Mount Fuji is one of the most iconic symbols of Japan. Notoriously shy, often surrounded in mist, Mount Fuji is a natural treasure. Most people will visit the Fuji area for a day trip with hope of seeing the fabled peak, however travelling around Mount Fuji by car is one of the best ways to get those perfect views!
Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to see Mount Fuji each year. The busiest tourist hub is Lake Kawaguchi, easily accessed from Tokyo and Kyoto, and the starting point for many visiting the area. Over the years travel around the area has become easier and much more tourist friendly, with buses travelling between the Five Great Lakes. However, you can see much more of what Yamanashi-ken and Shizuoka-ken have on offer by car.
Renting a car in Japan is relatively pain free, you can read more about my experience here. Kawaguchiko has a Toyota Rent a Car not far from the station, with support over the phone and online in English it is really a doddle. Japan is fabled as the land of convenient public transport, but this tends to become less true the further from the main cities you travel. Although the area is quite well connected by bus, you would never be able to see as much in one day using public transport as you can by car.
On this tour you get to see all five of Fujis Great Lakes, the underrated Tanuki lake, the widest waterfall in Japan, and the most popular outlet in Shizuoka! Spanning two prefectures and ten different spots, enjoy Fuji like never before.
Start: Kawaguchiko station
Starting at the quaint Kawaguchiko station area you can easily pick up your rental car from the Toyota Rent a car store a few minutes walk away. Make sure to look around as this is the first opportunity to spot Fuji!
Stop 1: Chureito Pagoda
Chureito pagoda adorns the websites and brochures of many a travel agent, and for a good reason. Chureito pagoda offers a quintessential view of Japan; the vermilion pagoda, the symmetry of Fuji and even the sakura in spring. Autumn is also a great time to visit as the sakura leaves turn bright red before falling. Outside of cherry blossom season it is possible to drive half way up the hill to the pagoda, reducing the number of steps to climb. Otherwise there are 400 steps to the stunning view.
Stop 2: Yamanakako
Once you’ve drunk in enough of those amazing views you can jump back into your car and travel south to the largest of all of Mount Fujis 5 lakes; Yamanakako. Yamanakako is less developed than Kawaguchiko, but you can still enjoy a cruise on the lake or simply enjoy the sights from the shore line. Yamanakako also boasts a great spot to watch the sun rise over Fujis gentle slopes.
Stop 3: Gotemba
More famous for it’s outlet shops than anything else, Gotemba does offer its own views of Mount Fuji. This is a great place to stop for lunch and a bit of light shopping, from Pokemon to Gucci there is something for everyone here.
Stop 4: Mount Echizendake
The southern view of Fuji is one very rarely seen by visitors, apart from the Safari park, there is little to draw tourists away. However, enjoying Fuji from a mountain peak in isolation is a real treat. With the standard amenities of vending machines and toilets, Mount Echizendake offers views of Fuji with few buildings in the way.
Stop 5: Shiraito Falls
Shiraito falls is the widest waterfall in all of Japan, fed by the pure snow melt from Fujis peak. It takes around 70 years for the clear waters to travel from Fuji before falling off the edge like white threads. On a clear day you can enjoy views of Mount Fuji behind the falls, although the falls themselves are a great draw. Of all the stops on this tour this is the only places (as of April 2017) that parking is not free, costing 1,000Y in the official carpark.
Stop 6: Tanukiko
Tanukiko is the newest of the lakes offering views of Fuji, being built in 1935 Tanukiko isn’t afforded the title of one of Fujis great lakes. However, human ingenuity has sparked quite the craze “diamond Fuji!”. Twice a year the sun will rise directly behind the peak of Fuji, reflected into the waters of Tanuki lake- photographers flock to Tanukiko, securing their patch days in advance. The other 363 days of the year still offer lovely views, and a quiet walk around the lake too.
Stop 7: Motosuko
Lake Motosu if the third of the great lakes visited on this road trip, and it the iconic view from the back of the 1,000Y note! You can see this view from the lay by on the northern shore of Motosuko, or you can hike up the surrounding mountain to get an aerial view of the lake and Fuji!
Stop 8: Shojiko
Shojiko is the smallest of all of the great lakes and part of the lake that originally spanned this whole area. From the northern shore of Shojiko you can see the edge of the lava forest, the point at which the last eruption of Fuji stopped. Enjoy a relaxing view here, mostly void of tourism.
Stop 9: Saiko
Lake Sai is the most sheltered of all the local lakes, offering just a peak of Mount Fuji from the western edge. Sai is surrounded by mountains and the lava forest and is mainly visited by those interested in fishing and camping. This area is more famous for the caves created by the cooling lava.
Final stop: Oishi Park
Oishi park is the perfect spot to end the day by witnessing the sun setting behind the mountains. While you are waiting why not pop into the shop, pick up some souvenirs from your trip and enjoy their delicious ice cream whilst Fuji disappears into the dark.
Of course there are many, many more spots to enjoy the views of Mount Fuji, from climbing adjacent mountains to views from the sea, Fuji can be seen for miles. Why not explore the areas more and find your own, personal view of Fuji?