Sitting in a cafe at Shimoyoshida train station (yes, Japan’s train stations can offer very cozy and pleasant places) watch the movement of the station as visitors head for Arakuratama Sengen Park, one of the best high spots to observe Mount Fuji.
Mount Fuji is undoubtedly an unquestionable point of Japan’s iconography and has been present for centuries in literature and painting, receiving thousands of tourists, both foreign and local, the latter most during the weekends.
But there are many places to see from Mount Fuji, even on clear days you can see it from Tokyo. But to observe this still active volcano there are many chances, being the region called Fuji five Lakes the best base point to explore and observe this almost perfect volcanic cone.
From the Fuji Five Lakes, I chose Kawaguchiko Lake, which is the easiest to reach by train, being the Fujiyuko Line railway station, which is accessible from Tokyo. Although not the most important settlement in the area, Kawaguchiko is prepared to receive the huge influx of tourism, and for the first time in Japan, I found myself in a place where most things are tourist orientated… but nothing wrong with that!!!
Kawaguchiko is still a nice and calm place if you move away from the train/bus station area, and it’s not easy to spot a small garden with radish or cabbage next to the houses, which in this town are all of the small and with uniform size and style.
If you want to stay away from the crowds you really must climb up the lot, reach the Goten, on the top of the Arakurayama Mountain … watch out, as bears were spotted nearby, so bring a bell or something to keep them away.
Kawaguchiko it’s also a good base point from where you can reach on foot Kawaguchiko Tenjozan Park (the top of the ropeway) and Arakuratama Sengen Park, that’s a bit far but doable.
Despite the tourism Kawaguchiko town offer nice spots to relax, like plenty of coffee shops, cool and stylish hostels (with a wide range of budgets) and very good restaurants … and you don’t even need to make any effort to see the Mount Fuji, as it dominates the town and you can easily spot in just wandering along Kawaguchiko streets.
In alternative you have Shimoyoshida and Gekkouji, but in my opinion these are too much “sleepy towns” but if you want to be away from the crowds and look for a more local experience these are good places to stay with train connection with Kawaguchiko and the Fujiyuko Line Note that the Fujiyuko Line is private, so if you have the JP Rail pass it’s not valid here and for all the trip from Otsuki Station you pay 1170¥ for the ticket (local train) plus an extra 200¥ if you choose the express train.
Where to stay in Kawaguchiko:
Kagelow Mt. Fuji Hostel was mu choice, with a nice common area (which is also a café and restaurant) where you can chill if the Mount Fuji is in “his” cloudy days !!! … you can even see Fuji from the hostel terrace, and it’s an easy walk from the Kawaguchiko train station.
Where to stay in Gekkouji:
I stay in Mt Fuji Hostel Michael… It’s simple and quiet but most of all it is conveniently located at a walking distance from the train station.
Where to eat in Kawaguchiko:
Hotou Fudo… an just in front of the train station, serving the Hotou, a traditional local soup (vegetarian) in iron pans… delicious food and here you can’t go wrong whatever you choose; it close around 7 pm.
Tempura Restaurante Nija… an informal restaurant with tempura sets, with options for vegetarians.
Onsen in Fuji area:Onsen in Fuji area:
There are a few onsen (hot springs) in the Mount Fuji area, but some of them are associated with hotels and charge high entrance fees or are far way from the any train station.
But not far from Shimoyoshida Station, maybe 15 minutes walking, there a small onsen, a bit away from everything, located in a traditional wooden house, surrounded by a small garden. The Yoshinoike Onsen, charge 600¥ for 2 hours, that is more than enough to stay there, and offer in the end tea and radish pickles. You must bring your own towel (if not they sell one for 270¥) but the soap is available. Doen’s have a Fuji view or a outdoor pool but you can seen the trees by the window and enjoy an almost empty pool with very hot water!!!
How to reach Kawaguchiko by train:
The Fujikyuko Line links Ōtsuki to Kawaguchiko with a regular and frequente service.
But watch out that this is a private line, so if you are traveling with a JR Pass, it’s not valid in this line and at Ōtsuki you need to get a ticket.
The Fujikyuko Line has two types of service; the slower one (Local) and the fast one (Express) that for extra 600¥, saves you 11 minutes… yes, just eleven minutes!!!