Currency: Japanese Yen (¥)
¥1 = 0.75p. £1 = ¥133.1
Time Zone: GMT +9 (8 hours ahead of UK summer time)
23rd – 25th September
Fujikawaguchiko is a small resort town (with a fun name to say) in the Fuji 5 Lakes area, on the south shore of Lake Kawaguchiko and a short distance from Japan’s highest mountain, Mount Fuji, standing at an impressive 3,776m. It is the most popular of the towns in the area as base for exploring the lakes and of course, Mount Fuji itself.
Our first evening we wanted to save money and went to the local supermarket to get food and booze. I wanted to get some sake and found what looked like sake next to non-alcoholic beer. I checked a bunch of the bottles and couldn’t find an alcohol percentage so was a bit worried it wasn’t sake, but took the plunge and got one with a picture of Mount Fuji on. Kate got some wine with a label written in Japanese but with a Spanish flag. All very confusing.
Whilst cooking dinner I tried my drink and it tasted like sake. After my 2nd glass I was sure it was alcoholic, so all was well. We planned our activities for the next 2 days and chilled in the lovely big common room. The hostel’s big selling point is the view of Fuji-san through their big glass windows and we were excited to see it in all its splendour the next day. But for that evening we just needed a drink and some hammocks.
Our first full day we looked out the window to see big grey clouds and no Fuji. Gutted. After breakfast we set off for the Mount Fuji Museum to learn all about this giant hill behind the clouds. Inside there was a free exhibit and a brand new paid exhibit with a large paper reconstruction of Fuji that gets lit up in different colours during a short film to coincide with the seasons.
The main exhibit consisted of another short film with really dramatic music, a small room about the religious significance and a small room about the geology and history of Fuji-san. Upstairs was the viewing platform with spectacular views of clouds. There was also a big billboard for photos with traditional Japanese climbing gear to try on. Of course I obliged.
After this we decided the best way to see Mt Fuji was from Mt Fuji. At this point it was chucking it down so we got all our warmest waterproof clothes and set off on a hike – to the bus station, where you can get a return ticket to the 5th station (approximately halfway up the mountain, at 2305m above sea level) where most walkers start their ascent. The climbing season ends at the beginning of September so the tracks are officially closed, but this doesn’t stop a lot of people. We were never going to climb the mountain but it was handy to have an excuse.
The 5th station is a very touristy spot with multiple cafes and gift shops. It even has free wifi. We perused the many gifts on offer, my favourite being the Mt Fuji stuffed toy, and had a snack. We spent an hour or so up there hoping for the weather to clear but it remained soggy and foggy. The summit would appear and disappear within seconds so we were lucky to get some photos of it.
Once the bus came we jumped on straight away to get out of the wet and the cold (the temperature is around 10 degrees colder than at the bottom). After drying off for a bit at the hostel we went out for dinner at a tempura restaurant. It was amazing, with shrimp, fish, egg and veggies, all in tempura batter for you to dip in a glorious dipping sauce. Washed down with sake of course (the same one I’d had the previous night).
Back at the hostel we got chatting to some of the guests and drank what was left of our booze from the supermarket. There was an Australian couple who were drinking something called Strong Zero, a fruit flavoured cocktail drink in a can, weighing in at 9% alcohol and available for ¥200 from the hostel vending machine. It was surprisingly ok!
The next day we woke up a little later than had been planned, largely due to our encounter with Strong Zero, but not too late. When we walked through to get breakfast Fuji-san was right there in full view! I went back to get my phone to get a picture and by the time I got back he was covered in clouds…
We hired some bikes to go see the lake, hoping for some decent views of Mt Fuji along the way. Once over the bridge to the north shore we found him again.
It was a fairly long route around the lake and, with a few stops along the way, it took us around 2.5 hours. One of the more dramatic stops involved Kate fiddling with her basket and riding into the undergrowth. Despite this horrific ordeal and sustaining multiple grazes from the sharper plants, she soldiered on.
The other more memorable stop involved a group of 4 individuals riding into a car park on go-karts dressed as Mario Kart characters. I was their biggest fan!
After the lake we headed to the Chureito Pagoda, where many famous pictures of Fuji are taken, mostly during cherry blossom season. We cycled 20 minutes or so to the start of the path, climbed up an unending flight of stairs…
Once back down the stairs we had a 20 minute cycle/walk back. At this point, having cycled for 3-4 hours, our backsides weren’t very happy. We got back, showered and ordered ourselves a taxi to get ourselves to the beginning of our first overnight journey.
K’s Hostel Fuji View is one of 2 K’s Hostels in Fujikawaguchiko, which is a little confusing and I’m sure has lead to issues in the past. It’s a 15 minute walk from the station which is where most of the day trips go from, so the location isn’t great from that respect but when you can look out the window at the mountain looming large above you, you wouldn’t move it. The dorm was set-up with bunks lining the one wall like a big human shelving unit, with awkward little ladders up to the top bunk, but, as with the previous hostel, you got your own private space with lamp, plug and storage. Staff were excellent and the common was great, with a piano. And the vending machine with booze came in handy!