Sitting on the serene and beautiful Lake Kawaguchiko, Fujikawaguchiko is one of Japan’s largest resort towns in the Fuji Five Lakes region. It’s also the easiest to get to, making it the best of the lake towns to visit if you want to explore the natural wonders at the foothills of Mount Fuji.
Day trip or overnight stay at Fujikawaguchiko?
Since it’s only two hours outside of Tokyo, Lake Kawaguchiko is a popular day trip for people who want to catch a view of the majestic Mount Fuji. Not only are day trippers potentially missing out on a lot of relaxing and invigorating activities in nature, they may also easily miss out on the main event. Miss Fuji is a coy bitch, and her snow-capped peak is often hidden behind dense layers of clouds. In fact, we stayed not one or two, but three nights at Fujikawaguchiko, and only had a clear view of Japan’s highest peak for about a total of about 8 hours split up in bursts over the duration of our visit.
With or without Mt. Fuji’s presence, our stay in Fujikawaguchiko ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. The sights are less crowded, the town was peaceful, and the people were even nicer and more welcoming than everyone in Tokyo and Kyoto if you can believe that. And as you’ll see below, there is plenty to do in Fujikawaguchiko to keep you busy for at least two or three days.
One of the benefits of staying instead of passing through on a day trip is that you get to leisurely do all the things without a wait that day trippers queue up for hours to do when they arrive around mid-morning. For context, this is what the line for the Mt. Fuji Panorama Ropeway looked like at 9:55 am (almost 30 minutes after it opened)…
…and this is what it looked like when we were coming down at 11:37 am:
By arriving early after a nice breakfast in town, we enjoyed the sights up at the panorama without many crowds and were on our way to do something less packed by lunchtime.
But perhaps even more importantly than the incredible sights in town is the availability of onsens. And if there’s anything better than catching a glimpse of the elusive Mt. Fuji, it’s seeing her from a steaming natural bath. You can go to a public onsen like Yurari, or you can stay at one of the many resort hotels in the area that have onsen facilities for their guests. We stayed at Ooike Hotel, which has a top-floor Fuji-view onsen as well as a peaceful garden onsen, which is the best way to get your morning started or to relax after a long day of hiking.
Getting to Fujikawaguchiko from Tokyo
There are two ways to easily get from Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchiko: train and bus. The train is somewhat complicated. The only direct routes from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko Station run only a few times a day. Otherwise, you need to transfer from the JR Chuo Azusa/Kaijiki lines to the Fujikyuko Line at Otsuki Station. Since the train and bus take about the same time but the bus runs directly every half hour or so, we opted for the bus. It’s also slightly cheaper. Both drop off at Kawaguchiko Station where you can get a taxi, the local sightseeing bus, or if you’re staying at a local hotel, a hotel pick-up.
Things to do in Fujikawaguchiko
So what can you do in the idyllic lakeside town of Fujikawaguchiko? Here are just some ideas.
Mount Fuji Panorama Ropeway
The Mt. Fuji Panorama Ropeway is a cable car that takes you up to an observation deck on Mt. Tenjo that overlooks the lake, and if you’re lucky, gives you an unobstructed view of the mountain. The area at the top of the ropeway has several activities including a couple of small shrines, some hiking trails, amazing ice cream and other snacks, and the chance to take a photo of yourself on a swing set with Mt. Fuji as your backdrop. Having seen it from the town and the lake, I can tell you nothing gives you quite a grasp on how massive the peak is until you see it from this viewpoint.
The observation deck at the top of the ropeway is the starting point of a 3-hour hike to the peak of Mt. Mitsutoge. If you’re interested in this hike, you need at least six hours total so you must plan accordingly to return before dusk. You will also get unobstructed views of Mt. Fuji from the trail but with less people. If you want a shorter hike (and to avoid waiting in line for the cable car), you can also hike up to the observation deck at Mt. Tenjo or down from it. This 45-minute hike takes you through fields of hydrangeas and several viewpoints.
Fun on Lake Kawaguchiko
In addition to your cable car ticket, you can save by getting bundled tickets to other attractions from the Mount Fuji Panorama Ropeway ticket machines – one of which is the pleasure boat cruise on Lake Kawaguchiko. It sets sail every 30 minutes and offers panoramic views from the open-air second floor of the boat. If you want a more private boating experience, you can also rent swan-shaped paddleboats and speed boats along the lake by the half hour. Boat rentals are cash only.
If you prefer to enjoy the lake from dry land, the walk around the perimeter of the lake is beautiful and peaceful. The best views of Mt. Fuji will be from the north side of the lake so that you can see the mountain reflected on the water. Some great spots for a nice stroll with a view include Nagasaki Park and Oishi Park, which has colorful lavender fields. Not to be outdone, the south side of the lake gives you access to Rokkakudo, a small temple in the middle of the lake that is accessible on foot when the water level is low.
Go on a sake brewery tour
One of the best experiences to enjoy in Fujikawaguchiko – and one of my favorite Japan experiences – is the Ide Sake Brewery tour. If you’ve been to the Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo, the Ide brewery sake barrel sits among the wall of sake barrels that are an offering to the shrine. The tour takes you through the inner workings of the brewery as well as the traditional Edo-period home and Zen garden of the owners before you sit down to taste a variety of their sakes and their brand new whiskey offering. The tour is offered “in Japanese or (poor) English” according to their website, but they’re just being modest; their English is great.
Though the tour is very informative about a process that you probably know very little about, it’s not the only way to visit the Ide Sake Brewery. If you don’t want to do the brewery tour or you couldn’t get a reservation, you can also stop by for a sake tasting which does not require a reservation.
Enjoy the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park
If you want to break up the serenity with a little thrill, you can also visit the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park. The park is just one stop away from Kawaguchiko Station and the train drops you off directly at the entrance. You’ll find your run-of-the-mill rides like swings, haunted houses, drop towers, family-friendly tea cups along with heart-thumping roller coasters that are record breaking. The Eejainaka coaster currently holds the Guinness World Record for fastest and tallest 4D roller coaster. The Fujiyama Coaster, which gives you the most exciting view of Mt. Fuji you can get in the Fuji Five Lakes region broke five Guinness Records upon its opening in 1996. So you know… maybe skip lunch before your visit to this theme park.
Visit the famous Chureito Pagoda in Arakurayama Sengen Park
One of the most famous views of Mount Fuji in the Fuji Five Lakes area is the Cheurito Pagoda, which is actually part of the Arakura Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine. It’s located in Arakurayama Sengen Park. It is also known for its cherry blossoms. Even without a clear view of Fuji or cherry blossoms, the shrine is beautiful and the short hike up to the pagoda offers you stunning views of the area below. There are some areas beneath the pagoda where you can get street food as well. Though I can’t strongly recommend enough that you stop at Fuji Sengenya, where you can get souvenirs as well as a hearty bowl of soba noodles.
Though it’s technically possible to walk here from Kawaguchiko Station, it’s much easier to reach Arakura Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine by train. The shrine is about 20 minutes away from Shimoyoshida Station, which is just a couple of stops away from Kawaguchiko Station.
Hike Mount Fuji
Climbing season at Mount Fuji runs from July to mid-September, so if this is something on your bucket list, you’ll want to save your trip for this time of year. Depending on what station you start from, the hike can take five to ten hours. Most people stay at least one night on the mountain to split up the grueling ascent.
Eat and drink – small town style
Fujikawaguchiko may not have world class restaurants like Tokyo, but it’s a chance to eat well in a more relaxed and traditional setting. Be prepared to take off your shoes and sit on the floor a lot. Restaurants and bars close early, so plan ahead or you’ll be having a 7-Eleven dinner. Reservations are not a bad idea if they’re accepted.
Though there are amazing cafes all over town, if you are looking for a slightly Westernized egg and pancake breakfast, I recommend Cafetino.
Next door, you’ll also find one of the most wonderful dining experiences we had in Japan at Tanpopo. This humble Izakaya has no menu. They just serve you several courses of whatever is fresh to go with your beer and sake. The owner is hilarious and sweet, even though she doesn’t speak a word of English. She uses a machine translator to communicate, and her vibrant smile.
For a warm noodle lunch, try Ramen Kaneyuki or line up to eat with local workers at Shina Soba Ken. Good sushi can be found at Shaw’s Sushi Bar & Dining, but expect to wait unless you’re one of the first ones seated when it opens.
With jaw-dropping sites, cheap food, and wonderful people, there’s nothing not to love about Fujikawaguchiko.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Fujikawaguchiko guides on GPSmyCity here.