Mount Fuji is often near the top of the list of must see’s for people visiting Japan. There are a number of tours on offer which will ferry you from Tokyo and back, for a price. The area around Mount Fuji is very simple to get around, so why not DIY your trip, save some money, and take your time exploring this iconic mountain.
When to visit?
Mount Fuji is only visible roughly 50% of the year, and this will change vastly month on month. February has the highest chance of a clear view at 75%, whereas July gives you only a 6% chance.
Regardless of the month you are visiting morning has the most clear views, meaning staying the night in the area will up your chances! To find out more about when the best time might be click here.
Of course Mount Fuji looks different throughout the year, a thick snow cap in winter gives way to reds and greens in summer. In spring you can see the elusive cherry blossoms, whereas in autumn Fuji is framed red. Climbing season (except 2020) is from the start of July to the end of August, so if you want to go up, rather than look up, those are the months for you.
Below is a Google My Maps of the top spots for great views of Mount Fuji particularly in the Five Lakes area. Click on the link here to find out how to access areas around Kawaguchiko.
There is no right order in terms of exploring the area around Kawaguchiko, but there are some spots that are better for early or late in the day. As chances of getting a clear view are highest in the morning it may be worth hitting your top spot first thing!
One aspect that will impact your route is how you will be getting about the area, by public transport, car, or bike. If you have a car then you can easily travel to any spot for sunrise, sunset, or night time viewings. If you are relying on public transport you will have a later start, but can explore from your hotel!
The local bus lines around the Five Lakes area will enable you to travel between many of the best spots around Mount Fuji, giving you great views, and other exciting experiences, such as visiting Aokigahara, or the caves of Mount Fuji! There is also a local train line, the Fujikyu line, a private railway, which travels from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko, stopping at tourist spots like Shimoyoshida for Chureito Pagoda, and Fujikyu Highland Amusement park.
If staying overnight in Kawaguchiko you can easily get up for sunrise on the lakeside, and take an early train to Chureito Pagoda, to get the view to yourself. The ropeway and boat excursion both start at 9am, as do the buses. With a bus pass you can easily hop on and off the bus, travelling around the 5 lakes area and stopping at each spot you wish to explore!
What to do on a cloudy day?
With chances being about 50/50 you will probably get a cloudy or rainy day whilst in the Mount Fuji area. Although this can be truly disappointing, the area has a lot to offer without clear skies.
The previous eruptions of Mount Fuji mean that much of the landscape was shaped by lava, and lots of lava means caves. The Ice cave and Wind cave, and Bat cave are accessible by bus, allowing you the experience of going beneath the lava, where it is perpetually freezing!
Even without seeing Mount Fuji towering around, the lakes themselves are very beautiful. Mount Fuji may be the most prominent mountain around, but certainly isn’t the only one. The Five Lakes are surrounded by mountains, offering stunning views, and challenges. Why not go on a hike up Kurodate or Mitsutoge? Or appreciate the mountains from the lake shore? And if you can’t see Fuji, you can always travel up Mount Fuji. Buses go to the 5th station on the Subaru line frequently, except when the road is closed due to snow in winter.
When Mount Fuji used to erupt she devastated the area, with lakes of lava and blankets of ash. Many shrines were erected in order to appease the mountain, and save the local area. Today these shrines still stand, and the destruction caused by Fuji has lessened since! There are several notable shrines around the Kawaguchiko area; Kawaguchiko Asama shrine, Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine, and Fujimuro Sengen shrine. Each shrine was erected to worship and appease Mount Fuji, and all have long histories in the area.
Kawaguchiko particularly has a number of museums and attractions for a rainy day, or even for a clear day too! These include the intriguing doll museum, the Music Forest Museum, and the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.
Another great option for a rainy or cloudy day is to enjoy the onsen around the area. If you aren’t staying in one of the local ryokan to access the baths, a number of ryokan allow walk ins to use their public or private baths.
Getting to the area
One of the easiest, and possibly best, areas to see Mount Fuji is from the Fuji Five Lakes region which surround Mount Fuji to the north. The most visited of these five lakes is Kawaguchiko, which also offers the easiest access from Tokyo or Kyoto/Osaka.
The cheapest and simplest manner to access the area is by highway bus from Tokyo. The bus leaves from Shinjuku and takes roughly 2 hours and 2000Y to get you to Kawaguchiko. The bus also stops at Shimo Yoshida (home of Chureito Pagoda) and Fuji Q Highland amusement park.
There is also a bus which runs between Kawaguchiko station and Kyoto, but this is a long slog!
Kawaguchiko station links in to Tokyo via Otsuki station – take the JR Chuo Line to OTsuki and switch to the Fujikyu Railway to Kawaguchiko Station. Or take the direct limited express train from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko, although these only run a few times a day.
If travelling from Kyoto or Osaka you can take the Shinkansen to Mishima and then the Fujikyu bus to Kawaguchiko. Alternatively take the Shinkansen to Nagoya and then a Limited Express train to Matsumoto, onto Otsuki and finally Kawaguchiko.
One great way to explore the Mount Fuji region is by hire car. It is a roughly 2 hour drive along the toll road express ways between Tokyo and Kawaguchiko. Having a car gives you the freedom to get to the area from anywhere in Japan. You also have the freedom to drive to some great locations for sunrise or sunset, when the buses aren’t running!