Japan 2019 Day 18: Surprise snow for Mount Fuji

The alarm sounded at 4am and we were greeted by a foggy, cloudy morning. Tired from our hike the day before we slept a little longer and got out to Kawaguchiko’s shore at 6am. The clouds had cleared and Mount Fuji had suddenly become much snowier than the day before! Fuji now had her winter snow line, even if it wasn’t a pure white yet!

On this trip I wanted to take photos of Mount Fuji from different angles, other than from the lakeside, so we drove up to Tenka Chaya, a tea house on route 708 which overlooks Kawaguchiko. We never did go into the teahouse itself, but there is a small area across from the shop where you can park at a trail head, and where you can set up a tripod to get some stunning photos!

The shot above was taken on the side of the road looking out onto Kawaguchiko. If you follow around to the right, under some trees, you will come to a second photo spot, with slightly different framing.

Just along from this view is a trail which runs all along the ridge to the north of Kawaguchiko, and would eventually get you to Mount Kurodake. As it was early we decided to climb up the start of the trail to the first peak, mainly because my husband had had enough of me shooting photos endlessly haha. It was an absolute slog of a climb, a series of tiny switchbacks at quite an angle. The path was covered in fallen leaves and was actually a little dicey! We kept going and eventually got to the top, to be greeted by… no view what so ever! As we didn’t know how far we would have to hike to get a view we headed back down. A few quick shots later and we started driving down the mountain.

With no set plans we decided to go and visit one of the most famous photo spots in the area, Chureito Pagoda. If you’ve ever looked at anything to do with Japan you have probably seen this view, the red and white pagoda against Mount Fuji, either surrounded by sakura or bright red leaves. We had a wonderful time here in our previous trip getting some sakura shots and so wanted to add to the collection. It was significantly less busy than during sakura season and we were able to park near to the pagoda. Even though it is a cliche spot I really love the views you get of Fuji from here!

It seems that the rules of the place have changed since our last visit, with no drone signs everywhere, and more surprisingly no tripods either! From our experience on our last visit here it makes a lot of sense, people with tripods will arrive early and take the best spots, hogging them all day. Once we got to the viewing platform there were only a handful of people, so we had all the time we wanted and could actually chose our shots!

This region has a number of places to explore and good views, other than from behind the pagoda. To the left of where the photo is taken are terraces covered in sakura trees, and above that a rest house where you can sit for a time. From our previous visits we knew that if you climbed for around 10 minutes you would get to a secluded view point. Once there, it wasn’t exactly what we had remembered, and the view wasn’t any nicer than the lower vantage points. As we decided to head back down a group of 4 old Japanese men walked up to us, and in Japanese started to tell us we must keep going up the mountain! They asked if we had time (all in Japanese) and said it would only take around 30 minutes and we would get a great view of Mount Fuji! Well, that was definitely the right thing to say to get me interested, so off we went! We only conversed a little on the way up, about half way they stopped a large rock, went to pray in front of it, and then stuck their heads in!

They, of course, encouraged me to also pop my head into the hole so that I could hear Mount Fuji breathing. It was sort of like the sound of a seashell held against your ear, but saying it is Mount Fuji is more exciting! The small rope around the rock denotes that it is sacred, so best to bow on your way past. Opposite from the stone, pointing back down Mount Arakurayama, was a small break in the trees with a sneaky view of Fuji. To get it you had to scramble down the steep side a little, they said it was safe!

Another 15 minute walk up the mountain and we came to the peak, and had a chance for a bit of conversation, after taking in the wonderful view. The 4 Japanese gentlemen were all in their 80’s, with one of them being 81. They climb up Mount Arakurayama each day at the same time, sit for 45 minutes and then walk back down again. They had also kitted out the peak, having carried up wood to make tables and benches, installed a bear bell and roped off areas with rare wild flowers. It was amazing to have a chat with these guys, imagine being able to climb a 1,180m mountain each day when you are 80! They were really kind and welcoming, and after a natter and a few more photos we made our way back down. I really hope to run into them again next time! As we were getting ready to leave they explained that we were very lucky, Mount Fuji had made lenticular clouds, which is very rare!

We got back down to Chureito Pagoda, and by then the lenticular clouds had fallen and were broiling over Mount Fuji’s peak. And more importantly, it was lunch time! We drove off towards the main area of strip malls in Kawaguchiko, and got a quick lunch at Cafe Gusto. Suddenly the skies open and so we hunkered down in our room and rested. We had managed to climb the equivalent of 150 floors by accident, and walk 8 miles! We stayed in until sunset and drove across the lake to one of our top spots by Obashi bridge, although Mount Fuji remained cloudy, the sunset was spectacular!

Suddenly, once it was full dark the clouds lifted from Fuji, and we got a stunning night view!

What a wonderful day!

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