When the alarm went off at 4am we were once again treated to a view of fluffy clouds and nothing else. Not to be deterred we suited up and headed back up the mountain to Hahanoshirotaki carpark, to get to the torii gate on the edge of the mountain face. As we drove through Kawaguchiko it was foggy and dark, we slowly went up the switch backs on the mountain, and all of a sudden we were out of the clouds and the sky was clear!
It was an amazing morning, I had been waiting impatiently since 2017 to see Mount Fuji again, and it was certainly worth it. Kawaguchiko was sleeping under a blanket of clouds, but Fuji was standing proud!
Our morning shoot was somewhat rudely interrupted. We were alone, as it was 6am and we were on the side of a mountain, but we heard a car coming up the lane. They parked by our car and started to walk down to the torii gate, camera round their neck, carrying a large tripod. Behind the torii gate is a higher terrace, where the photo above was taken from, the gentlemen stopped there and started shouting at us in Japanese. I have had little listening practice for shouting, but he was saying we shouldn’t be here. (What we he doing coming up here with a tripod and a camera eh?). After saying we would leave he eventually moved on, we shot for a little longer before heading off, the tranquil morning mood spoiled.
We drove down to the nearest 7-11 and got a second breakfast and supplies, we were going to summit Mitsutoge, while the weather was fine. The views from Mitsutoge are some of my favourite, and I was excited that I had found a shorter route to the summit, the usual round trip would take 8 hours, ours should take around 2.5. Through hours of Google snooping, and Japanese translating I managed to find a car park (with a nearby bus stop for those without a car) that was only 1 hours hike away from the summit, and those stunning views. Even when we arrived not long after 7am the car park was completely full, and we ended up having to park on the side of the road further down. By 7:30am we had our hiking boots on and headed up! It was possibly one of the steepest hikes I have ever done, the trail is a “road” that supplies the summit, and it deep within the trees. For the hours slog there is no view to motivate you, you just have to keep going. It was so early when we were climbing, and so cold, that the floor near the peak was frozen, it was worth all the effort!
It was the best view I had ever seen, anywhere in the world! You could see for miles and miles from the peak of Mitsutoge. We stayed at the top just taking it all in for a while, there were a handful of Japanese climbers at the peak, cooking ramen and eating breakfast. At the peak there is also a guest house, which has the only toilets that were open on the mountain. I got chatting to the owner, in Japanese, he lives on Mitsutoge year round, he told me the snow will get above his knees in the winter, and he has to walk all the way down the mountain if he needs supplies! I couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to live!
After taking hundreds of photographs, and enjoying the sunlight giving us much needed warmth, clouds started to appear around the edge of Fuji, feeling hungry it was time to go down!
There were a lot of people heading up as we went down, even people tackling the steep switch back “road” on bikes! All round it was a 4.6 mile walk, gaining over 1,200 feet in elevation. I would do it again in a heart beat to see that view again, the photos can’t due it justice. After a quick lunch from Ogino, our favourite supermarket, we decided to walk round Kawaguchiko to enjoy the autumn leaves and the Koyo festival. There were clouds in the sky, which slightly obscured Fuji but we were able to get a few shots, despite the sun being too high for it.
I wouldn’t recommend visiting the Kawaguchiko maple/koyo festival, it was absolutely packed and was highly unpleasant to walk around. After dinner we were going to visit the Yamanakako fall illumination event, it was the final night so lucky timing to be here at that time. Yamanakako is the second most visited of the Fuji Five Lakes, but I don’t particularly like the angle of Fuji from this lake, so don’t tend to visit.
The light up even was truly magical, there was a path through a few hundred meters of illuminated bright red, orange and gold maple trees. There were few people around, so it was really relaxing and surreal. By complete chance we ended up on the shore of Yamanakako, when we looked to our left we were met by a stunning view, Mount Fuji with a golden line of trees. A Japanese photographer came over and helped to set up shots, showing me the best place to frame Fuji. He was properly committed, wearing waders and standing with his tripod in the lake to get the shot!
Unfortunately as I started shooting clouds appeared, eventually covering Fuji and putting an end to our shoot for the day. By the time we were back in Kawaguchiko, Fuji was no where to be seen!