Two days of our journey we spent at the base of Mt. Fuji. Together with our friend Paul who lives in Tokyo we went to a tiny town called Fujiyoshida and had a great time there.
To get there, we took an early bus from Shinjuku station. We did not buy tickets in advance, and we got really lucky to get the last three tickets. Despite the pandemic, the bus was full. As we arrived, we headed straight to the hotel and left our luggage there. The ‘hotel’ was in fact an old two-storey house with a couple of spacious tatami-flloor rooms managed by a friendly Japanese old lady, who gave us a key to our room and demonstrated how to make a futon bed. We’ve already done it so many times in the past, but I guess they always show it to foreigners.
After we left our luggage, we went to explore. We did not have a clear plan, just a list of the sights we wanted to visit. We were also not sure, which of them were open, since many museums and public places in the country were closed due to the pandemic. To our luck, there was a tourist information center, where a nice lady gave us a map of the area, marking close and open attractions. This was super useful, as she also marked the spots of our interest and advised from where and at what time of day Mt. Fuji looks at its best, and told us which transportation means should we take to get to these places. In addition, she also instructed us what to do in case we experience COVID symptoms and gave us a phone number to call, should this happen.
Mt. Tenjo Panoramic Ropeway (also known as Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway)
Although the lady from the tourist information office told us the view from Mt. Tenjo is better in the morning, we could not afford waiting, as we also had other plans for the next day.
We took a cable a car to get on top. There we saw a small caffe, an observation deck and several hilarious figures of tanuki, or Japanese raccoon dog, and a bunny. The observatory has a view of the lake, as well as Aokigahara forest, and Mount Fuji.
It was windy and very sunny. The sky was so clear! Not the best condition for photography, but the view was still enjoyable. From there, we also could see the Fuji-Q Highland, the amusement park which stood silent these days, closed for indefinite time because of the pandemic. It brought back memories of one sunny autumn day Sergio and I spent there a couple of years ago.
Some moments later the summit was covered by a cloud.
It was so cold there! Despite the fact that I put on all the clothes I had, it was still freezing cold.
Now what’s the deal with these tanuki and bunny figures? It turned out, there is a folktale about this place, and these two animals are its main heroes. The line name Mt. Kachi Kachi comes from this folktale. Despite the fact they seem so cute, the tale is rather dark and includes torture and death. Better read it yourself.
Walking along the shore of Lake Kawaguchi
As next we wanted to see a great photographic spot in the Oishi Park. At first, we though we would be able to get there on foot before the sunset, so we walked along the shore of Lake Kawaguchi, enjoying the view and the nice conversation.
At some point we realized that the sunset may actually come sooner than we expected. Luckily, we were walking along the bus route.
Sunset views of Mt. Fuji at the Oishi Park
We arrived to the spot just in time. The sun already started to set and I enjoyed photographing Mt. Fuji in changing light.
Finally, it got dark, and we headed back to the bus. On the way, we saw a very interesting example of modern architecture. It turned out to be the Hoshinoya resort. I would definitely love to spend a night there someday.
The bus brought us back to the ropeway station. From there, we got to walk a little towards the train station. Our hotel was one train stop away from where we were, but before we took the train, we had a nice dinner at a tempura restaurant not far from the station.
Back to the train station
At the station, we had to wait a bit, and when the train arrived it turned out to be decorated with anime characters.
My plan was to get up early on the next day and to get to one interesting photo spot to make use of the beautiful morning light. The guys, who are not that passionate about photography, wouldn’t join. I was still jetlagged and, oh well, I’m not a morning person (especially during vacation), so the plan failed on my side, too.
Once we all were ready, we moved our luggage into the locker at the train station to save some time later. Our return bus tickets were for later time, so we had plenty of time to see the remaining sights on our list.
We enjoyed some combini snacks and coffee for breakfast and walked towards, perhaps, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region and in Japan, but I’ll come later to that. Again, we chose walking, as we wanted to see the town.
We passed by some temples and blooming trees, enjoying the ambience of the provincial town, which at some moments seemed even deserted. It was out of season, plus the pandemic played its role. The streets were empty and almost all local stores and restaurants we were passing by were closed.
Many associate Japan with skyscrapers and hi-tech, however, this country has another face — its countryside, which I find absolutely charming. A railroad, a web of wires connecting electricity poles, and a badass mountain in the background — I could easily imagine it being a scene from an anime of some well-known director.
Chureito Pagoda in Arakurayama Sengen Park
And here we are, at one of the most famous sights in Japan! The sight of the five-story Chureito Pagoda in Arakurayama Sengen Park is probably known to everyone. Usually accompanied with cherry blossoms, it often decorates tourist booklets or general articles about Japan. Finally, we got to see this spot with our own eyes!
As you can see in the photographs, we were a bit early for cherry blossoms, and the sun was on the ‘wrong’ side (and I didn’t bring any lens filters), so I didn’t manage to take a booklet-level masterpiece shot. We still enjoyed the view, though.
Hopefully someday I’ll get to see this place in its full beauty with cherry blossoms around.
Back to the town
We still had plenty of time before our bus back to Tokyo, so, again, we chose to walk back to the town. We walked along the Honcho street enjoying the view.
Kitaguchi-hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine
Our next destination was Kitaguchi-hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine, a UNESCO-listed Shinto shrine complex. The first religious building was built at this very spot in 100 A.D., and since then the place served religious purposes. As the starting point of the Yoshida Trail, during the Edo Period, it was used by pilgrims to pray before their religious pilgrimage up to Mt. Fuji’s summit.
These days the shrine consists of several wooden structures. I found the stone lanterns framing the path through the forest and the surrounding trees which must be over hundred years old especially impressive.
Right next to the temple stood a retro coffee bus. Of course I couldn’t resist trying their coffee! I even managed to have a small talk in Japanese with the shop owner, who told me that he roasts the beans manually in a small roaster — he actually had it there in the bus!
We had a simple dinner in one of Matsuya restaurants we found there. After that, it started getting dark, Mt. Fuji completely hid behind thick clouds and it was freezing cold. Fortunately, we stumbled upon a Don Quijote store (or simply Donki), one of those which sell everything possible. We decided to use the opportunity to buy some things from our list to bring home.
It was definitely a great trip with lots of walking and seeing great things. We will definitely return to the area once it will be possible again.
Photos taken in March 2020