One of the highlights of our trip to Japan in December last year was seeing Mt Fuji “up close” … (see the end for some tips if you also plan to do this route!)
Initially, we thought that our stay at Kawaguchiko (the biggest lake in the “Five Lakes area”) near the base of Mt Fuji would be “wasted” as we arrived on a day when it was totally overcast and drizzling, and the next morning looked very much the same; in other words, no chance of seeing Mt Fuji 😦
The next morning, we decided not to go for the skiing at the base of Mt Fuji (as weather forecast was not good) and to make an earlier start to Hakone, which was our next destination. So, we thought this was going to be the best view that we could see of Mt Fuji at the Five Lakes area 🙂
So, after checking out, our hotel provided a free shuttle bus to Kawaguchiko station, and lo and behold, this was what greeted us when we arrived!! The skies were totally clear and Mt Fuji was just … THERE!!
We happily snapped away, while waiting for the bus that would bring us to Gotemba station, where we would then change to another that goes to Togendai (a pier on Lake Ashi, in Hakone). We would then finally end up in Motohakone by taking a cruise from Togendai.
When you see the map above, it is easy to see why this route has such great views of Mt Fuji (and also how Lake Yamanakako is also good for Fuji views)… but remember to sit on the “correct” side of the bus depending on the direction you are travelling in!!
Here are some shots of Mt Fuji that we got on the bus ride … (the roller coaster is near Kawaguchiko station, but definitely not for the faint hearted!!)
While on the boat across Lake Ashi, it is possible to see Mt Fuji on a clear day, and using the map, you can have a sense of where to look (i.e. if travelling from Togendai towards Motohakone, it is “behind” you!! see photo below, left, where the clouds almost block Fuji completely).
From the lake side at Motohakone, where we stayed overnight, there are also excellent views of both the Hakone shrine and Fuji! (early morning is best, before clouds built up) (see the photo above right, and also below) .
So, in the end, we got our (over)dose of Mt Fuji views after all!! 🙂
- the 2 Day Hakone pass is a MUST HAVE, especially if staying overnight in the area, as it covers all the transport arrangements in the Hakone region (includes the bus from Gotemba Station to Togendai, which we did not realise; we only bought the pass at the Togendai pier. For all our subsequent travel, which includes unlimited boat rides across Lake Ashi, cableway, ropeway, buses, the Tozan “slow” scenic train, the pass really saves you a bomb and any hassle of payment).
- Sit on the “correct” side of the bus if you want to take photos/catch the view of Fuji (so, left side if travelling from Hakone to Kawaguchiko, right side if the other way)
- Mt Fuji is often covered by clouds, so you have to be on the lookout for breaks in cloud cover (see photos above); early morning seems to be best time to get nice clear skies (and this was our experience too). If unsure of where to look for Mt Fuji, just ask!
- Skiing on the (northern) slopes of Mt Fuji base (Fujiten snow resort) – we wanted to do so but skipped as the time we could spare was insufficient (1/2 day), the weather did not appear to be good, the taxi fare to reach the ski resort is very expensive (it may be more worthwhile to rent a car instead; but note that an International Driving License is required).
- If staying at Motohakone, be mindful of how to get there! It is easy by bus from Hakone-Yumoto, but not from Togendai. If coming from Togendai, taking the cruise is really the most convenient way. We realised this while looking at the bus schedules and cruise timings (cruise ends earlier in winter) and figured it was best that we skipped the skiing to ensure that we could take the cruise (Togendai to Motohakone), and also get to spend more time in Hakone instead.