Japan 2019 Day 21: Itchiku Kubota Art Museum & exploring Kawaguchiko

It was another cloudy day when we woke up, but with eternal hope of seeing Fuji, we headed over to park up at Oishi Park for a walk. It was our penultimate day in Kawaguchiko and we didn’t want to miss even a peek of Fuji. Alas, it was not to be again, moody skies greeted us, cleaving Mount Fuji’s head right off!

At 7am we headed off to the local Family Mart for snacks, and decided to walk around the maple corridor before the flocks of tourists arrived. The corridor wasn’t at peak yet, but was still rather beautiful. We also stumbled across a few interesting things, the biggest puppy I had ever seen, and a zero fighter jet behind a model shop!

As you can see, the skies were clear across Kawaguchiko! This is quite common, it can be a beautiful sunny day, and yet Mount Fuji is still surrounded by cloud!

We then wandered over to the entrance of Itchiku Kubota art museum, built by a famous dyer in 1994, in order to exhibit his work. The museum wasn’t open as it was still very early, but the main gate is something to see in of itself.

We still had an hour and a half to kill before the museum opened so we walked around Kawaguchiko and enjoyed the sunny morning. The museum opened at 9:30 and cost 1,300Y to enter. Although the museum is mainly to display the stunningly intricate kimono that the amazing Itchiku Kubota made, the gardens and buildings are also beautiful. There is a strolling garden with ponds, many different plants, and a cave! You can’t take any photos of the kimono themselves, but if you Google it you can come across a few photographs. Each kimono took many months to tie and to dye in this intricate style Itchiku Kubota used. It was a really enjoyable visit, there were very few people there, and we were probably about 40 years younger than any of the other guests.

After exploring the gardens and the museum we visited the small cafe which sits above the entrance to the museum. It was such a beautiful day and we took our drinks out onto the terrace, which gives a beautiful view of some of the site, and Mount Fuji too!

The sky had cleared and Mount Fuji had finally become visible, so we decided to finish up our drinks and head to the lake side. We drove to the nearby Oishi Park (a good free place to park) and walked around the lake to one of our favourite photo spots.

The leaves looked stunning with the sun shining through them, and it was great to see Mount Fuji again after some cloudy days. We decided to had to another of our favourite spots to get some shots while the sky was behaving, but by the time we drove there, which was only about 10 minutes, a cloud blew in and covered the peak. Instead of heading off somewhere else we decided to wait in the area, and explore the woods behind the lake side road. Kawaguchiko is much busier that in was only 10 years ago, but as many tourists places in Japan it suffered in previous recessions. Thanks to that there are a number of abandoned and derelict homes and hotels around the lake, especially away from the train station side. We found a few of these in the woods and decided to explore.

Just by the side of the road where we were we found an abandoned pump house (photo 2) and an abandoned family home. We didn’t try and get inside or get too close, but took a few shots and talked about how we could restore the house to live in haha!

Fuji still wasn’t clear after our little explore, so we decided to go for lunch and headed for the town centre in Kawaguchiko. We drove anticlockwise around the lake, which we hadn’t done yet this trip, and stumbled upon a Fuji Shrine that we had never seen before. As Fuji has been worshipped for centuries there are many shrines around, we have visited a few of them, but had never seen this one before. The name of this Fuji shrine is Fuji Omurosengen Shrine and is the oldest of the Mount Fuji shrines having opened in the year 699. The shrine was very famous and hosted a lot of events, frequented by nobility. The shrine was originally located at the second station on Mount Fuji herself, but was moved in 1974 to it’s current location.

The shrine was stunning with the autumn foliage, and there were very few people there, I’d recommend visiting if you wanted to see some history of the area. You can actually see Mount Fuji from the shrine too!

For lunch we headed to Mos Burger at Bell shopping centre in Kawaguchiko. Mos Burger offered a low allergen burger and hot dog that I wanted to try. It is quite novel as here in the UK none of the fast food chains cater to allergies. Sadly the Mos burger only had the burger, not the hot dog, so I ordered two and waited. The burgers are sealed in a plastic wrapper and heated this way, so that there is no cross contamination at all! The burger is free of egg, milk, wheat, shrimp, crab, soba and peanut, so perfect for me and my allergies. Surprisingly the burger is made of pork, not beef, and is absolutely tiny! I can’t say it was very tasty though, and it was very sticky, as the bun is made of rice, but it was edible, and good to try it!

Two little burgers wasn’t quite enough for me so I went and got my favourite Japanese lunch of our whole trip, yaki imo, a grilled sweet potato! During lunch I kept my eye on the live webcams which give a view of Mount Fuji so I could monitor the clouds. I noticed the sky had cleared and so we headed back off to try again! The sky was mostly clear when we got there, but the sun had passed over Fuji, meaning the best hours of photography for the morning had finished. We were able to get some shots, but Fuji is much more beautiful in the morning!

We went back round the lake to Oishi park to get some cloud free shots, you can see the difference the position of the sun makes on Fuji if you compare this shot from earlier in the day (the leaves are so much more vivid though!).

There was another photo spot I wanted to visit on our trip, that had become popular since we last came in 2017, the street shot from Fujiyoshida. I had a good idea of where to go thanks to some Google maps stalking, and so we headed off. We parked at a 7/11 and wandered up the road, as this spot has become so popular there were signs in English asking people not to take pictures in traffic, as it is dangerous. There were a few others tourists who flouted the rules and spent time posing in the road. I managed a few snaps whilst the road was clear, but didn’t stay long, not wanting to be a nuisance.

The sun was fading fast and I wanted to try for some sunset photos on our last night. I have a brain fart and instead of going to the nearby Chureito Pagoda, which could have been stunning, we headed for a newly opened viewing platform called Fuji Deck. Fuji Deck is situated in a garden/cafe and gives almost uninterrupted views of Mount Fuji, and from the other side, Kawaguchiko itself.

Unfortunately as we got a bit lost finding it, the last of the sun had already gone, we stayed until Fuji was only a silhouette before heading back for dinner. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Fuji Deck, there are much better view points around the area, but if you can’t climb up stairs it is a good alternative.

After a quick dinner we headed back out to do our final batch of night time photography, heading back to one of my favourite autumn leaf spots around the northern shore of Kawaguchiko. On our way we stopped off at the maple festival to see the trees lit at night, it was stunning, but so crowded.

Just a few more miles around the lake and we were alone again, to shoot the beautiful Fuji under the stars.


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