Mount Fuji is arguably the most iconic view of Japan known all over the world. Many travelers wish to go and visit Mount Fuji, to climb or just bask in the views. However, it is worthwhile to spend a good few days in the area, as there is a lot to do! Climbing Mount Fuji is only possible two months of the year, but don’t let that put you off going to visit. Seeing Mount Fuji outside of the climbing season can be a great experience, too!
Lake Kawaguchi is the most accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes with direct trains and bus routes from Tokyo. The lake not only boasts some great tourist attractions but also has some excellent views of Mount Fuji, especially when framed by delicate sakura blossoms or vibrant autumn foliage. Lake Kawaguchi is my favorite place to stay when visiting this area as it has a number of hotels, hostels, and ryokans to stay in and a lot of shops and restaurants, too. Around Lake Kawaguchi is many beautiful views – Sakura trees and Momiji trees were strategically planted to give brilliant vistas across the lake with Mount Fuji in the backdrop. If you want more of a bird’s-eye view, you can travel up the Kachi Kachi Ropeway. Traveling up by cable car (or ropeway in Japan), you will get a stunning view of the lake. You may notice many plastic animals lining the way playing out a story. These are the rabbits and Japanese raccoon dogs (tanuki) in a vengeful battle, but you’ll have to visit yourself to see how it turns out. Lake Kawaguchi also serves as a hub for accessing other local areas, such as the Fuji-Q Highland and Oshino Hakkai. Here are my 3 top recommendations for things to do and see around Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji.
The first thing you think of when imagining a visit to Mount Fuji is probably not a theme park, but Fuji-Q is a draw for this area and famous in its own right. Fuji-Q Highland has even won a number of records for their rides and coasters, so it is a great quality park to visit.
In 1996, Fuji-Q Highland opened the Fujiyama roller coaster, the world’s tallest and fastest in the world at the time. Although Fujiyama lost its title, a newer ride, Dodonpa, opened in 2001, now holds the record for the fastest accelerating coaster in the world! That isn’t the end of the records held by Fuji-Q Highland as Eejanaika is the coaster with the most inversions and Takabisha is the steepest roller coaster in the world! So a trip to Fuji-Q Highland allows you to ride three of the fastest, steepest, or most inverted coasters available. If you like your thrills, then why not pay a visit?
Even if you aren’t a thrill seeker, there are attractions at the park to please most people, including Thomas Land where you can see Thomas the Tank Engine from the British TV series. There are mazes to get lost in and even famous anime attractions to be immersed in. And after a hard day of riding the rails, you can nip outside and relax in the hot waters of Highland Resort Hotel and Spa or the nearby Fujiyama Onsen. All of this is available with the added bonus of catching glimpses of one of the most famous mountains in the world, Mount Fuji!
Oshino Hakkai are eight sacred ponds filled by snowmelt from the sacred Mount Fuji. The waters here are so clear as it takes around 80 years for the water to filter through the rock and lava of Mount Fuji before filling up these pools. The village around the ponds is between Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Yamanaka and are accessible on the Retro bus which services the Five Lake region. The area here is quite quaint, although can become rather filled with tourists. Around the ponds are traditional looking thatched buildings and picturesque trees and plants. The ponds themselves, as the water is so clear and pure, are full of plants and fish that are beautiful to view.
If you get hungry, then your tummy may lead you to some of the outdoor grills roasting sweet potatoes and warm rice crackers for your enjoyment. Alongside ponds and nature, the area also has a small museum, Hannoki Bayashi Shiryokan, where you can see traditional buildings, farming equipment, and samurai memorabilia. For the photographers, this is also a great opportunity to get some snaps of Japan from years gone by and traditional thatched buildings with the iconic peak of Fuji behind.
I have left my number one favorite spot to last, Chureito Pagoda. Many of you will be familiar with this area from photographs and travel guides. However, even with its popularity, this area is less often visited than other famous views of Japan which is such a shame.
Chureito Pagoda itself is a five-story pagoda built on the mountain side looking over Fujinomiya as part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine, a shrine devoted to the god of Mount Fuji. Raised in 1963, the pagoda was built for peace, and they chose a tranquil location for its surroundings. The pagoda is accessed via either 400 steps or a more gentle road up via car. On your way up, you will be surrounded by nature, beautiful trees, and even monkeys and boars (if you are lucky/unlucky). Entering the shrine area through a large gate (torii), you will see the rest of the mountain. The path behind the pagoda is not paved, but a well-trodden area is obvious, bringing you to that iconic view.
As Fuji is a shy mountain, the view is not guaranteed, but you can increase your chances of success by visiting early in the morning or during the cooler winter months. The view is improved further through the blooming of the cherry blossoms and the changing of the autumn leaves. 400 steps have never been so rewarding!
These are just a few of the great outings you can do while staying in or around Lake Kawaguchi. There are certainly more but these are a great start.