In one of the many redesigns of Tokyo after fires and earthquakes, the streets were laid out to enhance the view of Mt. Fuji. It makes one realize that, before all the buildings began increasing in height, Mt. Fuji was an ever-watching "kami" (Shinto deity), looming over everyone and everything.
At the foot of Mt. Fuji are the Fuji Five lakes - "Fujigoko" - a popular destination for day trippers and hikers. Many of our visitors have asked about it and whether it is was worth a trip. So, to answer that question, we decided to take a short trip there while I still have vacation. We stayed at K's House Backpacker hostel, a chain in most big cities. We stayed last year at the K's in Kyoto with my mother and really liked their operation.
An easy highway bus trip got us to Kawakguchiko in about 1.5 hours, with lots of time to rent bikes from K's and ride around the lake and part of another. It was a great way to see the area, and the views of the mountain were fantastic.
That night we had "hou-tou" udon (a soupy dish with vegetables and meat), with the thick, wide noodles that make it a specialty in the Yamanashi prefecture. Our farmer friends had recommended we try it, and, as usual, they were right!
The next day we went for a seven-hour hike to the top of Mitsu-toge, a nearby peak with great views of Fuji (covered in clouds) and Lake Kawaguchi. Joan suffered mightily, still sore from the six-hour broccoli planting marathon on Sunday before! The uphill was long and gradual, following the ridge through forests and open meadows. The downhill portion was short, steep, and snowy, eventually dropping into a deep valley with a small stream that got larger and larger. We thought the finale of the trip was to be the waterfalls at the bottom. While they were fairly impressive, we were completely surprised and stunned by the Sengen shrine that we stumbled upon.
Among the buildings of the shrine, massive, and I mean MASSIVE, cedar trees disappeared up into their own greenery. With late afternoon sun and a quiet stillness, it was one of the most enchanting places we have found so far.
That night, we went to the onsen next door to soothe our muscles and then had "hou-tou" udon, again!
The trip was really a recon trip for future excursions and to find out details about climbing Mt. Fuji, something we hope to do this September. I can finally now say that we have been there, and we highly recommend it...
The full photo album for the trip can be seen HERE.