Kawaguchiko hardly rings any bell for the mainstream traveller, often dwarfed in popularity to the dominant cities of Tokyo and Osaka. It, however, is an absolutely stunning place in the Yamanashi prefecture that has a lot to offer in terms of scenic views, culinary delights, culture, and history. Just an hour and a half away from Tokyo, it’s more known as a day trip out for many travellers staying in Tokyo. Oh yes before I forget, they also have Mount Fuji, you may or may not have heard of that.
I jest, chances are if you are planning a trip to Tokyo, a visit to Mount Fuji would already either be in the cards or would have at least garnered some consideration. Here’s why you should hesitate no longer and take that journey out of Tokyo, turning it into a quick getaway from the dense city streets of Tokyo.
How to get there:
If you’re heading to Kawaguchiko from Tokyo, express bus or train would be the most convenient way. Available from the Shinjuku and Shibuya stations, the express bus would take you about an hour and a half to an hour and 40 mins barring traffic congestion.
When you’re travelling in and around Kawaguchiko, there are many local buses that operate in the area, so have no fear. If you’re travelling in a group, renting a car may prove to be the more efficient option of getting around.
Alternatively, you can consider getting the JR Tokyo Wide 3 Days pass to help you get around via the local bus and the Fujikyu Railway.
Where to stay:
There are many hotels available in Kawaguchiko, and HOTEL MYSTAY Fuji Onsen Resort is one of the best choices out there. With an open landscape view of Mount Fuji from your hotel room, the views are breathtaking.
Should you want a more localised feel, or just a different lodging experience from a hote, there are also many Airbnbs for you to consider!
Day 1: Eat, Sleep, and Play in Kawaguchiko
We’d recommend travelling to Kawaguchiko early in the morning so as to maximise your day, and after a lengthy bus or train ride, going for a dip into an onsen should be your first order of business which in my opinion, is the best way for some rejuvenation before setting out to conquer the rest of your day. After all, Kawaguchiko is also known for being a hot springs resort town.
If you choose to stay in Fuji Onsen Resort, then you can head up to the top floor where their in-house onsen is located which also grants you an expansive view of Mount Fuji standing in the horizon across. If not, there are tons of onsens littered throughout the town, with a bunch of them offering views of the signature mountain.
HOTEL MYSTAYS Fuji Onsen Resort Address: 2654 Arakura, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi 403-0011, Japan Opening Hours: Daily from 5 AM – 10 AM, 3 PM – 1 AM
Now that you’re all warm and rejuvenated, it’s time to get you fed. For lunch, go straight for their local delicacy of Houtou noodles that is signature of the Kawaguchiko region. Houtou noodles are unusual flat noodles which are stewed in miso broth and fresh vegetables.
You get a mixture of umami from the miso with a little sweetness from the vegetables which results in a nice, balanced dish. The noodles are chewy and a little reminiscent of udon, but they are two different types of noodles. It’s a one pot delight that has its roots in Kawaguchiko tradition. There are no shortage of establishments selling Houtou noodles, but Houtou Fodou is one of the leading restaurants which has an outlet famed for their igloo-like structure.
Houtou Fodou Address: 2458 Funatsu Higashikoiji, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun 401-0301, Yamanashi Prefecture Opening Hours: Daily from 11 AM – 8 PM
Now, with your body rested and tummy fed, it’s time for a cultural learning journey around Lake Kawaguchi. Located along the Northeast bank of Lake Kawaguchi are a duo of museums which are beautiful.
The first is the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum which is musical theme park designed with capturing the essence of the “European Alps” in mind.
The grounds have a whimsical vibe as you stroll through blooming flowers and swans skimming the surfaces of ponds. Inside the European-styled houses you’ll find antique music boxes that have stood the test of time.
Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum Address: 3077-20 Kawaguchi, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi 401-0304, Japan Opening Hours: Daily from 9:30 AM – 6 PM (Opens until 5:30 PM on Sundays)
Go up North of the Music Forest Museum and in short time you’ll find yourself at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. Receiving 3 stars back in the 2009 Michelin Travel Guide, the art museum has been a mainstay of attractions in Kawaguchiko.
The museum celebrates and features the works of textile artist Itchiku Kubota who was famous for resurrecting and reinventing the lost art of Tsujigahana, a traditional fabric dyeing technique.
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum Address: 2255 Kawaguchi, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun 401-0304, Yamanashi Prefecture Opening Hours: Daily from 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Head on a little more West and you’ll come across the Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center which offers a unique and their signature blueberry soft serve. It’s a sweet and delicious treat that will be worth the mileage.
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center Address: 2585 Oishi, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun 401-0305, Yamanashi Prefecture Opening Hours: Daily from 9 AM – 6 PM
Day 2: All About Heights – Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway and Hiking Mount Fuji
Rise and shine for day 2 and it’s all about the elevation today.
The Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway is a 400m ascent to the peak of Mount Tenjo. It was previously called the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway as Mount Tenjo was said to be the mountain where the folktale “Kachi Kachi Yama” originated. Some have said that it is an onomatopoeia for the sound the cable car makes as it takes you up.
As the current name suggests, right at the summit, there’s a viewing deck that will give you expansive and panoramic views of Mount Fuji, all the way to the foot of the mountain. Looking at the tip of Mount Fuji, just barely breaking through the clouds is a sight to behold.
Note: This is all predicated on the visibility of the day, so be careful as sometimes it can get quite cloudy which will obstruct you having a perfect view.
Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway Address: 1163-1 Azagawa, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun 401-0303, Yamanashi Prefecture Opening Hours: Daily from 9:30 AM – 4:40 PM
It’s nice and all to take a photo of Mount Fuji from a distance, and don’t get me wrong, you are sure to get some great shots. But sometimes, you didn’t come this far, just to get this far.
Climbing Mount Fuji is an experience and opportunity that doesn’t come every so often. From July to September is typically the climbing season, so if you happen to find yourself in Kawaguchiko during this period, it’s a sign to ascend to the top.
This climb will be an overnight one so don’t worry about waking during the wee hours of the morning. That would also mean you’ll have to book accommodations at a mountain hut as climbing in one go (bullet climbing) compromises safety.
Before the actual climb though, start off with some brunch at the 5th station some 2400m up. The 5th station is the 5th of the Fuji Subaru Line which is approximately halfway up the Yoshida Trail. There are many rest houses from which you can get a meal to fuel up before embarking on the climb.
To make the most of the day climb, we’d recommend to start climbing at about 4pm. There are plenty of scenic views and photo ops available as you ascend so take those chances to take a break. It’ll be handy to have ¥100 coins available for toilet breaks as well.
Rest up and take a good nap in one of your chosen huts and make the finish push up to the summit of Mount Fuji. The views are unparalleled and the entire experience will be the signature and highlight of your little escape to Kawaguchiko.
Day 3: Stopover at Fuji Q Highland
Your chapter at Kawaguchiko is coming to an end. And as you’re heading back to Tokyo, stop by at Fuji Q Highland for an adrenaline-filled afternoon.
There are many exhilarating rides, and I mean many, at Fuji Q Highland. From the Takabisha which happens to be the world’s steepest drop at 121 degrees to an over 3 minute roller coaster beast that is Fujiyama, your heart will sure be pumping and racing throughout.
When you’re finally on the bus back to Tokyo, you’ll look back at Kawaguchiko and be happy that you made that trip out of the city.
Fuji Q Highland Address: 5-6-1 Shin Nishihara, Fujiyoshida 403-0017, Yamanashi Prefecture Opening Hours:Daily from 9 AM – 6 PM