Saturday 10 June Tokyo – Mt Fuji

This morning, we met the others in the foyer at 7.50am for our visit to Yamanashi prefecture, home of Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji. What a day… what a big day! We headed south-west out of the city centre and with the bumper-to-bumper traffic it took us 1½ hours to get out of Tokyo. After going through a 1.6km tunnel, we came into Kanagawa Prefecture, which is all mountains – we have never seen so many mountains and beautiful countryside.
We stopped for a comfort stop after we had been travelling for 2 hours – what an experience that was! We pulled into a place just off the highway that was huge – there were cafes etc and dozens and dozens of buses and several cars and when we walked across the huge car-park to the toilet block, we were shocked to see a huge line with a at least 100 women in it waiting to get into the toilet block (even the men were lined up for the men’s toilet block) but we were quite surprised that the line moved extremely quickly. When we got into the toilet block, we discovered that there were about 80 toilets and there was a big board up on the wall with lights showing which toilets were free, plus there was a lady there beckoning people to each row to keep things moving more quickly. After getting off the bus, walking across the big car-park, lining up and getting back to the bus, the whole process took less than 10 minutes.
We passed through the Yamanashi Prefecture where Haruhi pointed out the Experimental MagLev Train line that Japan is working on and expecting that it will be in operation in 2027 and that it will be capable of reaching speeds of up to 500km per hour.
Not long after that we had our first sighting of Mt Fuji!! The driver wasn’t able to stop as we were on a highway, but we were able to get photos out of the bus window…. Mt Fuji, in the sunshine with some clouds but none of them were hiding the mountain! Yayy!!
Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, is a 3,776 metre high dormant volcano and straddles the border of two prefectures, Shizuoka and Yamanashi. With a beautiful cone shape, Mt. Fuji is world-famous as a symbol of Japan. On clear days it can be seen from Tokyo and Yokohama. Visibility tends to be better during the colder seasons of the year and in the early morning and late evening hours.
Mt. Fuji has long been the centre of mountain worship of ancient Japan. Today, it is a popular mountain to climb, and many people climb Mt. Fuji to watch the sunrise called Goraiko from the top.
Our driver took us up to the Fuji 5th Station up a winding road with hairpin bends and along the way we saw lots of bicycle riders – there was some sort of an event there because when each cyclist reached the top of the 5th Station, there was lots of whistles blowing and a bell being rung. I thought of our son-in-law, Steve and the other Smiddy riders for Cancer Research and I thought this would be a great place for them to do their next Smiddy Challenge!!
It took us 3 hours to get to there, but it was worth it because we had the most amazing views of Mt Fuji from the 2,300 metres above sea level 5th Station. The 5th Station had some restaurants and several souvenir shops, as well as the Komitake Shrine, which had an Observation Point where we had views of Fujiyoshida City and Lake Yamanaka, although that side of the mountain was a bit hazy. The Mt Fuji 5th Station is also the last chance for climbers to stock up on supplies at reasonable prices before they head out.
After taking lots of photos and checking out the souvenir shop, it was time to head back down this magic mountain and make our way to our lunch stop. At the foot of Mount Fuji is an area known as Fuji Five Lakes. As the name suggests, this area holds five lakes that were created by Mount Fuji’s volcanic eruptions: Lake Kawaguchiko, Lake Saiko, Lake Motosuko, Lake Shōjiko and Lake Yamanakako. We travelled past some of these beautiful lakes to the Fuji View Hotel for lunch. As the name suggests, we had views of Mt Fuji, which by now, was draped in clouds as though it were a hat. How lucky we were to have seen this majestic mountain earlier!
We continued our journey, stopping to visit Iyashi-no Sato Nenba Park, which is a restored village that was damaged by flood in 1966 and was reconstructed. Iyashi-no Sato stands on the western shore of Lake Saiko. The village is now an open-air museum and traditional craft village that is made up of more than twenty thatched roof houses that have been converted to shops, restaurants, museums and galleries. We had views of Mt Fuji, which would have been spectacular with the Lake in the foreground, but the mountain was now shrouded in clouds.
Our next stop was at the Itchiku Kubota Kimono Museum. Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003) was the artist who revived the lost art of Tsujigahana silk dyeing used to decorate elaborate Kimono. In his early twenties he was inspired by a fragment of Tsujigahana textile exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum, that he devoted the rest of his life to recreating and mastering the time-consuming silk dyeing technique. We watched a video about him and his techniques and then we were able to go into the museum to see some of his absolutely stunning Kimono on display, showing the themes of nature, the universe and the seasons. Also on display were parts of his unfinished masterpiece “symphony of Light”, a huge work comprising of 80 kimono that together form a picture of Mount Fuji. We were not allowed to take photos but we have put up a photo of a picture. The building that housed the museum and the souvenir shop were Gaudi inspired.
We boarded the bus again and headed towards Tokyo at 4.00pm, enjoying the beautiful scenery in the mountains and coming across another traffic jam for several kilometres. We stopped for a comfort stop at a much smaller roadside convenience and arrived at our restaurant at 6.30pm. We have discovered that while Japan has super-fast trains, this particular highways appear to be easily congested.
We had dinner at the Jojoen Ebisu Restaurant, which has a Yakinuku style of BBQ where we cooked our own meat – fine slivers of beef, on a rack over an open flame built into the centre of our table. We enjoyed the company of another couple who live just outside Ipswich, with the amazing 38th floor views overlooking the city of Tokyo, watching the city turn into a fairyland of lights.
We got back to our hotel at 9.00pm after a fantastic day, tired but very happy that we got to see Mt Fuji!!

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