Thursday, 19 January 2017

Fujigoko - Part 1: Fuji Views

Continuing our backpacking adventure in Japan, the next leg of our epic Japan adventure is Fujigoko. We stayed in Shinjuku briefly and left promptly the next morning. 

Check out the previous leg of the trip: 

Getting here
We took a JR train from Shinjuku station to Otsuki Station (70 mins). The JR Pass is valid on this line. However, from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko, you must use a private railway, the Fujikyu Railway Line (55 mins). Since it is not a JR line, the JR Pass is not valid unless you specifically purchase the JR Tokyo Wide Pass. For more information, click here. This specific route gets incredibly busy, especially during cherry blossom season. The earlier you leave in the morning, the better. 

Within the Fujigoko region, we decided to rent a car from Toyota Rent-A-Car (Kawaguchiko branch). Go to their website and simply call their number--they will have English speaking agents to help you book a vehicle. Note that you must have an international driver's license to drive in Japan. We rented a Toyota Aqua (Prius-C). 

Accommodation
Fuji View Hotel
511 Katsuyama, Minamitsuru-gun, Fujikawaguchiko-machi 401-0310, Yamanashi Prefecture
$291 a night for 2 people

The road on the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko. 
Mt. Fuji as seen from Lake Kawaguchiko. 
We parked our car in an overflow lot near this school then took the free shuttle to the Arakura Sengen Shrine, where the Chureito Pagoda is located. I believe that the parking closer to the shrine was full, thus, the parking officers directed us to park here. 
After walking around the village area, we found the shrine. 
Beware that there are about 500 flights of stairs that you need to climb in order to get from the shrine to the Chureito Pagoda. It wasn't easy. 
The panoramic view of Fujiyoshida City and Mount Fuji was well worth the walk though. 
Unfortunately, the day was extremely bright and it was difficult to take photographs (not a single cloud in the sky to provide diffuse light). 
We were lucky that we came to the Fujigoko region during cherry blossom season. 
This picture should roughly show you the amount of stairs that you need to climb to get to this place. 
Unfortunately, we saw neither wild boar or monkeys. 
The torii gate leading into the Arakura Sengen shrine. 
The beautiful cherry blossoms on the way back to the parking lot. 
The town that we walked through to get back to the shuttle. 
The venerable Toyota Aqua. 
Afterwards, we checked into the Fuji View Hotel. 
The grounds around this place were beautiful, especially this time of year. Even if you don't stay at this hotel, make sure to visit it. You can just park in their lot for free, look around, and leave when you like. 
They have a little golf course with beautiful trees. 
We walked around the back of the grounds and saw the lake from there. 
Fantastic country roads.
Not sure exactly what this is but we came across it as we walked down the road. 
Back at the hotel again to take photos of the colourful blooms. 
This was the view from the observation area. It is also the same view that we got from our room. Spectacular!
Another great view from the observation deck. 
Wonderful blossoms in the garden area. 

Extras from my phone: 
Hōtō is a must try as it is a specialty of the Yamanashi region. It consists of thick udon noodles in a rich miso broth. Often times it includes yummy pumpkin. This particular one is pork hōtō from Kosaku Hoto Kosaku in the Fujikawaguchiko area. There are many other variations, including bear meat, in this particular restaurant. 
A terrible selfie at the Kosaku Hoto Kosaku restaurant. 
The exterior of Kosaku Hoto Kosaku. 
Daigaku imo (candied sweet potatoes) that I bought at the Arakura Sengen Shrine. While I love sweet potatoes, I think this one had been sitting for too long. 
The interior of our room at the Fuji View Hotel. 
Trying out a yukata. The general rule is that the left hand side is always at the top (keep in mind that the picture is mirrored). 
Interesting Sakura Cola. It actually does taste exactly like Coke but more floral. 

Stay tuned for Part 2!

-e.m.

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