We had initially planned (with flexibility) to go 河口湖 Kawaguchiko (to admire 富士山 Mt Fuji from afar) by bus either on Monday (1 Dec) or Tuesday (2 Dec). We were more keen to go on Monday, as we needed to get up early on Wednesday to catch the early 新幹線 Shinkansen to 京都 Kyoto.
As we got nearer to the dates, the weather forecast for Monday was cloudy, and sunny for Tuesday… Which kind of determined that we would go on Tuesday, because there’s no way to get a clear view of 富士山 Mt Fuji on a cloudy day.
Our next challenge was transportation.
Prior to flying, we were unable to reserve seats online for the bus that departed from 新宿 Shinjuku to 河口湖 Kawaguchiko. When we arrived at Haneda Airport, the staff at Tourist Information gave us an alternative bus company. This didn’t worked out too because we were worried the bus might not have seats when it reached 品川 Shinagawa where we stayed (this was not the starting point, sadly), and we were not able to call up the bus company in Japanese. We were also unsure of where the bus would stop at 品川 Shinagawa, as there were a few bus stops scattered around the station when we went to recce.
So it seemed like we would have to take the more expensive train option, with a longer travelling time, changing lines at 大月駅 Otsuki Station. We then decided to activate our JR Rail Pass one day earlier on Monday, as it was more costly to travel to 河口湖 Kawaguchiko than any of the day trips that we had planned from Kyoto. Now, we would have more flexibility, as we could reserve for train seats, as well as make changes to the reservations without additional costs.
We woke up early and used our JR Rail Pass to travel from 品川駅 Shinagawa Station to 大月駅 Otsuki Station. The second leg from 大月駅 Otsuki Station to 河口湖駅 Kawaguchiko Station was via a private railway, 富士急行線 Fujikyuko Line, so we were unable to use the JR Rail Pass. Staff at Tourist Information counter had said that we could use our PASMO Card (a stored-value card that we had bought from Haneda Airport), but online English resources suggested otherwise. We did see signs along the way that suggested that some form of stored-value cards could be used (the fare gates had the card sensor as well), but the staff at the train station said that it was not possible, so we ended up paying ¥2250 in cash each instead for a return ticket. The good news was that there was no restrictions in the train timings, so we could be more flexible in our itinerary, and we could always make changes to the JR train reservations on our way back.
It was a comfortable JR train ride, and I slept through the entire ride 😛 In the local train, when there was a good view, the driver was kind enough to slow down the train and announced which direction we should look out to catch a glimpse of 富士山 Mt Fuji. We were very excited already!
After close to 2.5 hours of travelling, we finally reached 河口湖駅 Kawaguchiko Station. We quickly went to the travel desk to purchase the Retro Bus 2 Day Pass (¥1200), and attempted to catch the Red Bus, which would bring us to the カチカチ山ロープウェイ Kachikachiyama Ropeway entrance to take the ropeway up to カチカチ山 Mt Kachikachi for a breath-taking view of 富士山 Mt Fuji. However, we were directed to join another queue for another bus that would bring us directly to the ropeway. Or so we were told… We were totally confused, as this was neither the Red nor Green Retro Bus that we have researched on. Anyway, our Day Pass worked on this bus, and we reached the ropeway much faster this way, as it was the first stop (as compared to Stop 11 on the Red Line Retro bus)!
We quickly made our way up the slope, and followed the signs to get the tickets (¥720 for round trip). With the train ticket stub, we got a discount for the ropeway 🙂 We were one of the first few to get in, and managed to get a good spot with great view! There were a couple of visitors who had to wait for the next ride because it was too full.
The weather was really lovely together, with clear blue skies, and we spent some time up the mountain, just enjoying the view and taking lots of pictures. There was a free picture booth, where they would take a photo of you for free, and you can choose to buy the bigger and nicer version as well.
We also watched some visitors do the かわらけ投げ Kawarake Throwing, where they would aim these bisque clay vessels at at target to make wishes to the goddesses who were said to bring peace and prosperity to the area.
After we had our fill on photo-taking, we continued on Stop 14 on the Red Line, to 風のテラスＫＵＫＵＮＡ前 where we were supposed to see 富士山 Mt.Fuji as reflected a lake (逆さ富士 Sakasa-Fuji as what Japanese like to call it). Erm, we did not see the reflection, but the view of 富士山 Mt Fuji from here was excellent 🙂
We did not stray too far away from the bus stop, and caught the next bus to Stop 19 久保田一竹美術館 Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, where we thought of seeing the nearby maple corridor. As expected, we were too late for the maple leaves, so we just sort of roamed around a short while, before taking the bus in the opposite direction, to Stop 17 河口湖オルゴールの森美術館 Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum, where we stopped for lunch at 達磨や Darumaya. We got ourselves a table by the window, so Ms V continued to enjoy the glory of 富士山 Mt Fuji while having lunch. We had the following:
- 五目ほうとう Gomoku Houtou (¥1100): A local delight, this was made of thick noodles in miso-based soup. Erm, it resembled mee hoon kway a bit. Very comforting and warm in this cold weather.
- ネギ餃子 Negi Gyoza (¥450): Ms V loves gyoza! This was the triangular type, and the the typical Japanese gyoza style though. Still pretty delicious.
- チャシュウメン Chashu-men (¥980): Hubby wanted something hot, so it was ramen for him. Not too bad, but we had many other famous and popular ramen throughout the trip.
Water was free flow and self-service at a nearby counter, where bowls and paper towels were.
By the time we were done with lunch, shy 富士山 Mt Fuji was now shrouded by the clouds.
Pretty decent lunch, and good views, but as we were leaving the restaurant, Ms V missed a step and had a rather bad fall 😮 We were very grateful to the restaurant staff who whipped out their first aid kit so that we could at least clean up her wounds, and also rested abit before making the journey back home.
Now we have two sick and one injured to continue the rest of the journey… 😦
- 富士五湖 Fuji Five Lakes – This is the home to five lakes (河口湖 Kawaguchiko, 西湖 Saiko, 山中湖 Yamanakako, 精進湖 Shojiko and 本栖湖 Motosuko) around Mt Fuji where one can enjoy the magnificent view in a relax atmosphere. Among the lakes, Kawaguchiko is the easiest to access and offers the most things to see and do for the average foreign traveler. The four other lakes are less developed than Kawaguchiko and are not as easy to access by public transportation.
- レトロバス/オムニバス Retro/Omni Bus – The best way to enjoy the scenery of Mt Fuji, this bus operates from Kawaguchiko Station at 15 minute intervals, traveling around not only Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Sai, but also sightseeing facilities such as Kachikachiyama Ropeway, Lake Kawaguchi Sightseeing Boat, Music Box Forest, Lake Kawaguchi Museum, Lake Sai Iyashinosato, etc.
- カチカチ山ロープウェイ Kachikachiyama Ropeway – The ropeway takes three minutes to go up to the summit at an elevation of 1,075 meters where one can see a panoramic view of Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi.
- 達磨や Darumaya – 2866 Kawaguchi Fujikawaguchiko Minamitsuru-gun Yamanashi 山梨県 南都留郡富士河口湖町 河口 2866