Travel

Mt. Fuji in full glory from Lake Kawaguchiko

The sun was beaming in delight and the skies were immaculately blue on the day I would finally get to visit my childhood’s dream landmark destination. It was almost as if I didn’t wake up from a long sleep that I am finally fulfilling my dream of seeing the snow-capped Mt. Fuji up close!

I hurriedly went to Shinjuku Station from Uguisudani Station to catch the 8.30am train going to Otsuki Station. Not that I was too excited, but I arrived 20 minutes early just to have enough time in case I get lost in that humongous hub station.

True enough, I was dumbfounded how busy and confusing the station was; I was carefully following the platform 10 sign with my eyes, then in just a snap, I found my self in the exit turnstiles. I turned around and a huge crowd coming from all the platform exits were rushing towards the exit turnstiles. I was pushed, crushed and helplessly stuck in between the turnstiles until the crowd subsided. Whew! Train stations in East Asia are always a savage!

I was fortunate to be on platform 10, ten minutes before 8.30am without any train in sight. Being always paranoid, I was worried I was on the wrong platform, or my worst nightmare – I simply missed the train. Good thing I was able to look up to spot the train schedule monitor. Come 2 minutes before 8.30am, the train arrived and passengers rapidly went took their seats, so did I.

Being a punctual person, I am amazed of Japanese time as it is always on the dot; the train left exactly the moment the time hit at 8.30. I still wonder how could they make everything as scheduled and precisely calculated?

In less than 30 minutes of cruising the railway, the peak of Mt. Fuji was peeking and teasing all the passengers bound for Kawaguchiko. Everyone was snapping photos with excitement! It’s not everyday you get to see Mt. Fuji, especially with erratic winter weather.

I arrived at Otsuki Station an hour later to transfer to another line going to Kawaguchiko. I didn’t have a hard time finding the Fujikyu Railway as most passengers who alighted at Otsuki were bound for Kawaguchiko. I always have this strong hunch if people around me are tourists so I followed them without hesitation. Lol!

The sights going to Kawaguchiko during winter are a novelty as I have been living in a tropical country my entire life. The fluffy snow glows like diamonds through my eyes!

But whenever the ever-so-close Mt. Fuji appear before my eyes, my heart melts with delight as I am finally living in one of my dreams!

The train arrived at Kawaguchiko Station just a few minutes before 11am. I got off the station and wandered around the nearby establishments hoping to find bike rentals to save my feet from strenuous walk. Not that I was sluggish, but having barely 3 hours to wander around, it was the best option to maximize my time.

The circumstances wasn’t in my favor; I surrendered due to language barrier and I would have to go on foot. Seeing piles of snows on the road got me stomping and kicking it like a little kid loose for the first in the winter. After all, that’s the reason why I chose this season.

In about 15 minutes of goofing my way to the lake, I was overwhelmed how massive the lake was. I was contemplating if I should push through of my plan walking halfway around the lake or just sit and stare in the corner just to make it at 1.40pm train departure to Otsuki.

I took the risk and continued walking around the lake. There was an interest path going up to the hill that have probably an amazing view of Mt. Fuji, but unfortunately, no one was manning the admission booth (I supposed). So instead, I walked at the edge of the lake and just appreciate its serenity.

It was pretty much deserted around the lake as if it wasn’t a perfect day to enjoy the clear blue sky. Along the way, I spotted two huge birds (I wasn’t sure if it was hawk or eagle) with flaps probably bigger than my arms circling 40 meters above me.

With no people within my vantage, my heart was pounding immeasurably while visioning myself being clawed and dropped into the lake. I sprinted towards the chain of hotels acting with no distress while the shadow of the birds were slowly losing in sight.

It was only then I had a sigh of relief when I saw a couple of people passing by. It was one of the most dreadful situation that I’ve experienced that made me sweat buckets. But upon finally seeing a fraction of Mt. Fuji from the lake, it made my heart skipped a beat and threw all the anxiety away.

The view was immensely breathtaking, and all I could say was WOW with my eyes hypnotized. Slowly the view gets better as I walked away from the hill revealing the full glory of Mt. Fuji as if was as if I was stripping her off my eyes.

I chanced upon a tiny hill with stone steps near the bridge that must have had a better view. I climbed only to find out it there was a tomb or two at the top. I was frightened and I immediately went down shaking.

There was an old man outside the house that gave me a weird look. I didn’t know what to react as there were so much going to my mind and I was hoping he’s just the relative or the caretaker of the tomb — not the deceased. Even if it was in broad daylight, if you were in a sleepy old town by yourself, you would get that kind of chills.

My uneasiness quickly shrugged off upon walking across the bridge. With the glorious view of Mt. Fuji above the lake in a clear blue sky, I was drifting in heaven! The blissful walk lasted about 10 minutes before I reached the other end of the bridge.

The sun was already at peak time and I had a train to catch. I walked going back to the station jauntedly in an almost empty streets filled with snow.

I still had roughly 40 mins before the train departs so I decided to eat at this small family-run restaurant parallel to the station. I ordered Pork Tonkatsu for a reasonable price of 850 Yen (7USD), considering everything was touristy price everywhere the town.

What made everything special was when the Grandpa, probably in his late 80’s, served me the food with huge smile in his face while looking at me for a few seconds. I thanked him and I knew he was trying to ask ‘if everything is fine’.

I was having a difficulty cutting the pork with my chopsticks then the Grandma, that seems like the wife of the Grandpa, handed me a complete set of utensils and refilled my cup of green tea with so much delight in her face. It was such a heartwarming gesture that they were treating their customers like a family despite the language barrier.

As I ride the train on my way back to Tokyo, I gazed through the window and fathomed on the experiences that made me more than fulfilled. The authentic old town atmosphere of Kawaguchiko made me feel like I was flipping an old encyclopedia and reminiscing my childhood memories of how I picture Mt. Fuji in my mind.

But what made my experience more remarkable was the politeness and thoughtfulness of people that made me feel welcomed and respected. The few hours of my swift quest made so much unforgettable memories that I will forever cherish.

How to get there

From Shinjuku Station, ride the JR Line Express train (2,250 Yen (19 USD)/one way) going to Otsuki Station. From Otsuki Station, ride the Fujikyu Line (1,020 Yen (8.5USD)/one way) going to Kawaguchiko Station.

To plan your itinerary well, it is best to check Hyperdia for accurate schedules and fares.

TIP: A round trip ticket going to Kawaguchiko would cost about 6,540 Yen (55 USD). If you are only staying in Tokyo (or Kanto area), getting a JR Kanto Area Pass would be very helpful to save a huge money. The said Pass costs only 8,300 Yen (70USD) with unlimited rides (within the JR Line) for 3 consecutive days (based on the dates stated in the Pass).