When one thinks of Japan, surely one of the first things that come to mind is Mount Fuji (富士山, Fujisan). Standing at 3776 meters tall, Mount Fuji is Japan's tallest mountain and is famous for its nearly symmetrical shape.
Since I live in the Kansai region, I was never able to take in the beauty of Mount Fuji. The only chance I had to catch a glimpse of it was on the shinkansen ride from Tokyo to Osaka when I first arrived in Japan. And of course, I fell asleep on the way and missed it entirely. But, seeing Mount Fuji while passing by on a train can't even compare to seeing it up close. Climbing trails are only open from July through August, so unfortunately, that wasn't an option for us (as if I would survive climbing it anyway LOL). We decided to view Mount Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko (河口湖) in Yamanashi Prefecture. Lake Kawaguchiko is one of the five lakes that lie on the northern base of Mount Fuji (Fuji Five Lakes) and is the most accessible and most popular one to view Mount Fuji from.
Although being the most accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes, Lake Kawaguchiko is still kind of a bitch to get to, especially with luggage. We were lucky to have caught a direct train, the Narita Express to Kawaguchiko Station from Tokyo Station that I believe only runs once a day in that direction and once a day back towards Narita Airport. Otherwise, a bit of transferring is required. And the JR Pass doesn't cover the entire trip.
We only spent one night at Lake Kawaguchiko and were hoping to be able to take photos on the lake at sunset with Mount Fuji in the background. We arrived at Lake Kawaguchiko a little after noon, dropped off our luggage at our hotel and headed off to go to Chureito Pagoda (忠霊塔, Chūreitō). It's pretty close to Lake Kawaguchiko and the views are amazing, so we decided to go there before coming back for sunset.
Chureito Pagoda is a pretty well-known 5-story pagoda that sits on the mountainside and overlooks the city of Fujiyoshida with Mount Fuji in the distance. The pagoda is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built as a peace memorial in 1963. It is nearly 400 steps up the mountain from the shrine's main buildings and let me tell you, that was a biiiitch to climb up. It was pretty steep and seemed way more than 400 steps to me, like wayyyy more. I couldn't keep up with Justin and told him to go ahead of me. Felt like an old lady LOL. And after you finish the stairs, there a tad bit more to climb to get behind the pagoda. The view is worth it, though! It's a popular place to take photos especially in the spring, when the area is surrounded by cherry blossoms. We got bare trees in our photos, but it's still an amazing view.
Justin caught some pics of me trailing behind him LOL
When we got back to Lake Kawaguchiko, we thought we had plenty of time to get to the perfect spot on the lake for sunset. Well...it would have been plenty of time if we figured out which bus to take or if we rented bikes. Mount Fuji is best viewed from the northern shores of the lake and Kawaguchiko Station is south of the lake so we had a long way to walk. Justin has been to the lake before and rented a bike during that time, but I can barely ride a bike so I was too scared to ride a bike all that way. We walked for almost an hour to get to the other side of the lake. We kept an eye out for buses that were going in the same direction, but we could not figure out where the bus stops were or what bus to get on so we just decided to walk. It was a looooong walk and we were racing the clock to get there before sunset, but we did it! And it was soooo worth it. The lake itself is beautiful and the view of Mount Fuji from the northern shore of the lake is absolutely amazing.
Photos Justin took:
We stayed at the lake for a while and then we had to walk back to our hotel... It was really dark by then and almost no cars were on the road, I'm not even sure if there were buses around. And our hotel was pretty much on the exact opposite side of the lake as we were, at that moment. We walked another hour to our hotel, our poor feet! But, it was a peaceful walk along the lake with great company, so it wasn't bad at all. :)
We stayed at the Breezbay Lake Resort, which offers lakeside rooms with mountain views (not Mount Fuji though, the other mountain on the other side of the lake). And a good day got even better when we found out they have a buffet that includes drinks for ¥2000!!! With no time limit, too. The food was good, nothing spectacular, but who really cares when we're trying to drink as much as we can before the restaurant closes. Needless to say, we got full, got drunk, and stayed until they kicked us out. :)
Access to Lake Kawaguchiko:
From Tokyo Station:
There are many ways to get from Tokyo Station to Otsuki Station. There are different trains going at different speeds and stopping at different stops, but they are all on the CHUO Line. Best bet is to ask someone at the JR counter to help you. The main thing is you get on the Chuo Line and you get to Otsuki Station. And up until Otsuki Station, the JR Pass covers the cost.
From Otsuki Station:
Fujikyuko Line to Kawaguchiko Station ¥1540 (express train), 48 minutes / ¥1140 (local train), 1 hour 4 minutes
Access to Chureito Pagoda:
From Kawaguchiko Station:
Fujikyoko Line to Shimoyoshida Station ¥300, 13 minutes and 1.1 km walk, approximately a 20-minute walk
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