Mt. Fuji, also known as Fujisan in Japanese, is undoubtedly Japan’s most iconic landmark.
So how can we not visit this majestic mountain while in Japan? I don’t mean hiking to the peak of Mt. Fuji as it would prove to be too much of a challenge. It is Japan’s highest mountain after all!
We decided to book a one-day tour package to Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station, situated at an elevation of 2,300 metres. This is also where most hikers begin their climb up to the summit. I don’t think tour buses can go any higher beyond the 5th Station.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience for us. The big plus point for us to join a day tour was not having to worry about transportation. Especially when travelling with young children, it was a breeze to simply hop on and off the tour bus, and enjoy the activities planned for us.
Read on as we share more details about our Mt. Fuji Day Tour.
- Depart from Hotel Gracery Shinjuku at 7:50 am
- Pick up other guests from near Shinjuku Station
- Rest stop at Expasa Dangozaka Service Area
- Grape picking at Misaka Farm Grape House
- View autumn leaves at Oishi Park
- Lunch at Kawaguchi Lakeside Restaurant
- Ride the Kachi-Kachi Ropeway
- Sight-seeing at Mt. Fuji 5th Station
Hotel Gracery Shinjuku (Assemble Point)
Usually, we decide the accommodations around our tour itineraries. When we found out that the Mt. Fuji Day Tour would depart from Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, we decided to stay there. Believe me, it was the best decision.
There was another family of four that couldn’t make it on time to join the tour. They were not staying in the same hotel as us. So I could imagine the mad rush to jump on the train or bus early in the morning. And then, dragging the little kiddos along. Plus, being unfamiliar with the routes. It’s just too much stress >.<
Expasa Dangozaka Service Area
We were on the Central Highway for a couple of hours before the tour bus stopped at Expasa Dangozaka Service Area. We made quick time for toilets and stretched our legs. You can also do some shopping here!
Misaka Farm House
Our tour itinerary finally kicked off with grape picking at Misaka Farm Grape House. You can pick and eat them on the spot, as much as you want in the orchard. I think there’s time limitation but we were done after just a few minutes. The grape skins were thick and sour. We didn’t enjoy eating them, but we had fun picking them. It’s the experience that counts, I suppose.
The fruits that guests can pick will largely depend on the season. I would prefer strawberries, too bad that it’s not in season.
For future reference:
- Strawberry from March to mid-May
- Cherry from mid-May to end-June
- Peach from end-June to early-August
- Grape from early-August to November
Apparently, it was also the persimmons season. There were rows and rows of persimmons left out to dry. Oddly, it was a beautiful sight.
Upon recommendation from the tour organiser, we bought some dried persimmons home. And, glad we did. It was delicious!
Our next stop was to Oishi park for seasonal flower viewing. Since it’s November, the park was holding the Autumn Leaves Festival.
Oishi Park is located on the northern coast of Lake Kawaguchi or Kawaguchiko in Japanese. If you didn’t know, the lake is one of the Fuji Five Lakes that can be found around Mt. Fuji. It is also the most accessible lake amongst the five.
From the park, the superb view of both the lake and Mt. Fuji was breathtaking. Well, that was half a lie. In fact, Mt. Fuji was not visible at all because it was a particularly cloudy day.
Maybe the weather was really nice or it’s the falling maple leaves that lined the pavements in reds and yellows, that makes the sight nostalgic and so beautiful.
Adjacent to the park, there were a number of street stalls that sell fruits, traditional sweets, and handicrafts.
The Famous Houtou Noodles
Before we knew it, it was time for lunch! One of the highlights of our tour was to enjoy the famous Udon noodles of Yamanashi Prefecture, the “Houtou pot set”.
A popular local hotpot dish found in the Fuji Lakes area, Houtou is a noodle soup made by stewing flat udon (thick wheat flour noodles) and vegetables in miso soup. Fish or and meat can be added too. It’s really a power meal packed with nutrients. Hey, ancient Samurai warriors ate this before going into battles.
The hotpots were already sitting on the tables waiting for us when we arrived at the restaurant. And still piping hot too. Each of us including the kids got the same generous portion. It was a satisfying meal but such a waste for those with smaller appetites.
After some slurping good times, we’re off to Kawaguchi Lakeside Station to ride the Kachi-Kachi Ropeway.
The Kachi-Kachi Ropeway is a cable car which ascends 400 meters from the eastern shore of Lake Kawaguchi to an observation deck near the peak of Mt. Tenjo. From the observation deck, there are panoramic views of the lake below and of Mt. Fuji.
Well, luck wasn’t on our side on that cloudy day. We couldn’t see Mt. Fuji at all. Nonetheless, it was fun riding the cable car and exploring around the observation deck. That’s the perks of simpletons like us.
Our tour package included a round trip on the ropeway. There is also a hiking trail from the observation deck down the forested mountain slope, which takes about 30 minutes to descend.
From the observation deck, there’s a trail for those who want to hike Mt. Mitsutoge. It’s 6 hours for a round trip climb. Mental note to self: Come back again when the kids are bigger.
If you were wondering like me about the rabbit and racoon characters everywhere on this mountain, it’s because Mt. Tenjo is the setting of Dazai Osamu’s folk story “Kachi Kachi Yama”, for which the ropeway is named. The story was about a rabbit that gets revenge on a thieving racoon by setting him on fire and drowning him in a river. Yes, it is indeed a gruesome story but somehow not so with the cute looking rabbit and racoon everywhere.
Mt. Fuji’s Subaru Line 5th Station
Next, we began our ascent up Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station. It’s about 2,300 metres above sea level. The station offers a commanding view of the Fuji Five lakes area below and Mt. Fuji up close, making it a popular spot even for those who are not intent on climbing the mountain.
At first, “2,300 metres above sea level” didn’t make any sense to us. The drastic drop in temperature told us that we must have gone up pretty high. We were practically freezing our butts off. Another mental note to future self: Bring an extra set of winter wear. The first thing we did when we got off the tour bus was dashing into the shops.
We were shocked to see a massive waiting line for public toilets. If you’re willing to spare a few shillings, you could use the toilets inside the shops. Surprisingly, it was quite empty.
We were given about 50 minutes of free time to explore the 5th Station. It was enough for us to have tea break, shop for souvenirs, visit the toilets, and take tons of pictures of Mt. Fuji and its surrounding. Then, it’s time to head back to our hotel.
Should you join a tour group?
If you notice, the itinerary is easily replicable. You could totally do a self-tour.
The obvious advantage of following tour group is not having to worry about logistics such as transportation.
On the other hand, there are risks of other guests not complying to the tour schedule. The worst possible scenario is not being able to complete the itinerary. On retrospective, we were lucky that our group were all civilised people.
Overall, we did enjoy ourselves. To be honest, we didn’t have any sort of expectations. As the saying goes, no expectation means no risk of disappointment. Here’s another word of advice from simpletons like us.
We hope you can visit the magnificent Mt. Fuji of Japan, with a guided tour or by yourself.
To make your trip more enriching, here’s a list of surprising facts about Mt. Fuji.
6 Surprising Facts About Mt. Fuji
1. An Active Volcano
Although its last eruption was more than 300 years ago, Mt. Fuji
2. Three Volcanoes In One
Mt. Fuji is actually three separate volcanoes, formed on top of the other. The bottom layer is Komitake volcano, while Kofuji volcano is in the middle, and Fuji is at the top.
3. A Sacred Mountain
For centuries, the Japanese have been worshipping Mt. Fuji. Traditionally, people believe that gods reside within the sacred mountain.
The Okumiya shrine at the summit of Mt. Fuji is a popular pilgrimage site.
4. A Training Ground For Samurai Warriors
Since ancient times, the base of Mt. Fuji was also a training ground for Samurai warriors.
5. Once Off-limits To Women
It is said that Mt. Fuji is named after the Goddess of Fire, “Fuji”. Women were forbidden to climb the holy mountain until 1868 because the legend says that the Fire Goddess would be jealous of any woman.
6. A Private Property
The area of Mt. Fuji from an elevation of 3,360m and up is private property. It is owned by Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine since 1609.