap in the mountains behind. The music and the smell of grilled meat led us straight into the park.

In the centre of the park was the main stage, with a large picture of Paul Rusch himself behind it. There was a variety of acts performing during the festival, all with a real American feel – cheerleading, country music, big bands and more. There was a children’s corner, and plenty of pets as well.

The stalls at the Paul Rusch Festival were mostly run by small businesses and farms within Yamanashi Prefecture, particularly Hokuto and Kiyosato. Anything produced in the local community, from fresh vegetables and dairy products, to wooden furniture and pottery, was all on display. One stall was even giving a demonstration of metal working.

Amongst them were food stalls of all kinds, particularly meat. Bacon and sausages are popular produce from the Yatsugatake area, and the beef rib steaks were particularly delicious.

But the highlight was probably the last thing we tried: ice cream. Seisenryo soft serve is very popular in Yamanashi, and for good reason – it has such a rich flavour, you can tell it is made straight from the local milk. 

Although I didn’t get to experience them, according to the schedule there are plenty of hands-on experiences available at the festival also, such as American football and tractor riding.

I would definitely recommend the festival for anyone around Yamanashi during October – and across the year, there are many events and activities happening at KEEP. Even if it is just to try the ice cream and see the view, all visitors to Yamanashi should head over to Kiyosato.

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