Hi friends! This week I thought I’d share my experience of planning an overnight trip to the Kawaguchiko area a north of Mount Fuji, including how to get there from Tokyo and any recommended activities once you arrive! We had an excellent time last month and I wanted to share what we got up to, where we stayed and what we ate!
Kawaguchiko is one of the most popular tourist hubs in the Mt Fuji area. There are, of course, other towns dotted around the mountain, however I think most find that the Kawaguchiko/Fujiyoshida areas are the easiest to get to by public transport. If you want to get there from Tokyo, there are a few options:
Highway Bus – approximately 2000 yen each way (depending on where you’re going/coming from) and it picks up/drops off at lots of locations in Tokyo. We got dropped off in Akihabara, but had we booked ahead of time we could’ve been taken straight home to Ikebukuro! A top tip – the buses of the day will be booked up by lunchtime so if you’ve not booked your return transport in advance, pop into Kawaguchiko Station ticket office as soon as you know when you want to go and get your tickets sorted ahead of time. The journey time is supposed to be 2 hours but it may be closer to 3/3.5 if there’s traffic. Also it’s worth noting that some buses are not fitted with a toilet.
Fuji Excursion Train – if you have a JR pass, a ticket is 1600 yen. No pass? It’ll cost 4000 yen. This is a direct train from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko (passing through Otsuki, Mt Fuji Station and Fuji Q Highland). This is how we got to Mt Fuji from Tokyo. It’s a 2 hour journey on a train fitted with toilets (but no refreshment car). If you want to use the train, be sure to book tickets in advance and reserve your seat. If you don’t have a reserved seat, you may stand for the entire journey. There’s a traffic light system above each seat – red means you can sit down but need to move if a passenger has later reserved the seat. Do yourself a favour and skip this hassle by ensuring you’ve got a seat booked! There were no red lights the entire journey we were on. Booking in advance can be done at the JR ticket office of Shinjuku. The train will be on the Chuo Line platform (in our case, platform 9) and it may be that only the first 3 carriages are going to Fuji, the rest detaching at Otsuki.
Chartered Tour – if you prefer to have someone else do all the organising, consider booking onto a chartered tour from Tokyo. I’d recommend sites like GoVoyagin. The tour company will organise your coach, activities and accommodation (depending on your tour length) which can minimise any stress! I think all of GoVoyagin’s tours are in English. You can also get tours to other areas around Mt Fuji. Last year we did a day trip to Hakone, including a Lake Ashi cruise and a visit to Gotemba Premium Outlets and it was excellent! It’s particularly good not having to worry about transport or tickets. Gotemba is a must-see for anyone who loves designer brands. There are direct buses from Kawaguchiko to Gotemba.
Rent a Car – I’ve never done this, mostly because the fuel and tolls probably cost more than public transport, but I know a lot of people do. Consider whether you’d like to drive there (ensure you have your International Driver’s Permit before you arrive in Japan) and research the best deal.
There are lots of hotels in the Fujikawaguchiko and Fujiyoshida areas. They range from expensive spa resorts and budget capsule hotels, to western style business hotels and bargain backpacker hostels. I think it would be easy for most travellers to find a hotel that suits their tastes – I would recommend doing plenty of research.
We ended up staying at the Noborisaka Hotel booked via LastMinute.com. It was reasonably priced given how late we booked it (about 4 days before our stay) – one night cost us £132/18000¥. We wanted somewhere with an onsen (public bath) and with a view of Mt Fuji. This hotel was perfect on both counts! We woke up to a crystal clear, close-up view of the mountain and Harrison thoroughly enjoyed the onsen (I couldn’t use it, sadly). Additionally, the restaurant on the first floor serves delicious pancakes! The hotel can be accessed from Kawaguchiko Station on foot (approx. 20-30 minute walk) or by the Blue Line bus (but these stop running at 3pm). The walk is flat the whole way. We had stayed at the Mizno Hotel previously, but it’s pretty darn expensive so we opted not to this time round.
What to do there
There is so much to do in the area around Mt Fuji, it’s difficult to squeeze everything in in 48 hours! Here’s a run down of the things we got up to over the weekend:
- Exploring Kawaguchiko – the walk from Kawaguchiko Station down to Lake Kawaguchi is lovely, and I recommend it over sitting on a bus. The route is downhill the whole way and you walk past some beautiful, traditional Japanese houses. There are also two excellent food stops on the way – MONO and Tempura Ninja – which I’ll mention later on.
- Riding Mt Fuji Panorama Ropeway – For 800 yen per person, this is a really cool way to get up high over the lake – the view is incredible. You can see all the way to Fuji Q on one side and on the other spans Lake Kawaguchi and the towns that surround it.
- Rowing on Lake Kawaguchi – my boyfriend enjoyed this a lot. I wasn’t initially that keen because I was kind of nervous (hello tiny boat and large me) but it ended up being a really nice and relaxing time. We were thinking of doing a pedal boat but the row boat was so much more pleasant (plus Harrison agreed to do all the rowing..).
- Climbing up to Chureito Pagoda – I nearly died getting up those steps, not gonna lie. I’m super unfit but would point out in my defence that a lot of others were struggling too (though there were some very old people who weren’t even out of breath…). I have to say, it is well worth the climb. The view of Mt Fuji is excellent and the image of the pagoda in the foreground is famous to most people interested in travelling to Japan. It was a pretty cool ‘bucket list’ place to be, and there’s a local bus that drops off nearby. So, I would certainly recommend it but sensible shoes.
- Walking through Maple Corridor – every autumn, the leaves around Mt Fuji and the Fujiyoshida area change into a wonderful mix of yellows, oranges, browns and reds. This makes for stunning scenery, and in particular the area around Maple Corridor is very pretty. At night, they illuminate the trees which looks amazing in photos. Sadly the bus route our hotel was on stopped at 3pm, so we had to miss out on the illuminations!
Despite being a collection of fairly small towns, the Kawaguchiko area has a lot on offer in respect of food. We ate:
- For lunch on day 1, street food served from the autumn festival vendors. I think the street food market is seasonal – it was next to the Maple Corridor (along with a huge craft fair). We had Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and chicken teriyaki don.
- For dinner (being the evening meal) on day 1, we found an amazing restaurant almost next door to our hotel. Called ほうとう蔵 歩成 河口湖店 on Google Maps (Hotoukura Ayusei Kawaguchiko), it specialises in ‘hot pot’ style food. Homely stews of vegetables, meat and thick, pasta-like noodles. Each person is served their own piping hot cauldron of delicious hot pot which was welcome on a cold, November night! The restaurant prices were extremely reasonable and the interior was really cool too.
- For breakfast on day 2, we had pancakes at our hotel restaurant and they were delicious! Japan is known to serve souffle-style pancakes and this place is no exception. Their chocolate sauce is seriously good. The restaurant is open to non-guests too so if you’re south of Kawaguchiko Station, consider popping by – it’s called 富士山パンケーキ (Fujisan Pancake).
- For lunch on day 2, we skipped it entirely (and had a large breakfast) so that we wouldn’t have to stop moving all day. We were on a tight schedule!
- For dinner on day 2, we had finished sightseeing for the day by 16:30 and our bus wasn’t leaving until 18:15 so we decided to walk around and find somewhere to eat. We could’ve gone to the first place I ever had shabu shabu – Cafe & Dining MONO – because it’s really good food there, however we decided we weren’t hungry enough for all that. So, we went to a nearby tempura restaurant – Tempura Restaurant Ninja – which was great value (1000 yen for a set meal of rice, miso soup, tempura and pickles) and super tasty. Definitely recommend both restaurants and they’re on the same road a stone’s throw away from Kawaguchiko Station.
After all that excitement, we got on our bus and travelled back to Tokyo! It took 3 hours to get to Akihabara which is about 1 hour slower than the train, but it’s half the price. If you have any questions on our trip or travelling around Mt Fuji generally, let me know!