an early morning walk at lake kawaguchi, a kimono museum & an outdoor onsen   7 comments

Sunday, June 4:  As has been typical during my time in Japan, I wake up with the sun at 4:30 a.m. in my hotel in Kawaguchiko. Since Japan doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time, the sunrise here is normally at around 4:30 a.m. and sunset is around 7:00 p.m.  I prefer Virginia’s Daylight Savings Time, during which the sun rises at 5:45 and sets at 8:40 p.m.  What good is all that extra summertime light if it’s so early in the morning that you’re not even awake to enjoy it?

Lying on my futon, wide awake at this ungodly hour, I remember that I can see Mt. Fuji out my hotel window, so I hop up for a sunrise view.

Sunrise view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room

Sunrise view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room

Sunrise view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room

I finally get tired of hopping out of bed for views in the changing light.  I guess I fall back to sleep briefly, because my next view is at 5:55 a.m.  Much more reasonable.  These sunrise views of Mt. Fuji are the only ones I get where the crown is not obscured by clouds.

Sunrise view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room

After my 6 a.m. viewing, I can’t go back to sleep, so I put the hotel robe on to go down to the onsen.  There are no meals served at my hotel, so the sooner I get bathed and dressed, the sooner I can go in search of coffee and breakfast.

By about 8 a.m., following a leisurely soak in the onsen, and after getting dressed, I ponder whether I should check out or keep my room while I go out for breakfast. I don’t know where I’ll end up going for breakfast, and it might be a pain to have to make it back to the hotel by the 10:00 check-out time.  Finally, I decide I’ll just check out, leaving my bag at the hotel desk.  I head out toward the lake to explore. Baffled, I find, just as I found when looking for a dinner restaurant last night, that no cafes are open until 9:00.  I have nowhere to go!  I stop back by the hotel, since it’s not far from the lake, and ask if I can have my room back.  At least I could lie around until 9:00.  But the lady tells me they’ve already started cleaning it, so I can’t have it back.  I complain that I can’t find any breakfast or coffee, and she points me in the direction of the Family Mart, where I have a cup of coffee and a doughnut with pink icing while sitting at the perimeter counter.

After leaving Family Mart, I head straight for Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge, which I walked over yesterday; I’m still hoping to get that upside-down view of Fuji.  At this point, I’ve been up for hours and it’s only 8:30 a.m.!

early morning walk across the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge

I still can’t find the sacred mountain reflected in the lake, no matter how much I want to see it.

early morning walk across the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge

This time, I’m heading to the northwest side of the lake.  I want to visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum and an onsen near the museum that has an outdoor bath.  I don’t know why I can never resist soaking in a hot bath in an outdoor setting.

early morning walk across the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge – view west

The weather today is fabulous, just like it was yesterday.  I lucked out this weekend.  It’s in the low 70s with a nice breeze and low humidity.  In my book, that’s the perfect weather, although the high 60s is even better. 🙂

early morning walk across the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge – view west

western part of Kawaguchiko

After crossing the bridge, I follow the brick walkway to the west, where I find this painted manhole cover featuring Mt. Fuji.

manhole covers at Kawaguchiko

The views from the northwest shore are beautiful this morning, although much of Fuji’s top is hugged by clouds.

walk along the shore of Kawaguchiko

path along the shore

Mt. Fuji through the weeping willows

Italian cypress trees along Kawaguchiko

I find a tiny shrine tucked into the trees along the path.

ema at a small shrine

small shrine at Kawaguchiko

view of Fuji from the northwest shore

view of Fuji from the northwest shore

By 9:30, after quite a long walk, I come to the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.  This museum features huge kimono with intricate scenes created with labor-intensive silk dyeing.

According to the museum’s website, Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003) is considered the most important Japanese textile artist of the 20th century.  He revived the lost art of Tsujigahana silk dyeing, used to decorate elaborate kimono during the Muromachi Period (1333-1573).

According to, in his early twenties, the artist was so inspired by a Tsujigahana textile fragment exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum, that he devoted the rest of his life to recreating and mastering the labor-intensive silk dyeing technique.

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

The Gaudi inspired museum is a natural shrine to the artist’s work.

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

The Kubota Collection consists of 104 artistic kimono including kimono from the Mount Fuji series, some individual pieces and Kubota’s lifetime project “The Symphony of Light.”  A masterpiece left incomplete at the time of his death, this series consisted of 36 kimono (he had intended to make 80).  Each work is designed to be an atmospherical painting of a certain season, element or setting, but is also part of a more important landscape which is magically unveiled once the kimono are placed next to each other  (Collection Highlights).  This project of scene-painted kimono reminds me very much of the silk screen paintings I saw in the Nezu Museum.

As is typical in Japanese museums, I’m not allowed to take photos.  Sadly, the gift shop doesn’t even carry any postcards of these wonderful kimono.  Visiting the website seems the best option to experience these masterpieces. 🙂  You can also see some photos here: is japan cool? Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

There is also a beautiful garden attached to the museum, with free-floating doorways offering glimpses of shaded leafy pathways.

gate at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

thatched wall at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota’s former workshop is now a tea room where one can sit and enjoy views of the waterfall, pond and tropical foliage.

Architectural features are scattered throughout the garden of the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.

pavilion and garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

gate without walls Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

After leaving the museum, I trudge up a steep hill to Tensui Kawaguchiko.  Although I already had an indoor onsen experience at my hotel this morning, I’m enticed by the outdoor bath.  Though I enjoy it, I’m a little too antsy to stay long.  About half the pools are warm and the other half are cool, and there are ants swarming all over the rocks.  I don’t stay long enough to get my money’s worth out of it.

I catch the Sightseeing Bus back to the Kawaguchiko Hall of Herb & Fragrance, where I enjoy a lavender and vanilla soft ice cream cone.

lavender & vanilla ice cream at the Kawaguchiko Herb Hall

I feel tired from all my walking yesterday and this morning, so I think I might just go back to the train station.  After all, how many views can one see of Mt. Fuji?

pretty hotel at Kawaguchiko

I return to my hotel, pick up my bag, and ask the owner if I can get a ride to the train station. Before I leave the area, I plan to catch a bus from the station to Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine, a shrine dedicated to Princess Konohanasakuya, the Shinto deity associated with Mt. Fuji.  When I inquire about this bus, I found I have just missed it, and the next one won’t be for another hour.

I tell the woman at the ticket counter that I might as well just get my ticket to return home.  After all, I don’t want to wait around at the station for an hour. She tells me there are a number of Sengen shrines around Fuji and I can easily visit another one, Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja, on the Sightseeing Bus. I was just on the Sightseeing Bus from the museum, and I could have just stayed on it to the shrine.  I’ve wasted all this time going to the station and now have to backtrack to the southwestern side of Lake Kawaguchi. I debate as to whether I should go to all this effort and in the end I decide it’s probably too early to return home when there is more I can see here.  As it’s probably unlikely I will ever return here, I might as well make the effort.  I put my bag in a coin locker, and hop back on the sightseeing bus for Fuji Omuro Sengen Shrine.

7 responses to “an early morning walk at lake kawaguchi, a kimono museum & an outdoor onsen

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  1. I started a comment but it disappeared before I pressed ‘post’. Anyway I shall try again. The area looks very peaceful and you got some lovely photos of Mount Fuji. I love how the cloud forms around the base of the mountain. You have certainly seen a lot during your stay in Japan, I wonder how on earth you have managed to fit in any lesson planning and marking! You must be up very late during the week! I love the late evenings we get in the summer months, just now it is daylight around 5 am and the sun sets around 9:30 pm but the sky is still light until well after 10 pm. I was watching the bats in the courtyard tonight with a lovely deep blue twilight sky behind them. I wish I was a morning person: maybe I can try harder to get up earlier, it is a shame to waste all this lovely light.
    Have a good week xx

    • It was a very peaceful area, unlike most of the places I visit around the Tokyo area on weekends. Almost every place is packed on weekends! As for lesson planning and marking, I am in the office for 9 hours a day, so I try my best to be efficient while at work and use every minute to get things done while there. So far, I’ve been successful in doing that. I only have four weeks and one day of classes; believe me, I am counting the days! I miss the late summer nights; you’re lucky to have them. Your description makes me miss summer at home in Virginia, where it also stays light late. You have a good week too. It’s a rainy day here today, so not much fun. 😦

      • A nine hour day is long, but I guess I probably worked more than that in school plus what I did at home in the evenings (let’s not mention weekends and holidays). I assume you don’t teach all day so you can get other stuff done. I would have imagined teaching the older students would be better, they’d be more motivated, but perhaps that’s not the case.

  2. It was worth getting up early for that glorious view of the mountain, Cathy. I like early mornings because there are usually fewer people around. You’re certainly making the most of your long days. You can rest when you’re back home in Virginia! 🙂

    • I love early mornings too, and I am trying my best to take advantage of every minute while I’m here. The work is killing me though, so I feel pretty drained of energy most of the time. 🙂

  3. That must be one of the best hotel bedroom views it is possible to have. 🙂 I went to the website and looked at the kimono – such wonderful works of art, and what a shame that you can’t buy a postcard of them. The gardens around the museum are lovely and peaceful.

  4. You were really lucky to get that awesome Mt. Fuji view with the summit free from clouds! I know that is quite rare!

    This reminds me of an astonishing documentary I saw this week on a the so-called “suicide forest” at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and how many hundreds of Japanese choose to die there. There is no stigma attached to suicide in Japan. How I was made aware of this was a strange documentary I watched this week as I was saying…., about a 45 year old Japanese lady who came to Yellowknife in the Canadian Yukon province to apparently commit suicide. It was one of the most haunting things I have ever seen, and one day I hope we can watch it together and discuss what it says about her and about Japan. She did not wish to return to Japan if she was ever found, replacing the Aokigahara, also known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees, in front of Mount Fuji, with the dense forests which surround Yellowknife. She came to Canada alone, and she died alone, and it is such a sad story that reminded me about how you can live in a city like Tokyo and still be invisible and not missed when you disappear. Chilling!

    Well on to brighter topics! I wonder if you did not see enough of the hydrangea without doing the time-consuming walk. I used to live on a streetcar line (the Toden Line I think it was) runs very close to Shinjuku Station, but my worst experience was on that red line leaving Tokyo Station! I could feel my ribs being bent it was so packed and I missed my stop as I could not get through the packed crowds! It was AWFUL!!


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