Archive for June 3, 2017

a late afternoon stroll around kawaguchiko   17 comments

Saturday, June 3:  After returning to Kawaguchiko Station from Fujiyoshida, I inquire about the Sightseeing Bus.  There are three lines, the Red Line, which goes around Kawaguchiko; the Green Line, which goes to Lake Saiko; and the Blue Line to Lake Shojiko.  I can buy a combination Red and Green Line ticket for 1,300 yen, or a ticket for all three lines for 1,500 yen.  I buy the 1,300 ticket for the Red and Green Lines because I don’t see how I’ll have time to travel around on all three lines as it’s already late Saturday afternoon and I have to return home on Sunday afternoon.  I should have done my research better, however, because there are no views of Fuji from Lake Saiko on the Green Line, while there are supposedly wonderful views from Lake Shojiko.

No matter.  It turns out I will not get my money’s worth out of the ticket I buy, as I barely use the bus.  I use it from the station to get to the Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway, and after that, I don’t use it for the rest of the day.

When I arrive at the Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway 1t 4:15, there is no queue; I walk right up to the cable car and get in.  It’s packed, but at least the ride is short.  As we go up, I get a fabulous view of Lake Kawaguchi.

Kawaguchiko from the Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway

The bridge over the middle of the lake, the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge, is called by some the “upside-down bridge,” because on a clear day when the lake is smooth, one can see an upside down reflection of Mt. Fuji.  I won’t be lucky enough to have either one of those conditions when I walk over the bridge later this afternoon.

Kawaguchiko from the Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway

At the top of Mt. Kachi Kachi, I have another view of Mt. Fuji, but it pales in comparison to the view I had at Chureito Pagoda earlier today.

Mt. Fuji from Mt. Kachi Kachi viewpoint

view from Mt. Kachi Kachi viewpoint

view of Mt. Fuji from Mt. Kachi Kachi viewpoint

Right before I get back on the cable car, I enjoy a very brief glimpse of the lake before I’m hurried along by the ropeway operator.

Kawaguchi-ko from Mt. Kachi Kachi

Mt. Kachi Kachi ropeway

The Ropeway is a short diversion; I have bigger plans. I want to walk across the upside-down bridge to see if I can get the upside-down view of Fuji.   I walk from the Ropeway along the south side of the lake until I come to the touristy Kawaguchiko Herb Hall, an herb-themed tourist spot located near the Kwaguchikohan-Oike Park. The Hall offers craft classes with dried flowers and, at the Perfume-House annex, a chance to create scented aromas.  Herb goods are also on sale (Official Travel Guide Yamanashi: Kawaguchiko Herb Hall).

I was told by a Japanese friend that in the Hall, I could taste lavender soft ice cream.  I feel like I should try it out, but as I had that huge lunch of Houtou earlier, and I plan to have dinner at an Indian restaurant I saw while on the Sightseeing Bus, I decide to forego it.  Maybe I can try it tomorrow.

Kawaguchiko Herb Hall

My plan at this point is simply to walk across the bridge to check out the view.  I begin my walk at Kwaguchikohan-Oike Park.

Kawaguchiko

paddle boats at Kawaguchiko

Kawaguchiko

Before long, I’m on the bridge and the wind is blowing like crazy. I feel like it could pick me up and toss me into the lake.  The surface of the lake is full of wrinkles from the wind, and Fuji is half enveloped in clouds.  There is no upside-down view today.

Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji

Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji

Kawaguchiko

Kawaguchiko

Kawaguchiko

Kawaguchiko from the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge

I keep walking further and further across the bridge, hoping for that elusive view.  Before I know it, I’m on the other side of the lake.

Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji from the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge

Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji from the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge

Now that I’ve walked this far, rather than backtracking across the bridge, I might as well continue all the way around the lake.  As I walk along the north shore, I can see Mt. Fuji the whole way.

the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge

view of Mt. Fuji from the northern shore of Kawaguchiko

the north shore of Kawaguchiko

view of Mt. Fuji from the north shore of Kawaguchiko

Mt. Fuji from the north shore of Kawaguchiko

Mt. Fuji from the north shore of Kawaguchiko

Mt. Fuji from the north shore of Kawaguchiko

Mt. Fuji and paddle boats

As I approach the east side of the lake, Mt. Fuji is eclipsed by Mt. Kachi Kachi. The walk is longer than it looked when I first got on the bridge, but I have no choice now but to keep going.

continuing around the lake and last view of Fuji

looking to the north at Kawaguchiko

lush beauty

After my hour and 15 minute walk around the lake, where I search unsuccessfully for a place to eat dinner, I head back to my hotel.  All I find around the entire lake are hotels; I can’t believe there are no restaurants.  There is the Indian restaurant I had seen earlier, but when I pop in there, I ask if they serve beer and they say no. I thank them and walk back out; after all, what’s a holiday without beer?

Outside my hotel, before going in, I see a fabulous view of Mt. Fuji.  The clouds have lifted slightly and I can see the snow-capped crown.  Granted, there is a commercial area between the hotel and the mountain, but it doesn’t detract too much from the view.

view of Mt. Fuji from outside my hotel

At my hotel, which serves no food, I ask the proprietors where I can eat.  The young man tells me there is a ramen place about a 20-minute walk up the road!  A twenty-minute walk??  This after I not only walked up to the Chureito Pagoda but also walked around the east end of Kawaguchiko!

I’m too exhausted to walk 20 minutes.  I try to explain that I just walked around the lake and I am tired, hoping he will offer to drive me to a restaurant.  Instead, he motions for me to wait and he disappears to the parking lot.  I think, Great!  He’s going to drive me.  Instead he brings me a bicycle.  He says it is his bicycle and he proudly hands it over. I take it, relieved I don’t have to walk another 40 minutes to and from the restaurant.

 

my hotel: Taiheikan

When I get on the bicycle, my happiness about my newfound transportation quickly evaporates.  Like most Asian bicycles I’ve encountered,  the seat is way too low and I can’t seem to adjust it. I start pedaling, but it is hard on my knees with that low seat.  Besides, the road is a steady uphill. I end up getting off the bicycle and walking to the restaurant, pushing the bicycle the whole way. 🙂

As I go up the road, I pass another branch of the Indian restaurant, but I figure they will not serve beer either, since the sister branch didn’t.  I arrive at the ramen restaurant, where the menu is all in Japanese and no one in the restaurant speaks any English.  Nor does the waiter seem to want to help me figure things out; after all, I’m the only foreigner in the place.  I end up ordering a small order of fries and a beer, thinking that after I enjoy my beer, I’ll return to the Indian restaurant for dinner.

Leaving the ramen restaurant, I now have a long downhill ahead of me.  I get on the bicycle, and coast down the road at high-speed, without having to use those pedals even once!

At the “Alladin Indo Resturent,” as soon as I look at the menu, I see they serve beer!  Great.  I could have just come here in the first place.  Since I ended up having two beers at the ramen restaurant, I don’t order one here.  However, I do enjoy a great Indian meal of vegetable curry with naan.

dinner at “Alladin Indo Resturent”

“Alladin Indo Resturent”

Back in my cozy Japanese room, I decide to go downstairs and check out the hotel onsen. The hotel provides a nice robe and towel, which I put on.

my Japanese-style room at Taiheikan

me preparing to go to the onsen at Taiheikan

In my robe, and with my towel, I go down to the onsen, which is nicer than the one at my hotel in Hakone.  I soak in the hot bath for a good long while, enjoying having it all to myself.  Back in my room, I feel wonderfully relaxed.  It’s a good thing I’m tired because the wi-fi in the room doesn’t work at all, even though the hotel’s Agoda listing promised “free wi-fi.”  Still, it is a much nicer hotel than the one I had in Hakone, and for the same price.

Between the two beers, the Indian curry and naan, my exhaustion from a day of travel, climbing and walking, and the hot soak, I feel very relaxed indeed.

Total steps today: 19,490 (8.26 miles). 🙂

 

 

 

a weekend at fuji five lakes: fujiyoshida & the chureito pagoda   8 comments

Saturday, June 3:  On Friday morning, when I saw a perfectly sunny and cloudless weather forecast for Saturday, I immediately booked a hotel to go to Fuji-Goko, a collective term for the five lakes along the northern foot of Mt.Fuji.  The five lakes are Yamada Lake, Kawaguchi Lake, Saiko Lake, Shoji Lake, and Motosu Lake.  Kawaguchiko Lake is the easiest to get to from Tokyo and is the core of sightseeing in the Fuji-Goko area.  Thus I booked a hotel, Taiheikan, at Kawaguchiko.

On Saturday morning, I do my usual Google Maps search and find I can get to Kawaguchiko by train.  I see there are many more options by bus, but most buses seem to leave from Central Tokyo. That would mean I’d have to go northeast when my ultimate destination is to the southwest.  As this doesn’t seem logical, I opt for the trains.

I’m supposed to go seven stops west from Fuchinobe to Hachioji, but right away I make a mistake.  I accidentally get on a line that terminates at Hashimoto, meaning I have to wait a good long time for another train to Hachioji.  When I finally make it to Hachioji, I get off at the station and immediately see a train whiz past the platform; on it, people are sitting comfortably in reserved seating.  It looks like the Romancecar, but the Romancecar doesn’t run in this direction. I go up to the ticket window and ask if it’s possible to get a ticket on THAT train, but the man tells me that sometimes on holidays they run a special express train, but all the tickets are sold. Bummer!  It’s so disappointing sometimes to be foreigner and not to know these things.

I get on another line that stops short of my destination at Takao.  Thus I have to disembark and wait again.  The trip to Fuji Five Lakes is supposed to take just over 2 hours, but already, with these two mistakes, I’ve lost a half hour.

When I finally get on the Chuo Line at Takao, the train sits in the station for what seems an eternity.  After it finally takes off, it then makes a very extended stop at the first stop, Sagamiko.  I can tell this is a local line in a more rural area; it’s further removed from both the city and all semblance of order. After sitting at the station for such a long time that I have time to do another Google map search, I find that I can catch a bus to Kawaguchiko from this station.  I hop off the train and ask the man at the ticket booth about a bus to Kawaguchiko.  He can’t speak much English but he immediately hands me the hand-drawn map shown below.  He indicates that I have 10 minutes to catch the highway bus and waves me in the right direction.

the map from the train station to the bus stop

The train station on the map is in the bottom left corner.  The “freewey,” beside which the bus stop sits, doesn’t look that far on the map, but it seems like a long and frantic hike as I try to find my way, stopping and asking several farmers along the way.  Finally, I see the highway above me, and I climb the steps to the top, finding a decrepit bus stop whose weathered timetable shows the bus should arrive in 2 minutes. However, there is a traffic jam on the highway and the traffic is inching south to the Fuji area.  Oh dear.  One of my colleagues told me a nightmare story about taking a highway bus to Fuji and having it delayed an hour or more.  I wonder if I made the right decision to get off the train.

The bus doesn’t arrive anywhere close to when the timetable says it will, so I’m worried.  I wonder if a bus will stop here at all.  Finally, belatedly, a bus arrives, and I climb onboard, only to be told the bus is full.  However, the kindly bus driver indicates I should wait a second.  After placing a phone call, he tells me the next bus has a seat. I step off the bus, disheartened, but then I see the promised bus is directly behind the first bus. I get on, pay the fare, and take the last seat on the bus. 🙂

Oh my gosh!  I should have taken the bus earlier.  Soon, the traffic clears and we enjoy a smooth ride, arriving at Kawaguchiko only an hour later than I planned.

My hotel has a pick-up service from the train station, so I ask Tourist Information to call them.  When I check in,  the lady at the hotel is very kind; she reads some things about the hotel from a piece of paper, including: “Blessed with weather, hope that the Mt.Fuji is visible from guest room.”  I do have a view of Mt. Fuji from my room, but it is a city view, with a busy commercial road, power lines, businesses, and houses between me and the sacred mountain.

I ask the woman at the hotel if I can get a ride back to Kawaguchiko Station because I want to take the Fujikyuko Line to Shimo-yoshida Station to visit Chureito Pagoda. She kindly drops me at the station, but as it’s lunch time, I opt to try the signature dish of Yamanashi Prefecture: Houtou.  It consists of thick white chewy noodles and vegetables: pumpkin, mushrooms, potatoes, and onion in a thickened miso broth.  It’s served in a big cast iron pot with a ladle and chopsticks.  It’s delicious. 🙂

Hoto Fudo

Hoto Fudo

Hoto

After eating that fine lunch, I return to the station, and get back on the Fujikyuko Line.  Out the window, I get my first glimpse of Mt. Fuji, though its crown is engulfed in clouds.

the train to Shimo-Yoshido

the train

Four stops later, I’m at Shimo-Yoshida, where I get off and follow the signs through a rural neighborhood about 10 minutes to the steps leading to Chureito Pagoda.

the walk through Fujiyoshida to Chureito Pagoda

crossroads

The Chureito Pagoda is a five storied pagoda on the mountainside overlooking Fujiyoshida City, with Mount Fuji in the distance. The pagoda is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built as a peace memorial in 1963.  The pagoda sits nearly 400 steps up the mountain from the shrine’s main buildings (japan-guide.com: Chureito Pagoda).

torii gate to the shrine

As soon as I start walking up the steps, I can see Mt. Fuji.

view of Mt. Fuji from the steps up

Mt. Fuji through the trees

a little shrine on the mountain

It’s a long climb to the top, with many views along the way.

the steps up

views of Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji

At the top, I’m rewarded with a view of the fabulous Chureito Pagoda.

Chureito Pagoda

the view from the trial to Chureito Pagoda

Even better are the views above the pagoda, with Mt. Fuji in the distance.  The light isn’t favorable, but I am able to adjust the photos a little.

Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

Because of the challenging light, I take one photo on my iPhone with HDR Fusion.  This is my favorite one.

Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

Chureito Pagoda

Chureito Pagoda

Mt. Fuji

the little shrine on the way down

I stop in at the Arakura Sengen Shrine before continuing down the mountain.

Arakura Sengen Shrine

sake barrels at Arakura Sengen Shrine

I end up buying one of the Chureito Pagoda/Mt. Fuji ema shown below (bottom left); usually you’re supposed to write a wish on an ema and leave it at the shrine, but I ask if I can buy one to take with me. I’m told I can, so I do.

ema at Arakura Sengen Shrine

ema at Arakura Sengen Shrine

ema at Arakura Sengen Shrine

“temizuya” water pavilion

I continue down the mountain, following the path through the neighborhoods until I’m back at Fujiyoshida Station.

passing through the torii gates on the way down

maples and torii

pruned trees in the neighborhood

personal rice paddy

rice paddy, house and Mt. Fuji

lupines

lupines

back at the train station

the train back

I take the train back to Kawaguchiko, where I’m now ready to explore the lake and the attractions around it. 🙂

 

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