I’m back with my 2nd post of my recent Japan trip. The first post was somewhat a summary of my entire 9D8N itinerary and for this post, I’ve decided to dedicate it solely to Mt Fuji – the beautiful mountain or rather
sleeping active volcano (last eruption was 1708) which is the icon of Japan.
Standing at 3,776m, Mt Fuji (also known as Fuji-san) is Japan’s highest mountain. At the beginning of my trip, seeing Fujisan didn’t seem too much of a big deal as it was just another mountain and I kind of had the “Been there, Done that” feel. However, with each sighting (be it planned or unplanned) during the trip, the desire of wanting to see it again (and again) increases. It is indeed a mysterious (or maybe fascinating is a better word) mountain. The chance and clarity of sighting cannot be predicted and you can only hope to be really lucky.
In my recent trip, I managed to see 6 different views of Mt Fuji during my 3D2N Hakone/Kawaguchiko trip, while making full use of the Fuji Hakone Free Pass (Public Transport).
To begin, I first saw a portion of Mt Fuji during the JR Train ride between Tokyo to Osaka back in March 2015. As you can see, Mt Fuji was feeling pretty shy, choosing to hide behind the fog and clouds. Anyway, you can see that the snow cap is more in the two photos below compared to the ones I took in warmer May 2016. That was my only fate with Mt Fuji that trip.
Left (Osaka to Tokyo) – 10:48am
Right (Tokyo to Osaka) – 9:57am
Alright, let’s move on to the Fuji sighting spots in my recent May 2016 trip.
A – Hakone Ropeway
If you’re visiting Hakone, you can sight Mt Fuji during the ropeway ride riding upwards from Togendai. The Hakone Ropeway is covered under the Fuji Hakone Free Pass, which means that you can take multiple times without paying extra! During the ascend, Mt Fuji caught us by surprise as we were not expecting it judging from the cloudy skies that afternoon. As we ascend higher, the view gets further but you get to see more of Fujisan. Even though it was kind of cloudy & foggy, being able to see Fujisan from such a distance was really a blessing! According to google maps distance measurement, it was more than 28km away!
B. Kawaguchiko Station
If you’re taking public transport, you will probably arrive/depart from Kawaguchiko Station. It is a small but self sufficient station with the usual station necessities – lockers, toilets, souvenir shop, food choices & ticketing counter. Take a few steps (alright maybe twenty) to the road across the station and you will be greeted with a
warm distant welcome from the majestic Fujisan. A little hidden by the clouds but it is pretty close by, at 15.56km away. This view is usually better in early mornings when it is not cloudy.
View at 2:01PM
View at 10:34am (iPhone 5s)
C. Chureito Pagoda / Arakura Sengen
This Shrine/Pagoda wasn’t originally in my itinerary as the online reviews said that you need to be really early in order to see the best view of Fujisan from this spot. The very nice photos you see online probably came from people who have their own private transport as the public transport starts running very late (at least for the retro buses – its 9am). Another reason that discouraged me from visiting was that the climb up is 376 steps (A number I got off google search, not my actual count). What if you tire yourself out like shit and realise that you can’t see Mt Fuji after all that effort?
Well, we ended up visiting this place because we couldn’t change our bus ticket to an earlier timing (Bus from Kawaguchi to Shinjuku was scheduled at 8:15pm) so we had quite a fair bit of time (retro bus stops at 6pm) and that this Pagoda was accessible via train which ran later. No more excuses to be lazy and the climb was rewarded with a lovely sight of Fujisan and a good workout. Thank you for station lockers. We could store our huge backpacks in the paid lockers at the station. I have no idea how terrible it would have been if we had to lug it with the climb. Anyway, it was nice to have a sunset tint in the photo which looks prettier than my eyes, with the auto enhancement by my canon s120.
Distance check: 16.52km
The more ordinary photo taken by iPhone 5s
Looking down on the buildings at the bottom somehow reminded me of my walk down from Namsan Tower back in 2011. #reallyrandom
Anyway, it is possible to drive your own car up the winding road to the pagoda during non-peak periods. Yes I was pretty jealous of all those people sitting in the cars while I struggle to catch my breath but then again, I think by putting in effort for this 376-steps climb, it makes the reward (the view) even sweeter.
Second last photo of Fujisan in my trip – taken during the walk from the Pagoda back to the train station.
This was the last photo of Fujisan I took this trip – taken moments before I boarded the train from Shimo-Yoshida Station back to Kawaguchiko Station.
For a moment, I was thinking that I could actually live here if I do decide to stay in Japan. The thought of waking up to Fujisan everyday from your bedroom window feels really refreshing.
D. Komaya Ryokan (across Lake Kawaguchi)
Komaya ryokan is the most value for money accommodation in my entire trip and it is extremely difficult to book. I altered my itinerary slightly just to fit in its room availability. Why? You can witness the beautiful Fuji reflection in the comfort of your own bedroom at a steal of less than SGD $190/night (twin sharing). From here, Fujisan is 17.84km away.
I woke up at 4:29am and took this photo in the comfort and warmth of my room. I was feeling lazy to get out since the view from here is already perfect.
4:34 am (iPhone 5S)
5:09 am (iPhone 5S)
9:15 am (Canon S120)
We were very lucky to have been assigned the second room from the left (of the photo below). If we got the third room, our view might have been blocked by the trees.
(Unverified thoughts) Anyway, it seems like there are only 4 rooms which offer Mt Fuji views but booking.com has a listing for 7 rooms. However, when we were there, there were only 5 groups assigned for the bath timings (5 bookings) and it was indicated as sold out on booking.com. Perhaps they only take a maximum of 5 bookings at any one time and of which only 4 will receive rooms with Mt Fuji view. This is only my speculation by the way. I’ll elaborate more on this ryokan in my future postings.
E – Nature Living Centre (Last stop for Red Line Route)
This place is situated at the last station of the Retro Bus Red Line. We visited this location because we were early enough to catch the first bus (9am+) out from Kawaguchiko Station for the loop trip. If the season is right, there will be beautiful flowers grown at the area. Nevertheless, we are happy just to see Mt Fuji (again). Full view of Mt Fuji but no reflection of Fuji in the water. Distance check – 17.5km away from Fuji.
F. Lake Saiko
We were in this area for the Aokigahara walk. Followed the recommended trail which starts at Saiko Bat Cave and got out within 20 minutes. We were probably walking at lightning speed as we were all alone on a Sunday afternoon. You can really experience the chills deafening silence but I’ll touch on my experience in another entry. Anyway, after we finished the trail and got out to the main road, we followed another dirt path which brought us to Lake Saiko and Fujisan was there greeting us again!
Distance check – 15.82km
G. Shibasakura Pink Moss Festival
Since I missed the Sakura season (usually in April), Wisteria season (early May), the only flowers that I could see in the region at my travel timing was this Pink Moss festival. According to the festival dates as indicated on the website, the season is from 16 April to 29 May 2016. This means that the peak will be during the 1st & 2nd week of May and that I shouldn’t be expecting much for my scheduled visit on 21st May. I’ve visited the Tulips festival in Amsterdam nearing the end of season and I could still see a decent amount of tulips but this time round, the fields were pretty barren and green. As a result, the festival ground was free of charge and we only had to pay for the return bus ticket. I visited this festival in the afternoon as someone from Hardwarezone Travel forum said that there may be strong backlight of Fujisan if we visited in the day as Mt Fuji is east of the festival venue.
Well, pink flowers aside, there was a blurry Mt Fuji view waiting for us.
Distance Check: 14.36km (2nd nearest Mt Fuji sighting spot)
The sakura flavour ice cream is not nice at all. It tasted slightly weird. I guess sakura is probably tasteless anyway.
To end it off, here’s my expectations vs reality video that I posted on Instagram.
Anyway, my recommendation is that you should check their facebook for the latest update before deciding to go down. It’s really not as pretty andI think
H. Mt Fuji 5th Station
This is the closest you can get to Mt Fuji without making the climb up. Distance Check: 3.38km
Well, from this point, you can only see half of Fujisan as you are kind of already on the halfway mark of Mt Fuji. On the way up, I did feel that my ears had that adjusting air pressure. It was definitely one of my clearest view of Fuji, well obviously since it is the nearest. Anyway, the 5th station area is kind of touristy. There were many tour buses and cars and even cyclists (yes cycling upslope) as it was a sunday. We did not explore much in this area – only the shrine and the souvenir shops. The short stay allowed us to catch the next bus down the mountain.
That’s the end of my entry. Do you know any other spots where you can take breathtaking photos of Mt Fuji? Do share with me in the comments below and I can pin them down for my next trip!
If you’re following my blog updates, the next one should be about my 1 night experience in a Capsule Hotel near Tokyo Station!
Hope the information in my entry is useful and thanks for reading through the end! Here’s a very useful link in case you want to know the snow condition of Mt Fuji. It takes photos of Fuji every hour!