I know there are a lot of travel blogs that talked about going to Fujisan from Tokyo but found that there are still a lot of information, especially small ones that added a bit of anxiety to the whole side trip from Tokyo. So here I am talking about the trip and the photos I have made while there.
Why Fujisan Kawaguchiko?
I guess this goes without saying that this is one of the iconic places in Japan you would want to visit when you are in Japan more so if you are really into landscapes with a majestic mountain that dominates the area it makes for very beautiful images. To say it is breathtaking is an understatement and not tough to see why the mountain is the centre of the Japanese culture over the centuries and millennia.
A lot of people say a day trip is sufficient. However stayed for a night and think having 3 days 2 nights is a better bet. The area around the 5 lakes is considered huge and have lots of shooting opportunities and enjoying the area is not just about the mountain but also nature. There is even a birding area one can trek and attempt shooting birds.
Going to Kawaguchiko
This is from Japan-Guide.
“Take the JR Chuo Line from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station to Otsuki Station (70 minutes, about 2500 yen by direct limited express train or 100 minutes, 1320 yen by local trains with usually one transfer along the way). From Otsuki, take the Fujikyu Railway Line to Kawaguchiko Station (55 minutes, 1140 yen one way). The JR Tokyo Wide Pass covers the entire journey (except panorama seats on limited express trains); however, the Japan Rail Pass and other JR passes are not valid between Otsuki and Kawaguchiko.”
Sounds simple right?
So I got the 5 day non-consecutive JR Pass so I could not use it for the train line between Otsuki to Kawaguchiko. My experience on that day was pretty chaotic so I am trying to make it clear for you guys.
When you arrived at Otsuki, you will proceed to the Fujikyu Line’s platform. At the entrance, there are two lines. On the left is the ticketing line and on the right is for the SUICA card users (Their version of Hong Kong’s Octopus and Singapore’s EZ-Link). The ticketing line is much longer.
There are three options in hind sight a) If you use the JR Pass, that means one day is used up and you still have to Q for the ticket (at that time was a super long Q) hence waste more time. b) Use the SUICA card to pay for the trip. c) Tokyo wide pass that means you can only go in a limited area.
Usage of the JR Pass depending on how long you want to stay and also your itinerary. I would save the JR Pass for a day trip instead (means going to a place and back to hotel in Tokyo for example). If you have unused days for the pass or have planned exactly how to use the pass, the do go ahead and use it.
Since I am doing a one-nighter, then doing a one way trip through train using the SUICA card is much faster as I can skip the super long line buying the connecting train ticket. I would then pay using the card at Kawaguchiko station. Hope this tip helps.
Before going to Hotel/Omni Bus Tips
Once you are out of the station, head to the counter just outside the station to get the 2 days bus pass costing aroun 1500 yen. There are three lines – red, green and blue – with the red being the most popular. Of the 4 lakes, spend more time on Kawaguchiko and perhaps dedicate a day for the Blue Line. Skip the green line unless you want to visit Saiko Iyahi no Sato Nemba.
The timing for both the red and green lines are more frequent so there are opportunities for you to explore the area using these lines at a slower pace. The blue line is about 2 hours apart so have to plan the trip to Motosuko in more detail (bus schedule) and would require a full day’s worth of travelling to truly enjoy the area.
If you can, I would rather rent a car. So I won’t be held hostage by the bus lines.
Tenjoyama / Kachi Kachi Ropeway
Our hotel is actually at the foot of the Tenjoyama overlooking the Lake. Since we arrived early to the lake and unable to check in, we decided to take the Kachi Kachi Ropeway and check out the scene of Fuji mountain. In short it turned out to be a wise move with the mountain showing its face in full glory.
My Hotel: Koryu (湖龙)
There are lots of hotels in the vicinity but those just next to the lake are definitely a better bet. Walking to the lake from the station and the surrounding hotels is also do’able just that the station is at a higher elevation than the lake so there is some hill climbing involved.
My choice of Koryu Hotel because it is a traditional hotel room because my love for Tatami mat knows no bound. The location is not the best because it doesn’t face Fujisan but consequently, it also mean that the room price is cheaper than the other hotels facing the mountain. It is also located next to the Onsen town of Azagawa just one bus stop away so it is a good compromise. In any case, the hotel itself has its own onsen and we had a gorgeous view of the lake too.
To take advantage of the free bus transfer, you have to arrive at Kawaguchiko at around 3pm. To me that’s a wasted day so best to arrive early, enjoy the place then check in.
Red Line: Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center/Music Box Forest
The red line didn’t go all around the lake but stopped by the Kawaguichiko Natural Living center before returning to the train station. Right at this spot, we are able to have an unobstructed view of the mountain with the Lake in the foreground. And with added bonus, the Cherry Blossoms in the area are in full bloom when those in Japan has already shed their petals. We are even more fortunate to really enjoy a corridor of Cherry Blossom trees lit up by street lamps and the experience was truly magical. No wonder they have a Music Box Forest Museum here.
All these would not have happened if we managed to catch the last bus back.
Green Line: Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba / Fugaku Fuketsu
On the second day of the trip, we decided to take the green line and visit the West Lake. We meander through the southern shore of Lake Kawaguchiko then enter Lake Saiko through the eastern entrance. Long story short, you won’t see much of Mount Fuji here until you reach the Iyashi-no-Sato (or healing town).
Not sure how to say this but it is sort of a theme park. This village is reconstructed from an actual farming village that was destroyed in a severe typhoon in 1966. Right now it is occupied by craft and souvenir shops and hands-on workshops making washi paper and soba noodles. I do love the architecture although it feels very ‘artificial’. Two hours is enough for this location.
We next ventured to the Fugaku Fuketsu or Wind Tunnel. The tunnel is actually a lava cave and was converted into a natural refrigeration system to keep seeds and silkworms alive for silk production throughout the year. It was refreshingly cold and if you do visit this area during the summer months, this place will be full of people to escape the heat.
Blue Line: Kodai Fuji View Point
The original plan was to take the green line all the way back to Kawaguchiko station and take the 4pm bus back to Shinjuku. However, because of the slight disappointment with Lake Saito, I decided to make a last ditch effort to capture more of Fujisan (the second day that its summit can be seen, it is definitely not luck).
So we took the blue line at bus stop number 71 and go towards Motosuko Lake but stopping at Kodaki Fuji View Point to take in the view of Fujisan with the pink sakura in the foreground. After that, we have only around 15 minutes of photo taking before the Blue Line bus makes it way back to the same spot and return to the Station.
All the Tips
- Use the SUICA to pay for the trip to Kawaguchiko. Only the JR Tokyo Wide Pass covers the local train to Kawaguchiko Station and that would mean queueing up to pay for another ticket if you are using the other JR pass. Pay through SUICA to me is the fastest.
- Get the Heritage Bus tickets for 2 days once you reach the area.
- It is better to rent the car and really explore the place by yourself. You can actually use the car as the locker for your luggage.
- Have google translate app in case the service staff have issues understanding you.
- If you are staying in the small hotel, make sure you let them know you want to exit the hotel early in the morning to shoot the sunrise.
- Dedicate one whole day to explore Lake Motosuko as it is a big area. Walking 4km to Koanso to take in the view of Fujisan as seen on the 1000 JPY bill is a nice walk but a great time waster as well and not recommended if you are pressed for time.
- Blue line bus time schedule is not frequent at all so take that into account when planning how to visit the places in Kawaguchiko.
What’s Next: Pole Pole Mountain Resort with Autumn Colours
A season bursting with vivid colours of red, yellow and orange. The perfect blend of earthy tones that will put anyone into the most relaxed mood.
As the year draws to a close, so is the time to harvest the apples and grapes. We all know how delicious the Japanese apples are.
– Very local attractions with very little other tourists. Your experience will be very unique.
– Autumn leaves in the mountain range especially beautiful at Mount Haguro trek up to the temple.
– Mogami River Boat Cruising
– Ginzan Hotspring
– Soba making experience
– Majestic Waterfall view with the autumn colours
– Omakase Sushi (the freshest Sushi you will ever taste)
– Apple picking
– Japanese tea ceremony with authentic Japanese Kimono
– 4 hours basic photography workshop and basic editing. Practical tips will be given at each shooting location. Fireworks require the use of a mirrorless with the minimum focal distance of 18mm (12mm lens on APS-C sensors, 7mm for Olympus/Lumix MicroFourThirds system)
If you need more information do contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The equipment I used:
- Asus Zoom S (or Zenfone 3 Zoom); Album
- Huawei P10 Plus; Album
- Nikon D500 with Laowa 12mm f2.8 No Distortion Ultra Wide lens mostly; Album
This is part 1 of a 3 part write up on my Japan trip. You can access the other parts
Part 2: Fujikawaguchiko