When it comes to Japan there is no greater symbol than the giant that is Mt. Fuji. Standing at 3776 metres tall, this monolithic volcano even has its own emoji (🗻). Not even Mt. Everest can make this claim to fame. For millions of people, this is a bucket list destination and, as I bought my bucket from the same 100yen store as those other people, it’s a place I’ve also wanted to visit. Well, 2018 is the year to make my dreams a reality, or some stupid resolution like that, so I went to see this mountain for myself. Here is Melissa’s Guide to Mt. Fuji.
How to see Mt. Fuji?
There are a number of ways you can see Mt. Fuji. You can look out a window from either a shinkansen train or an observation deck but beware this only works on clear days after you’ve paid appropriate homage to the Japanese weather gods, at the appropriate shrine, by leaving a statue of a cat and singing, Don’t Rain on my Parade. Or, you can stay in one of the many towns near Mt. Fuji, such as those around Fuji Five Lakes, or Hakone. I chose the latter, after the shrine gods rejected my offerings based on my terrible singing voice.
Where to stay?
If you want a guaranteed chance to at least get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, I highly recommend staying around the Fuji Five Lakes area. As the name entails, this is a series of five lakes in the vicinity of Mt. Fuji. I could tell you the names of these lakes, but I would just be copy and pasting from google, and you should really always look at the original source for information, so just go google it yourself.
I ended up staying right next to Lake Kawaguchi, which is the biggest and most established of the five lakes. Meaning you’ll easily be able to find restaurants with English menus, however if you want to stay near a McDonalds, you should choose to stay near Fuji Q Highlands (a theme park with impressive views of Mt. Fuji, just near the 5 lakes area). Staying in Fujikawaguchiko is also a great idea, if you want access to the other lakes, as there are tourist buses that can connect you to those areas.
I stayed at Lakeside Hotel, Fujikawaguchiko. The service at the hotel was phenomenal, as was the view from my room, however you can definitely stay near Mt. Fuji for way cheaper. I just wasn’t in the mood for budget travel, and there was something really special about waking up to Mt. Fuji out my window. Kind of like waking up in a post-apocalyptic world (I don’t know why I felt this way, Mt. Fuji is just really imposing!!) So, if you want to live the, this weekend is about me and I’m going to treat myself lifestyle, look into this hotel. If you’re more, I’m a poor uni student and am travelling around Japan by surviving on the different flavours of cup noodles, look into a capsule hotel or hostel.
When to go?
It really depends on what you want to see and do. If you’ve got your heart set on climbing Mt. Fuji, you can only do that in the summer months (approximately June – August). However, I don’t know why anyone would want to climb a mountain. So, assuming you’re much more sensible than those crazy hikers (sorry to my friends who have climbed a mountain), you just have to decide on what flowers you want to see because the fields around Mt. Fuji are famous for flowers. Do you want to see Mt. Fuji with cherry blossoms? Pink moss flowers? Maple leaves? Dead and depressing winter trees which perfectly match your soul? Because Mt. Fuji has it all. Also, can you tell which season I chose to go in?
Plus, take into account that Mt. Fuji is fickle and often does not want to be looked at, similar to myself in that way. So, one moment it’ll be centre of attention, then the next it’ll be hiding behind a cover of clouds. I’d predict, from my knowledge of Japanese weather patterns, Fuji would be difficult to spot in summer and autumn, however winter and spring are generally clearer and that would be your best time to spot her in all her glory.
How to get there?
From Tokyo it’s really easy and could probably be done in a day trip. Buses run directly from both Tokyo Station and Shinjuku station to Kawaguchiko Station, and take approximately 2 hours to arrive. There are also trains that run less frequently, but as I didn’t take one, I don’t know how often they run or how long they take. However, the buses are pretty cheap, approximately 1800 yen ($18) one way, or about 3000 yen ($30) return. This might seem slightly expensive to you, but trust me, it’s cheap when you take into account Japan’s supreme public transport system, when things generally arrive and depart exactly on time.
If you’re coming from further afield, like I was, I would google the best route. I could have taken a plane to the nearest airport and then a bus, but for me to get to the airport is a pain, so I chose to take the shinkasen to Tokyo, then the bus to Fuji. It took approximately 6 hours to get there, and was the more expensive but more direct option (for me).
However, I am not a tour guide, and I booked my trip the day before I decided to go. So, I suggest you consult google, and not a random internet blog, for the best way to get there.
What to do?
This year I’m really trying to improve my photography, so this trip for me was just about taking pictures. To that extent, I didn’t actually do many activities, so my suggestions are purely based on a scenic view of Mt. Fuji.
Walk around Lake Kawaguchi
I actually did this over one and a half days, because it’s quite a big lake. The first day I did one side of the bridge, and the second day, the other side of the bridge. You can cut the time you spend here down by, hiring a bike and riding around the lake, or using the public buses to get you where you want to go. If I was to go again, I would have maximised my time buy using the bus to get to my start point, then walked back. However, the views from the lake are stunning, and I would love to go back for sakura, because I think it would be spectacular.
Cable car to Mt. Kachi Kachi
For 800 yen you can take a cable car up (and down) this 1000m mountain and get some good views of Mt. Fuji. However, beware of the Chinese tourist hoards, and tour bus hoards, who all also know about this cable car and want to be the first at everything. But with a kachi kachi name like this, how could you not go?
The Instagram Money Shot
Also known as Chureito pagoda, you’re not a true instagrammer until you climb the 300+ stairs to the summit, to try to get that shot that’s totally going to rake in the likes. To get here, you need to take a train from Kawaguchiko Station to Shimoyoshido Station, then follow the signs to the pagoda. It’s best to visit here on a clear day, or just before sunset/at sunrise, for your best chance to get that Fuji vista. Although it’s such a popular place now, you might also find crowds.
What not to do?
I am quite ok with people going to this forest for the right reasons. The right reasons are that it’s meant to be a spectacular forest with some great views of Mt. Fuji, if you stick to the designated walking paths. There are also meant to be some really cool caves and an abundance of wildlife. The wrong reasons for visiting this forest are straying from the designated paths, finding a dead body, and filming it for the views. Because although Aokigahara abounds in natural beauty, a lot of tourists come here seeking the macabre, for this forest’s colloquial name is the Suicide Forest.
Perhaps people will never learn that metal illness is not a spectator sport. From the early days and paying entrance fees into mental institutions and murder sites, to now, where people come to this forest in the hopes to see a dead body. I sometimes feel these people should be the ones locked in the institutions. Although admittedly, I have seen the catacombs in Paris, and the embalmed faces of dead popes, I never sought out these experiences by straying of the paths and then laughing about it, on camera for the world to see.
Suicide in Japan is a real problem, and not something we should glorify. Yes, it is something we need to talk about, the Japanese people especially need to realise they’re literally working themselves to death. But that awareness is not going to come from some American with a horrendous haircut. So, to all the Logan Paul’s (or even Jake Paul’s, hell I don’t know or care enough to learn the difference) in the world, don’t even think about it. Put the camera away, and experience the beauty and nature of Japan, but don’t make yourself the object of disgust the world over. And don’t make yourself the subject of a million blogs, vlogs and facebook posts, by foreigners living in Japan who now have to put up with the question, So, do you know that American youtuber? On top of, can you use chopsticks? It’s too much for us to bare.
I hope you all enjoy this Melissa’s Guide to Mt. Fuji. Have you ever wanted to see this natural wonder of the world?
Until next time,