Mount Fuji is arguably one of the most recognisable and iconic aspects of Japanese scenery, representing both the beauty of it’s landscape and spiritual ideology. For centuries Mount Fuji has been admired by the Japanese and worshipped in both Shintoism and Buddhism and has been the subject of many famous artworks especially from Ando Hiroshige in his 36 views series and Katsushika Hokusai’s “Great Wave off Kanagawa2”. Mount Fuji was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2013 which has only added to the popularity of Mount Fuji as a national and international tourist destination, attracting more people to climb to the summit than ever. Weather conditions limit climbing of Fuji to just two months of each year during the summer when temperatures and wind speed reach a more human friendly l evel and the ascent is not covered in snow.
However climbing to the summit is not the only way to appreciate the beauty of Fuji, the surround five lake area offers unrivalled views of the most famous peak in Japan.
I am sure you are all familiar with the beautiful and iconic view of Mount Fuji alongside a pagoda;
Chureito pagoda is a five storied pagoda resting on the side of a nearby mountain facing Fuji, built as part of Arakura Sengen Shrine in 1963. Although much viewed and photographed this location is lesser know to travellers outside of Japan.
With the sakura season just starting, with the first buds opening in Tokyo over the weekend, now is a brilliant time of year to ascend the 400 steps to the pagoda to snap some truly beautiful and stereotypical views of Japan. Chureito pagoda is also breath-taking when viewed during the autumn colours in late November and even during the summer months is something not to be missed.
The closest train station to the Arakura Sengen Shrine area is Shimo-Yoshida station on the Fujikyu Railway line so is easily accessible from the Five Lakes region or for a daytrip from Tokyo. The Shrine complex is a 10-15 minute walk from the station, or there is nearby parking if you wish to travel by car, which can get quite busy during peak seasons, there is also parking outside Shimo-Yoshida station. If walking from the station you can be treated with views of Japanese rural life, passing quaint houses and small gardens filled with traditional Japanese vegetables and decoration.
The shrine complex is often overshadowed by the pagoda itself, however is beautiful to have a walk around during any season. The shrine complex is much less modernised than many shrines locally, especially those in Tokyo. Nestled in a tree filled area the shrine can really be a step back in time for visitors and, especially when visited out of season, can be a place for quiet reflection isolated from the hustle and bustle of local tourist spots.
The pagoda itself is accessed up 400 steps from the shrine complex, although tiring the climb is worth the energy and the tree lined steps are a sight in themselves.
I myself visited the Chureito pagoda in September and even in the blistering heat and humidity the climb and views were worth all the effort I expended.
Even when Fuji is bathed in clouds and the sakura trees have gone to leaf the view was spectacular. The best time of day to visit the pagoda is early morning before the clouds begin to cover the peak of Mount Fuji and the direction of the sun allows for the clearest pictures.
The blossoms in the area bloom later than the surrounding areas due to the altitude and usually reach their peak in mid-April so is a great place to catch a view of the sakura season if visiting Japan later in the spring.
Chureito pagoda and the five lake region are a stunning area of Japan to visit during any season, please go and have a look yourself.