The 3776 meters high Mount Fuji is THE symbol of Japan and one of the most famous mountains in the world. Chureito Pagoda, Mt. Fuji and some blossom together in one photo is picture perfect to me. Lake Kawaguchiko (or Lake Kawaguchi) is the second largest of the Fuji Five Lakes. In this blog post I will share my experience riding my bicycle around the area, including a bunch of tips.
Mt. Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain, an active volcano that erupted for the last time in 1707.
As a typical Dutchie I like riding a bike, at home I have got two of them. It’s healthy, good for the environment and a convenience if you do not have your own car. My accommodation Asahi has a whole bunch of bikes standing there on the drive way, smiling at me, so I could not resist. Saddle on the highest position (tall Dutchies…) and go with the flow baby!
Dappled sunshine and a fresh April breeze through my hair… and soon some sweat ran down along my back as well. Obviously Japan is not as flat as a pancake like The Netherlands. However, riding my bicycle to the Chureito Pagoda and Lake Kawaguchi is absolutely doable and felt much better than sitting in a crowded tourist bus.
Tip: on a rainy day take the Kawaguchiko Sightseeing Bus (red line) around the lake
The Chureito Pagoda is a five storied pagoda with a spectacular view, overlooking Fujiyoshida city and Mt. Fuji. The Chureito Pagoda was built as a peace memorial in 1963 and is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine.
From Asahi it is ± 15 minutes by bike to the (free) entrance of the Chureito Pagoda. Walk up the nearly 400 steps to the observation platform. No tripods allowed! Luckily I met a nice young couple from Australia who were willing to take some of my shots (rewarded by an ice cream). And even luckier: the view to Mt. Fuji was clear and still some blossom hanging on the trees. Yah!
Tip: if you already travel from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji in the prior evening, you can visit the pagoda early in the morning and have the place more or less to yourself.
Lake Kawaguchiko is the second largest lake of the ‘Fuji Five Lakes’ and closest to Chureito Pagoda. Riding my red bike from Chureito Pagoda back past Asahi, along the Ohime-zaka Dori road and then further on to the Misaka-michi, passing Kawaguchiko Station, via the right side of Lake Kawaguchiko (Rinsaku Park). You can also go via the 707 bridge, which I did on my way back.
It took me less than an hour by bike to reach the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum (¥1,500) at the northernside of the lake. There are some nice photogenic lines of blossom trees around there. Going all around the lake (18km) takes about 4-5 hours by foot, or 40 minutes by car.
When there is no wind, the reflection of Mt. Fuji on the water surface will take your breath away.
Where to eat
There are not as many restaurants around Lake Kawaguchiko as you may expect. The museum actually has a restaurant called Le Rivage, offering Mt. Fuji view. A good option for lunch, as it closes around 18:00h (or earlier, depending on the season).
For dinner go to Kawaguchiko village, basically between the south end of the bridge and Kawaguchiko Station. I found the restaurants in this town quite busy, meaning without prior reservation it may be a bit of a search and/or waiting in line. Try the following:
- Izakaya High Spirits
- Sanrokuen (BBQ)
- Tempura Ninjya if you like or want to try tempura (fish or vegetables fried in batter)
After dinner I rode my bicycle back to Asahi for some well-deserved sleep. The good thing is: the ride from Kawaguchiko back to Asahi is downhill. I should have brought a spring coat though, as it was a bit chilly with only a thin cardigan after sunset (mid-April).
Onsen or spa?
Visiting a wellness or spa is always a good idea, especially after a long bike ride or walk. Onsen is a Japanese style hotspring. In the Mt. Fuji area there is a special place that was on my radar when making plans. At the end I did not to go there, but maybe you will?
Yunessun Spa Resort calls itself ‘a hotspring theme park’, offering the unique experience to take a Green Tea Bath, Coffee Bath or a Red Wine Bath for example. Unfortunately it is located on the southeast side of Mt. Fuji, contrary Chureito Pagoda. Distances:
- 1h 45min (50km) from/to the northern Kawaguchiko Station (taxi or car), or
- 20-35min (9km) from/to the southeastern Hakone-Yumoto Station (also possible by bus)
Not mine but I think this video gives a good impression of Yunessun:
Fujiyama Onsen is a relatively big public onsen, located less than 10min from Kawaguchiko Station, so much closer to Chureito Pagoda. Both Fujiyama Onsen and Yunessun Spa are different from a typical, more authentic Japanese onsen experience, which I had elsewhere in Japan (Tsumago and Yudanakanear the snow monkeys) and will write about another time. But if you do not have the opportunity to visit an onsen or spa elsewhere in Japan, or find the special baths offered by Yunessun an absolute once in a lifetime must-do, then go for it! After all, when else will you get the chance to lie in a wine bath?!
When to go
Especially Spring and Autumn both offer great natural extras when visiting Japan. April, May and June are pleasant months by temperature, just avoid Golden Week (April 27-May 6, 2019). Late March or early April you have the chance of seeing blossom (sakura), like I did, but you need to be lucky or very flexible in your schedule (while booking of accommodation for Japan months before arrival is highly recommended).
To see the Shiba sakura (flower moss field) go between the end of April and the end of May. If you want to hike up Mount Fuji you will need to come around in July, August or the first half of September. The summer months tend to be hot in most of Japan though. Autumn also offers wonderful colors (mostly mid-Nov).
Where to stay
Staying at Asahi in Fujiyoshida means being located right between Chureito Pagoda, Kawaguchiko and Lake Kawaguchiko. The super friendly female host speaks a reasonable amount of English and picked me up from the station by car. If you prefer a home-made meal, grandma can cook in the evening. There is also a Lawson convenience store on a few minutes’ walk distance should you want to get something for breakfast, drinks, snacks, etc.
It was a great experience to stay at an authentic Japanese village house. It feels special and serene. Take your shoes off at the door and relax! I had actually the whole upstairs floor – with Mt. Fuji view, three bed rooms, a big pile of futon mattresses and one western bed – all to myself! The bathroom and kitchen are downstairs. The price is very reasonable; I paid ¥10.000 (±EUR 73) per night.
The host of Asahi is the nicest lady you can imagine possible. She sent a beautiful calendar to my last hotel!
If you are keen to stay in the village center of Kawaguchi and you are willing to spend more money, check out these options:
The last one is where you can get this earlier described authentic Japanese onsen experience. It is only relatively expensive in this area (easily beyond EUR 500 p/n). If your budget is limited, I’d recommend to do that (onsen) elsewhere in Japan.
How to get there
Now here comes the tricky part. The Chureito Pagoda and Lake Kawaguchiko are on the northern side of Mt. Fuji. Not Hakone! The bullet train between Tokyo Station and Kyoto Station (Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen) passes Mt. Fuji on the south side and does not stop anywhere near Mt. Fuji! There are no useful train connections between the southern and northern train lines around Mt. Fuji either, unless you are willing to switch trains 3-4 times. To conclude: visiting to Chureito Pagoda on your way between Tokyo and Kyoto is more complex and time consuming than it may seem at first.
Shinjuku Station is the best departure station to visit the Chureito Pagoda and Lake Kawaguchiko from Tokyo by train or bus. Shinjuku is also a fun neighborhood to stay in Tokyo. Reaching the northern side of Mt. Fuji from Tokyo Station by train takes ± 25 minutes longer compared to Shinjuku.
- Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal to Fujisaneki Bus Stop (1h 52min, ¥1750)
- Tokyo Station (Yaesu South Exit) to Fuji Q Highland Bus Station (1h 50 min, ¥1800)
By train from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji’s northern side
- Shinjuku Station to Fujisan Station, Fujikyu-HighlandStation or Kawaguchiko Station with JR Narita Express (1h 47-56min, from Tokyo Station 2h 13-22min)
- Shinjuku Station via Otsuki Station (Chuo Line, direction Kofu, 1 hour), switch trains (Fujiyuko Line, direction Kawaguchiko) and get off at Gekkouji Station, Fujisan Station, Fujikyu-Highland Station or Kawaguchiko Station (41-53min), depending on the exact location of your accommodation around Mt. Fuji. The last train ride from Otsuki Station to Mt. Fuji is not covered under the JR Pass. At the station, simply follow the blue signs to Fujiexpress and quickly buy a ticket at the desk before accessing the platform (1020¥ single ride).
- If you need to go to Gekkouji Station (closest to Asahi) and want to take the JR Narita Express from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station first, switch trains at Tsurubunkadaigakumae Station (Fujiyuko Line, direction Kawaguchiko) and get off at Gekkouji Station (20 min).
- Shimoyoshida Station is the closest train station to Chureito Pagoda (18 min walk). From Otsuki it’s one stop earlier than Gekkouji Station.
Tip: leave the Mt. Fuji area early morning (7-ish) so you share the train with local school kids instead of tourists.
For more tips on traveling by train in Japan, check out my earlier blogpost Japan: what you need to know about the JR train pass.
Want to visit the Mount Fuji area yet skip the hassle of public transport and/or join a group? A group or private tour maybe a good option for you. All you will need to do is book one of these fun tours to Chureito Pagoda and surroundings on Viator. Easy peasy! Or check out these tours on Get Your Guide.
Fuji-Q Highland theme park
Fuji Q Highland is the perfect amusement park to visit for adrenaline seekers who loves scary and thrilling rides. Fujikyu-Highland Station is 10 min south of Kawaguchiko Station. Fuji-Q Highland theme park is also close to the earlier mentioned Fujiyama Onsen.
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and is smartphone friendly. You can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. You can (un)select areas/categories to customize the map to your needs.
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