Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fuji Kawaguchiko

Lake Kawaguchiko and Lake Saiko
Fuji Five Lakes

28 May 2016

Today we will be heading to the small town of Kawaguchiko, near the lake of the same name, which is one of the Fuji five lakes, situated near to Mt Fuji. Of course Mt Fuji will be visible from the lakes, provided the weather is clear. Kawaguchiko is about 100km (2 hours) away from Tokyo.

We took the Keio Highway bus from Shibuya to Kawaguchiko, departing at 8.35am. The morning buses from Shinjuku were already sold out, so we decided to take the one from Shibuya. You could also go to Kawaguchiko via train, but you need to change lines, so we decided to take the bus as it will take us directly there. Bus ticket cost JPY 1800 per person. We had reserved our seats earlier via this website. You only have to arrive 10 minutes before departure to make the payment and get the tickets. The bus departure point is at Shibuya Mark City on the 5th floor. You can follow the directions here. For us, we took the Ginza line metro from Asakusa to Shibuya (same line) which costs JPY 240.

the highway bus ticket counter at Shibuya Mark City at 5th floor

inside the bus

 The journey to Kawaguchiko would take about 2.5 hours. Safety precautions were taken in the bus where passengers were asked to wear seat belts. The bus was comfortable, it is permissible to eat and drink in the bus. There is a foldable tray where you can put your food and slot to put your drinks. Plastic bags were provided at each seat to put away your trash in. We could see Mt Fuji on our way to Kawaguchiko.

on the highway

We arrived at Kawaguchiko station at around 11.30am. We then proceeded to buy the Fujikawaguhiko Sightseeing bus ticket, a hop on hop off bus service with routes around the Kawaguchiko and Saiko lakes. We bought the Red Line (Kawaguchiko route) and Green Line (Saiko route) 2 days ticket for JPY 1200. There is no 1 day ticket. So it's better to spend at least 2 nights at Kawaguchiko. This is justified as the bus service only starts at 9am, which is quite late considering sunrise is at 4.30am during our visit there in early summer, and ends quite early at about 6pm. The last bus departing from Kawaguchiko station for the Kawaguchiko route is 5.45pm, while for the Saiko route is at 4.40pm. If you are pressed for time (for example you are only there for a day trip), I would recommend for a stopover at the 4 stops printed on the ticket cum postcard, i.e. Kozantei Ubuya (stop # 15 on the Red line), Natural Living Center (stop # 22 on the Red line), Thatched House (stop #68 on the Green line) and Sightseeing Boat/Ropeway (stop #11 on the Red line). With the 2 day pass, you only just need to show the pass every time you get off the bus. It is more expensive to pay for each route, unless you are only going to one destination.

Kawaguchiko bus and train station

Kawaguchiko and Saiko Sightseeing bus route

the normal sightseeing bus

Since our hotel only provided pick up service from 3pm - 6pm, we decided to lug our backpacks together. You can keep your bags in the coin lockers provided at the Kawaguchiko station. But for us, we should have just walked to our hotel and deposit it there because apparently, our Hotel Sawa is not too far by walking (850 m). I was hesitant to walk because of the sunny weather at mid day.

We first stopped at the Natural Living Centre (stop#22 on the Red line) to view Mt Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko. Unfortunately, it was cloudy when we reached there. Only the tip of the mountain was visible. We spent some time there admiring the beautiful scenery before moving on to the next stop, at Sightseeing Boat/Ropeway (stop #11 on the Red line). Mt Fuji is not visible from here though. We also stopped by at the Fujiyama Cookies shop to buy some Mt Fuji shaped delicious cookies.

Natural living centre. Mt Fuji partly hidden by clouds
Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko from the Natural Living Centre

Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko from Kozantei Ubuya

Lake Kawaguchiko from the Sightseeing Boat/Ropeway

Fujiyama Cookie Shop

Matcha and butter Fujiyama cookies

Next, we took the Red line bus back to Kawaguchiko station to take the Green line to tour around Lake Saiko. On the way back to the station, we passed by Aladdin halal restaurants at Stop #4 (served by both Red and Green line) and Stop#9  (Red line), perhaps there are 2 branches of the restaurant.

Aladdin halal restaurant

We didn't intend to alight from the Green line, just planning to enjoy the view of the lake from the bus. However, when we passed by at Stop#73 (Ent of Nenba), we saw a great view of Lake Saiko with Mt Fuji and the Unesco Heritage site signboard with a viewing platform. But it was too late to get off, the bus has already passed the stop, and the next Stop #74 was quite a distance away. Plus, we wanted to have lunch already by now. We alighted at Stop #4 to have a late lunch at 4pm, but it was closed. The restaurant would only be opening back at 6pm for dinner.  Disappointed again, we decided to take the next bus to go to Stop #73 again. By the time we reached again at Stop#73 around 4.45pm, the weather has become cloudy, hence Mt Fuji was not visible anymore. We only managed to take a picture of Lake Saiko with the Unesco Heritage Site signboard of Fujisan with Mt Fuji masked behind the clouds.

Lake Saiko
Mt Fuji from Lake Saiko

Lake Saiko
Mt Fuji from the road

Mt Fuji from Green line route

Lake Saiko & Unesco World Heritage Sign. Mt Fuji is hidden behind the clouds

grilled fish at Thatched Houses village

It was then time to go back. We took the last bus back to Kawaguchiko station from Stop#73, then walked to our hotel- Sawa Hotel (JPY 10500 per room per night). It was not really far from the station, crossing the railway track and passing by some houses. We settled for Brahim's and Maggi tonight, while watching the Volleyball Qualification for the Olympics on TV.

Sawa Hotel

our Sawa hotel room

jug kettle and sink

We recommend to stay for 2 nights at Kawaguchiko to really enjoy the sights and also visit some of the interesting places there such as the Bat Cave and the Thatched Houses village. The sightseeing bus is valid for 2 days anayway.



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