“Lake Kawaguchiko is the most easily accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes.” Japan Guide
After nearly two weeks of non-stop travelling and busy neon lit cities we made our way to the Yamanashi Prefecture for some fresh Mountain air. First stop was Lake Kawaguchiko, one of the Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko), that surround Japan’s highest mountain, Mount Fuji (Fuji-san).
An area of outstanding natural beauty, the Fuji Five Lakes of Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanaka, Shoji and Motosuis offer, weather permitting, good views of the iconic still active volcano. Kawaguchiko is a small, hot spring resort town with a good selection of hotels and Ryokans that cater for all tastes and budgets. The best views of Fuji-san are from Lake Kawaguchiko’s northern shore but due to poor visibility and cloud cover we missed seeing the top (we did see the peak briefly from Hakone later in the trip). Our best glimpse of the sacred mountain was actually from the Shinkansen (bullet train) between Tokyo and Otsuki Station.
While Kawaguchiko is a popular place to start the ascend of Mount Fuji, most hikers start their climb from halfway up at Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. Other activities in this area include hot spring baths, museums, walking/hiking, boat tours, watersports such as canoeing, wind surfing and hiring swan shaped pedal boats. Located in a beautiful, natural setting Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, which was founded by the artist Itchiku Kubota, showcases the history of the Itchiku Tsujigahana technique of kimono dyeing. Exhibits include the artist’s kimono creations with designs portraying nature, the cosmos and seasons. There’s beautiful gardens to explore and a small tea room.
To the east of the lake lies the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway that ascends to an observation deck 1000 metres above sea level near the peak of Mount Tenjo. A panoramic vista of the lake and Mount Fuji awaits you at the top. Further up the trail is the Mount Tenjo shrine and keen hikers can continue on to Mount Mitsutoge. There’s a short hiking trail down from the observation deck through the forest.
There are several sightseeing buses to fully explore the Kawaguchiko area. Hop on the Fujikyu Railway Line from Kawaguchiko to Shimo-Yoshida to visit the famous Arakura Sengen Shrine that’s just a ten minute walk from the station. The five storey Chureito Pagoda, part of the shrine, offers spectacular views of Mount Fuji and features in many photographs of the area.
Thrill seekers can visit nearby Fuji-Q Highland, one of Japan’s popular amusement parks located at the base of Mount Fuji. The park is known for its exhilarating, record breaking roller coasters and Japanese animation themed rides and attractions. Younger members of the family can enjoy Thomas Land, an area dedicated to Thomas the Tank trains. Park admission is free but individual rides cost between 400 and 2000 yen. A 1-day pass for unlimited rides is 5700 yen.
We stayed at the stunning Fufu Kawaguchiko, a contemporary onsen overlooking Lake Kawaguchiko on Mount Fuji’s north side – read more about it HERE. Kawaguchiko is also accessible as a (long) day trip from Tokyo on the Shinkansen.
Top Tips for visiting Japan
- Purchase a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) for use on the trains available in 7, 14 and 21 day denominations. Purchase online before your trip and pick up upon presentation of your passport at the airport when you arrive. We bought the Green pass (first class) where you can reserve seats in spacious carriages for easy and comfortable travel. Using the JR pass is easy, just show your pass to the guard at entry and exit points rather than using your green tickets in the machine. Be aware that trains are ALWAYS on time.
- Purchase a data-only sim on arrival at the airport for unlimited data during your trip (kiosk opposite the JR desk at Nagoya airport).
- Buy a PASMO travel card for use on the Tokyo Metro (like the Oyster card in the UK) and buses. Cards can be purchased at station ticket machines and credit must be loaded in cash. English and International instructions available so it’s pretty straightforward.
- Cash is king although most places do accept credit cards.
- Consider using a luggage service (wish we had on parts of the trip). Luggage is collected and sent to your next destination so you can travel lighter on the trains.
- Carry your passport with you to avail of tax free shopping for purchases over ¥5000. Receipts are stuck in your passport and removed by custom officers at immigration on departure.
- Convenience stores, such as 7/11 and Family Mart, are on every street and sell everything from hot and cold takeaway food, fresh fruit, baked goods and alcohol to medical supplies and toiletries. Be mindful that while it’s not illegal to eat and drink in the streets it is frowned upon. Bins are few and far between so keep your bags for rubbish.
- Some hotels offer complimentary HANDY smartphones in your room that you can use for FREE throughout your stay. It offers unlimited 4G internet access, local calls and guide to the city you are staying in. Use it for google maps and restaurants recommendations etc.
The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2019. All rights reserved. Featured Mount Fuji photo and Fuji-Q photos used with courtesy of http://www.japan-guide.com