Japan 2019 Day 19: climbing Mount Kurodake for stunning views of Mount Fuji

I was committed to doing some sunrise photography on our 19th day, so we were awake and getting ready at 4am. We had decided to revisit one of our spots from the previous day, Tenka Chaya, as it has such a beautiful view. We managed to get there by 5:30, as it is a 30 minute drive up some windy mountain roads. It was entirely worth it, the sunrise was spectacular, I could have stayed there forever.

The whole world changed colours almost by the minute, from dark dusky purples until the sun finally struck the peak of Fuji and glowed gold.

We stayed for an hour, the sky was changing so much that the shots kept changing, it was magic. Once we were done we headed back down to Kawaguchiko lake to some spots we had scouted the night before for shots of Fuji with autumn leaves. The sky was perfectly clear, it was a stunning day!

The spot we had scouted the night before was right on the edge of the lake, off of the cycle path. We thought it was a great hidden spot, but it was crowded at 7am! Luckily the people there were really kind, and allowed everyone to take a turn to get the shots ❤

As the weather we spectacular we wanted to try another hike that day, so we quickly stopped off at K’s house and got into our hiking gear. Our aim was Mount Kurodake, the tallest peak on the ridge which lines the northern edge of Kawaguchiko, and commands amazing views of the city, lake and Fuji. There are a number of ways to get up to Kurodake, from Oishi Park, from Tenka Chaya, or from the end of a very wriggly road on the other side of the peak. It took almost 50 minutes to drive under 10 miles, but the last couple of miles were on single track mountain roads, which were slightly dicey! We arrived at the car park for the start of the hike, but before we could set off a couple of hikers came down and shared some photos that they had just taken, the view looked spectacular! On the hike there are 4 view points for Mount Fuji, each clearly signposted off of the trail, and all beautiful.

View 1
View 2
View 3
View 4
Mount Kurodake peak view

Each view point gave a slightly different angle of the lake and surrounding town. The position of the sun made shooting a little challenging, so I’d love to go ahead earlier in the morning! The hike only took an hour to get to the peak of Kurodake, we met a couple of Japanese hikers there, who were cooking up some lunch on a portable stove! There was very little at the peak of Kurodake, two signs to show you had made it, and a dilapidated old rest hut, which was certainly not usable anymore.

We made our way back down, and carefully drove off the mountain and back to Kawaguchiko. A quick bit of lunch and we decided to head back up Mount Fuji to get a clear view of the 5 lakes region. There were signs in Japanese that I thought said the 5th station was closed, but we got to the toll gate, paid the same price and nothing was mentioned. It wasn’t until we came round a bend after 13km that the road was blocked off. I was really miffed, the view from the 4th station isn’t comparable to the 5th, and we got charged the same! Although as the day was clear you could see all the way to the ocean!

It was a real squish on the small viewing platform, all the tour buses that usually stop at the large 5th station were here, an unpleasant experience. An American couple came near my whilst I was trying to shoot and just told each other to push me out of the way as it “didn’t matter”. Charming. On our way down we stopped at the 1st station to use the facilities, and spotted a road parallel to the toll road! We had discovered the old road to the 5th station! It was time for an adventure, the perfect antidote to my grumpy mood!

We left our little car at the 1st station car park, hopped over the edge of the car park and down onto the old road. It was actually quite eerie walking along the old road, the whole road was in the shade. Knowing that wild boar live on the mountain (after seeing on only two days before) and that bears lived here, I was scanning the surrounding forests the whole time! On our walk we found a map of the road systems across Fuji, and noticed we could get onto the road by car, and drive up the mountain. We drove back down to the bottom of Fuji, and set off on the old road. The first place we came to was a secret park!

I’ve travelled around Kawaguchiko a lot and had never even heard of this little gem! The National Arboretum Commemorative Plaza is a wide open park with a little walking path. There were only two other groups of people here, dog walkers and a group of young people relaxing. There was a good little view of Fuji, even though it is taken from Mount Fuji…

We kept driving up, I can see why this road isn’t fit for tourism anymore, it could not handle the amount of traffic that Fuji draws. The road was a single lane and very windy all the way up! Often there were branches and debris across the road. It was super interesting, we saw a number of new forests that had been planted, and evidence of wildlife.

The road offered some interesting views, and was completely devoid of all people! As we were going up Google and the onboard Satnav suddenly decided there was no more road, and so the last part of the road to the old 4th station was off grid. The road terminated just below the new 4th station that we had got to previously. There wasn’t really much of a view, but we got out and explored a little. After we had been out of the car for a minute or so we heard a loud scream coming from the long grass next to the car. It sounded like a human screaming, and properly made our hair stand on edge. The sound kept coming, getting more and more high pitched, and it stopped sounding human at all. We jumped back in the car for safety and decided we had had enough time there! As we were driving down we worked out it must have been wild boar (Google what they sound like… not what you want to hear all alone on a mountainside). Apparently they scream either when they feel in danger, or when they have found prey…

We coasted down most of Fuji as our fuel was getting low and popped out far away from where we started. Unlike the new road this one has a different start and end, and so we ended up by Lake Saiko and it was getting dark. We quickly filled up on petrol and decided to watch the sunset from the northern shore of Saiko. On our way I saw a sign for a panoramadai, a panoramic view point, and we headed there instead. We got to Koyodai observatory just before it closed. Koyo means to view autumn leaves, and so this was a perfect autumn spot. The sun had set over the mountains by the time we got up, but it was an interesting spot, not my favourite angle of Mount Fuji though.

We didn’t have long before we had to leave, as the observatory was closing, and so after a quick dinner at Royal Host we drove back to Kawaguchiko. We managed to drive over 100 miles! As it was a beautifully clear night we headed back out to do some more photography, any excuse!


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