Last Christmas, my friends and I spent 2.5 days (23rd-25th of December) around the Fuji Five Lakes as a start of our Christmas holidays tour. Our hotel was located next to the second lake, Kawaguchiko, which is the lake that is the most easily accessible with normal train and bus connections. Lucky for us though, we didn’t go there by bus or train, but we rented a car yet again! This made it a lot easier to travel around and to see the area around Mount Fuji and the other lakes!
Our hostel, named K’s house, is a great place to stay for a couple of days! We had a Japanese style room, unfortunately with futons (I like them less, just give me a normal bed and I’m happier!), but the kitchen was absolutely fabulous! The large and open kitchen had two stoves and lots of refrigerators and pans, pots, cups, etc. This meant that it was very easy to cook for yourself instead of eating somewhere else (because it was Christmas (and the Emperor’s birthday on the 23rd of December), most of the restaurants were either fully booked, or closed). There was even an Italian restaurant with my name (‘La Luce’) ! But that one was completely booked so we couldn’t eat there, what a bummer .. :c
The first day (the 23rd), we went to ‘our’ lake, we had a nice walk in the Saikoyachonomori Park and we visited Iyashi no Sato. And after that it was already dark, because we also traveled to this location from Saitama (which is about a 2 hours drive without traffic).
This park, located next to Lake Saiko, was okay to see. It was not that spectacular, but you can spend approximately an hour around the park, depending on the weather, just looking around and just go for a stroll underneath the trees. There were also some old / reconstructed houses, but you can also see those in the Ayashi no Soto ‘village’.
Iyashi no Sato
This reconstructed farming village lies on the West side of Lake Saiko, which is the third lake. For a small fee you can walk around this open air museum and enjoy the great views of Mount Fuji at the same time. When we went there, the sky was clear, which means that you had a clear view on Fuji. If it’s (very) cloudy, the views will be less nice.
The village itself consists of twenty old houses that have been converted into shops. Inside the houses, you can either learn about the history of the village, or see local handcrafted items (and you can also buy them of course, but don’t expect low prices).
And of course, this wouldn’t be Japan without some cute creatures! In this case some owl statues who you could give some 1 Yen coins to pray or to make a wish.
In one of the houses, you can even try on kimomos or samurai clothes for a small fee (and take some pictures of course!). We didn’t do this because the sun was setting and we didn’t have a lot of time left on our first day.
You can also find the Bat cave, the Ice cave and the Wind cave next to Lake Saiko. We couldn’t visit these caves because we didn’t have enough time and one of them was closed anyways.
We spent the second day looking for shrines, temples and pagodas and enjoying more Mount Fuji views! Among others, we visited the oldest shrine in the area and some newer ones as well. There are lots of shrines in the neighborhood, so if you’re interested, you came to the right place!
I would say that one of the most stunning views that we had (including surroundings) of Mount Fuji was when we went to the Chureito Pagoda. This pagoda is located on the East side of Lake Kawaguchiko and with Mount Fuji in the background, it’s just a great sight and I would suggest everyone to finish the pagoda! The red of the pagoda and the large mountain in the background. Just amazing. It was too bad for us that the sky was cloudy when we went to the pagoda, which means that the pictures that I made turned out like the one below. But still, to see it in real life was an amazing experience!
Be warned though! There are a lot of stairs that you’ll need to climb before you can access the view on the top of the mountain! (We had a car, so we could just drive up :p). The view is definitely worth it though!
The area around the so-called ‘Mother’s White Waterfall’ also had a beautiful view on Mount Fuji. We went there after the visit to the pagoda. I would say that you’ll need a car to reach the waterfall, because I didn’t see any sort of public transport in the area to get to the waterfall. The waterfall is somewhere on a part of another mountain, which means that you can also see Lake Kawaguchiko from here. The waterfall itself is located North-East of Lake Kawaguchiko.
It all started out as a very small, but pretty waterfall, with a nice little gate and shrine next to it. After we looked around a little bit more, we discovered stairs that led up the mountain! You can have an amazing hike here, enjoying the forest and the higher parts of the waterfall.
After visiting the small, but beautiful waterfall, we went to the Lake Motosu. We thought that there would be something really interesting there, but in the end we just got out of the car to make a quick picture of Mount Fuji before driving back.
Aokigahara, a.k.a. the suicide forest and locally known as the ‘Sea of Trees’, was our next stop. This old forest with its huge trees lies on the South side between lakes Shoji and Saiko. It’s nickname is ‘the suicide forest’, since lots of Japanese people kill themselves inside the forest. You should stick to the paths, or else you might get lost. I think there are special tours that wander off the paths, and that go looking for dead bodies! We didn’t do that though, it was already and experience to see the forest itself (and I’m not looking forward to searching for dead bodies). But if you’re a daredevil and you would like to try to find some dead people, I would suggest you to go away from the path !
The forest itself is actually very beautiful I would say. It’s completely quiet when you walk around and the nature is impressive. When we arrived at the forest, it was already getting dark, so we walked around for an hour or so before we went back to our hostel.
On the 25th of December, we woke up early in the morning to start our long drive towards our next destination, which was Nagoya! My next blog will be about this large city (as well as Inuyama)