One of the most famous sights in Japan is Mount Fuji – the perfectly shaped volcano is on most postcards and a magical sight to see in person.
The tricky thing with Mount Fuji is that seeing it is very much weather dependent, indeed the volcano is famous to disappear behind a haze after midday or when temperatures rise making it difficult to see.
I don’t consider myself particularly lucky, but I had the best luck seeing Mount Fuji during our two weeks there. Our first sight of it was on the Shinkansen on our way from Tokyo to Hiroshima. If the weather is good, keep your eyes peeled about 40 minutes out of Tokyo, the view is breathtaking.
We didn’t have enough of Mount Fuji and decided to get a little bit closer. An obvious place to do so is Hakone. Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Famous for its hot springs, and its views across Lake Ashinoko of Mount Fuji. It is a very popular destination among Japanese and international tourists, and only an hour out of Tokyo which makes it an accessible day trip if you want a break from the city.
Getting to Hakone is also incredibly easy. What I loved in Japan is that everything is so organised and logical that you just cannot get lost, even if you don’t understand a word of Japanese. We took the Shinkansen to Odawara Station, once there, we dropped our luggage in a locker, as we were coming from Kyoto and heading back to Tokyo on that same day. In the station, you will quickly see signs for Hakone which will guide you to an office where you can get a map of the area as well as the pass for the train, shuttle and funicular to the National Park. It sounds like a lot of transport transfers but again, do not fear, it is very easy!
We took the train from Odawara to Hakone Yumutu, there we transferred to the smaller train which took us up the mountains. Once in Gora, where the train line ends, we transferred to the funicular, which took us directly to the cable car station. Make sure to take a window seat on the right of the cable car for the best views of Mount Fuji.
We started climbing, it was very windy, which can be slightly intimidating if you don’t like heights. And suddenly, people started gasping, right there in front of us, the Mount Fuji was standing. The views were very clear, but unfortunately, my camera didn’t do it justice and it was much clearer and impressive in real life.
The first stop once in the National Park is Owakudani. The views of Mount Fuji from there are fantastic and you will also see the sulphur fumes emerging from the ground. Only then did we really realise that we were visiting a volcanic area. Mount Fuji looks so peaceful that you can easily forget what it really is… Also the last eruption was in 1707 so it is a pretty chill volcano.
From Owakudani we then took another cable car down to Lake Ashinoko. We took a lunch break there while waiting for the next ‘pirate’ boat to arrive. You read that right, for some reason the sightseeing boats taking you from Togendai to the other side of the lake look like huge pirate boats.
You will still be able to see Mount Fuji during the cruise, making for great shots of the volcano and the lake.
That is if, unlike us, the weather is not ‘too’ good, indeed the day we visited, it was so sunny that the sky turned white and Mount Fuji started to fade against it so my pictures again really don’t do the place justice.
Once on the other side of the lake, we walked by the shore and explored Onshihakone Park.
It was surprisingly quiet as it seemed most tourists don’t venture there. A great opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity after a crowded boat ride.
We walked a little further down to explore the town.
We then caught the bus back to Odawara station. One good tip, the bus gets VERY busy at the Sightseeing Cruise bus stop, so try to catch it a stop ahead to make sure you can actually get on it!
In no time we were back on the Shinkansen and off to Tokyo. One long but beautiful day trip!