Fuji-san and the Five Lakes

imageI had a good feeling about going to Mt Fuji and the Five Lakes. I’d once seen Mt Fuji on a clear evening while traveling along the Tokkaido shinkansen. Fuji-san and the sky were glowing pastel purples and pinks and the clouds looked like they were alight. I could see instantly why the Japanese revere Fuji. I really want to watch sunrise from the summit one day.

If you are planning to visit the Fuji Five Lakes area, just be aware that all public transport is provided by Fujikyu and is not covered by the JR Rail Pass. One way on the train from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko will set you back ¥1,140. Adding a pit stop at the Chureito Pagoda will take that to ¥1,260. Probably also best not to try and get there from Nikko like we did if you don’t like long transits.

From Kawaguchiko you can take Fujikyu buses all around the Five Lakes. We took a ¥1,260 bus to Lake Motosu, but unfortunately it doesn’t go past any of the campsites there.

We hoped to walk just 2km to Motosu Lakeside Camping on the northeastern side of the lake, but there was no view of Fuji-san. So we trudged on to the Koan Camp Ground a further 2km up the road on the northwestern corner. It saved us a 4km round trip to see sunset and/or sunrise I guess and wow was it worth it!

Sunset was a bit uneventful due to thick cloud cover, but Mt Fuji did glow a little red. The extra walking to Koan Camp Ground was exhausting, but worth it (not without in-transit complaining), we camped right on the water’s edge with a fantastic view of Mt Fuji just like the ¥1,000 note. A thousand yen is also meant to be the price of camping though the shop was closed when we left in the morning and we had no idea where else to pay. Free works for me!

During the night the winds calmed and the lake became still. The clouds also cleared revealing the stars and so I tried some astrophotography.

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Stars over Fuji-san

I tried to do some star trails and put the lens cap on to avoid the dew while I tweaked settings, but stupidly I forgot to take it off and didn’t realise until 20 minutes later. The best part was that when I tried again the camera had become cold enough to ironically collect dew during my next shot.

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Irony prevails, but the shot is still somewhat useable

Fortunately I had better luck in the morning. It was really chilly, but still quite calm. There were dozens of kayaks available and so some people set out onto the lake and into the subtle mist.

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So many kayaks at the lake. We should have pinched some.

After taking it all in and expending our 7 Eleven breakfast, we began the walk back to the bus stop. Despite being so friendly and helpful in person, I was surprised to find no Japanese would stop to pick us up while we tried to hitchhike. Plenty of big 4WDs and minivans cruised past us, but at least they gave us a huge clearance. Maybe we looked diseased, I don’t know.

We’d slogged out three of the four kilometres. Our bags somehow weighed more than last night. I had given up on attempting to hitchhike the last kilometre, but then I realised maybe someone was going to Kawaguchiko. A series of cars approached and I threw my thumb out late, but to our delight a car indicated and pulled over. A posh car surprisingly.

Inside was an old Japanese guy who was headed to work on a Saturday. He looked wealthy and was dressed very casual. From talking to him it seemed he just needed to do some things for a friend or business colleague. Packs of cigarettes filled the car, but no smell of smoke. He had the US Masters golf tournament playing on the TV – I don’t think you can get TVs in the front in Australia. We had a good chat despite the language barrier and he dropped us right back in the city centre saving us ¥1,260. I bowed as low as I could with my heavy pack and said farewell.

From there we ditched our bags in the lockers at Kawaguchiko Station (¥700 seems to be the norm for the bigger ones), grabbed a map and headed off towards the north side of the lake where there were a few view points.

Walking took much longer than expected and the eastern side of Lake Kawaguchi is pretty uneventful. We ended up jumping on a bus (just a few hundred Yen) to save time and probably should have done this from the start and gone all the way to Oishi Park.

The flowers weren’t in full bloom at Oishi Park, but we managed to amuse ourselves for a while before walking back east along the lake. Had the bikes not been so expensive it would have been a nice option. Near the station bikes were anything up to ¥3,000 for an hour or so, but I saw a place giving them out for ¥1,000 on the way home near the south east corner of the lake.

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Spring at Lake Kawaguchi

From that point as you head back towards the bridge you’ll come across the cherry blossoms at the Nagasaki Viewpoint and a nice canal with markets and restaurants around it.

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This branch seemed to perfectly frame Fuji-san

All up the walk back to the station took a little over an hour.

There’s one more place worth checking out before you leave Fuji Five Lakes, so don’t rush off. It only cost an extra ¥120 on the way back to Tokyo to stop at Shimo-Yoshida for the Chureito Pagoda.

It’s a fair walk up the hill but it’s a beautiful shrine, especially during cherry blossom season.

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Chureito Pagoda on a cloudy day

From here I had another stop in Tokyo to go to Kamakura and say goodbye to my travel partner. Afterwards though I headed up to Sendai as I was keen to go hiking at Zao Onsen.

Read more about this trip here

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