Glimpses of Mt. Fuji- Kawaguchiko- Part 1

A weekend of Mt. Fuji viewing attempts.

With one full weekend left before leaving Japan, I was intent on finding a good place to visit. After a bit of research, I settled on Kawaguchiko, a small area surrounding Lake Kawaguchi known for its good views of Mt. Fuji. Most people come to this area as a home base before climbing Mt. Fuji or to visit the other four lakes nearby.

I left Tokyo on a nice Saturday morning and made my way to the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal. Because of small train mishaps, I was a little rushed, but arrived in time with my pre-purchased bus tickets ready to go. Although the ride was scheduled to take just under two hours, it lasted almost an hour longer than expected. I was starting to get nervous that I was on the wrong bus, when we eventually arrived at Kawaguchiko Station.

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Train tracks in Kawaguchiko Station

It was almost 1 pm when we arrived, and my first destination, Chureito Pagoda was still a train ride away. If you have ever google-image searched Mt. Fuji, one of the top results is an amazingly glamorous photo of Mt. Fuji. A pagoda in the foreground surrounded with pink cherry blossoms accents a snow capped, grand Mt. Fuji- this is where I planned to go. With this beautiful image in mind, I was so excited to visit Chureito Pagoda and see the view firsthand. The train took me to Shimo Yoshida station, and from there I walked along neighborhood streets before I got to the base of the mountain pagoda.  It was pretty humid outside, so it was a little difficult to rally for the 398 stair climb, but soon I was marching up. (Little did I know I would be climbing over 1,000 stairs in Taiwan just a week later, blog post to come).

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Looking down from the top of the mountain pagoda

By the time I got to the top of the stairs, I was sweating profusely. Eyeing a perfectly placed water fountain nearby, I chugged the rest of my bottle and filled it up before gazing at the pagoda in front of me. It was a beautiful 5-story, red pagoda that was built as a part of a peace memorial. However, the pagoda itself wasn’t the main reason for the journey- I had to climb a bit more in order to get the view I was searching for. Finally, I made it to the observation deck and glanced out into the horizon. I saw the pagoda in the foreground, many houses and buildings below, and a vast whiteness of clouds exactly where Mt. Fuji was supposed to be. I also didn’t think to bring my other camera lens, so sad photo all around.

Expectation vs. Reality

 

Since I arrived at Kawaguchi Station, I had been a bit nervous about the clouds and I had an itch that they were going to disrupt my Fuji viewing plans. Alas I was right. I waited around the observation deck for over an hour, journaling to pass the time, hoping to catch a break in the clouds- but to no avail. My best picture features a fingernail slice of Fuji, the rest obscured by clouds. The poor view aside, my vantage point showed the outline of the entire base of the mountain and realizing its size was breathtaking. While it was a bit disappointing not to see the famous picturesque view, I couldn’t be too upset since I was visiting during the worst season (humid summer), during an exceptionally rainy and cloudy weekend. Yay.

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Drawing imaginary lines through the clouds, you can see just how big the mountain is

Weather: 1 Marisa : 0

After my first glimpse of Fuji, literally a glimpse, I headed back to Kawaguchiko Station. I was so hungry by this point, I realized I had only had one rice ball all day and it was already 3 pm. Cue intense hunger. I had researched some of the popular eats in the area and was looking to try a regional dish called hoto, soup and noodles slightly similar to udon. Made to warm the bodies of hikers coming/ going to Mt. Fuji in the winter, this hot pot dish comes bubbling in a miso broth with flat, thick rice noodles, veggies, mushrooms, pumpkin, and cabbage. After walking around the area for a bit, I finally wandered into a hoto restaurant near the station and quickly put in my order. After what felt like an eternity with my famished stomach, a huge cast iron pot was brought to my table full of freshly boiling ingredients. I used a massive wooden ladle and a pair of chopsticks to slurp my way through the meal.

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Massive cast-iron pot filled with hoto, a hearty rice and noodles dish

I was revitalized once the food hit my belly and soon ready to continue the afternoon. Down the road, I eventually came to Lake Kawaguchi.

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A street next to Lake Kawaguchi

The water was so beautiful and seeing it instantly put a smile on my face. People were riding around the lake in colorful swan boats, small shops lined the side, and across the way, taller hotels faced the water. I decided to make my way to the hotels and treat myself to a relaxing bath in one of their hot springs. The walk along the lake was enjoyable and I had fun taking pictures of the scenery.

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Swan boats just waiting to be rode in

 

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After walking to the other side of the lake and entering the hotel, I paid for access to the hot springs and two small towels. Inside the onsen, I was the only one, so it was easy to relax and bathe. One of the baths was outside where the cool evening breeze offset the toasty temperature of the heated water. It was so calming and freeing to be able to gaze at the lake and mountains in the distance while simmering in a bath of warmth. As I looked into the distance, I was amazed to see that the clouds that were covering Mt. Fuji began to give way. For the first time all day, I saw more than just a sliver of the mountain- I could see the peak and it’s long sloping sides. Since I was the only one in the hot spring, I sprinted to capture one photo before sitting back to take it all in. Although the picture shows clouds still covering much of the mountain, there were a few moments afterwards where it was all visible. It’s not every day where you get to sit naked in an open air hot spring and take in a panoramic view of Mt. Fuji. I was completely in awe, and felt a greater sense of appreciation for my travels and experiences. I watched the mountain for as long as I could before the clouds took over again and the mountain disappeared from sight.

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A giant in the distance

Weather: 1 Marisa: 1

When the hot spring water became too hot for comfort, I rinsed off in the showers and then dried off. I had to walk back along the lakeside to my room for the night, but found the cloudy sky, hotel lights, and lake reflections beautiful to photograph.

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Night setting over the lake
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Hotel lights reflecting the water

The end to day one in Kawaguchi, tomorrow’s adventure, Mt. Mitsutoge coming up next!

 

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