Japan 2019 Day 15: Driving to Kawaguchiko to see Mount Fuji

No trip to Japan would be complete without going to see Mount Fuji and no trip of mine to Japan would be complete without staying in the area for at least week! Mimicing our 2017 trip we had booked to stay 8 nights in Kawaguchiko to do some hiking, photography, and have a slower pace for our last week in Japan.

We were hiring a car for our time in Kawaguchiko so we could easily explore, and had chosen a rental shop next to where we were staying on our final night in Japan, near Haneda airport. That meant we had to get across Japan to pick up the car by 8am. The route was quite simple, and we got an earlier train than planned, but the train was absolutely packed! We had our luggage bags with us, as did almost everyone else on the train. It was a very squishy ride from Ueno to Otorii station. We easily got our hire car, and the staff in this branch spoke English (which was a first during the whole trip). We had decided to use the express way as Google said not doing so would be a 4.5 hour drive, which in real terms would probably turn out to be 6 or more!

The expressway was a new experience compared to driving in rural Japan. As soon as we were out of the hire car lot, we were stuck in traffic. The most exciting part of the expressway is that we were underground, and drove under Tokyo until we popped out north of Shibuya! The expressway was a bit on the expensive side, for an 120km journey is cost over 4000¥, although to reduce our journey time it was worthwhile. We got our first views of Mount Fuji on the expressway, and I was getting very excited to be able to shoot photos of Fuji with the autumn leaves.

Of course, by the time we got to Kawaguchiko the clouds had completely obscured Fuji, and we didn’t see her for the rest of the day. We spent our afternoon exploring so new areas, and revisiting some old spots. We started at Oishi Park, explored the shops and gardens, before consulting our map and headed into the mountains, after looking forlornly at the base of Fuji.

Since our last trip I had been researching more off the beaten path views of Mount Fuji, away from the lake side. The first one we headed off to see is the, now quite popular, torii gate on the mountain from Kawaguchiko Asama Shrine. The small torii stands on a clearing on the side of the mountain, perfectly framing Fuji, when she is visible that is. It was a great spot, and we logged it for a future sunrise spot.

We next explored the Hahanoshirotaki waterfalls near to the torii gate. A short hike downhill will get you to the pair of waterfalls and Hahanoshirotaki shrine. It was a really magical place, deep in the forest, the roar of the water and the stillness of the shrine. A really stunning spot. You can explore further up via a hiking path that will lead you all the way to Mitsutoge mountain, if you walk for long enough.

On our way down we stopped at Kawaguchiko Asama shrine, even though I have been to Kawaguchiko four times, I had never visited this shrine. It was absolutely beautiful. Our only company was an old Japanese couple, it was completely tranquil. Each shrine in Japan tends to have something special, this shrine had three ancient cedar trees, all over 100 years old and absolutely enormous! The shrine grounds were really beautiful, relying much more on nature than many shrines you may visit in the cities.

We went back to the shore of Kawaguchiko to see if the clouds might lift in time for sunset. Although Fuji didn’t show herself, the sunset was stunning!

We ended off our day by heading to our favourite supermarket, Ogino, to stock up on food as our accommodation included a shared kitchen, so we would be cooking our own meals. We had stayed in K’s House Mount Fuji view before and had really enjoyed it, so booked ourselves in there again. It was an early night, so we could get up for dawn!

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