By train we leave for Fujikawaguchiko, the most popular town around Japan’s highest mountain; Mount Fuji. We stay in an Airbnb in the nearby Fujiyoshida and visit the 5 lakes disctrict with the beautiful Motosu lake.
We say goodbye to our friendly Workaway host Mitake San (Mr. Mitake) and his wife Emi San (Mrs. Amy) in Ome and take the train to our next destination; Mount Fuji. It should take two trains and a bus along the highway to get there, but online there’s not much information about the bus. According to Mr. Mitake we should buy our tickets in advance to be able to get on the bus, so we’ll see if we can do it at a large train station.
At the station we find a helpful lady who shows us the website to buy tickets for the bus, but unfortunately, after 15 minutes of searching, we can’t find the right bus stop anywhere, so there’s no way to book it. Probably the bus has already left anyway, so we decide to pay a few extra yen and just take the train. It doesn’t seem like a great idea to just go to the bus stop along the highway, waiting for a bus we’re not even sure about if we can get on.
Our Airbnb host picks us up at Fujikawaguchiko train station. This is one of the few stations where we can’t connect to the free WiFi for some reason, and we don’t see anyone looking for two lost tourists. There’s a parked car with a man sleeping in it, but it probably a bit strange to knock on his window and wake him up, just to ask if he is our host. About 20 minutes later the same guy walks up to us and it turns out it was him after all, haha!
Our Airbnb in Fujiyoshida turns out to be a complete house in a nice and quiet neighbourhood, all to ourselves! It’s and an old house, but as long as the heating and flowing water we’re happy. When you’re traveling as long as we are, you don’t really care about things like luxoury anymore. We’re easily satisfied and care more about a low price than anything else, because this means we can travel longer. Aki, our host, invites us to dinner and will pick us up tonight for a meal and some drinks in a local restaurant where he eats every night.
Traditional Japanese food
The restaurant turns out to be a small family restaurant. It’s about as big as the average living room in the Netherlands, but because of the way the furnitue is places, they can still accommodate about 20 people. Quite efficient! So besides 2 low, long tables and pillows on the floor, there’s a small bar which can accommodate even 4 more people. We should try this at home, just don’t use chairs anymore and we’d have lots of space!
The food is very delicious and made vegan especially for me. Aki is very interested about our dreams and plans and we tell him all about it. He tells us about his dreams and about the new organisation he set up to help travelers all over the world solve problems and answer their questions. He’s so passioned about helping others, it’s quite amazing. After dinner and some drinks Aki calls us a cab and we go home to our nice Japanese fouton bed. He even payed for our taxi! So nice of him!
Pagoda’s, temples and shrines
The next day Aki is already at our doorstep early in the morning. It’s Sunday today and he has a day off, but he would like to take us around to see some nice places around town. Unfortunately it’s very cloudy and it’s been raining all morning. Aki tells us that there will be a typhoon hitting town tonigh. Scary! But we should be fine if we stay inside and the good news is, after a typhoon (apparantly this is very common here) there weather always clears up.
Our first stop today is the Chureito Pagoda. A beautiful, high, red pagoda which, in good weather conditions, offers a great view on Mount Fuji. Luckily for us, there’s a picture here to show us what that would look like, because we can’t even see the parking lot. Luckily we do see a few autumn leafs on the trees in beautiful colors. After all, that is really what we were looking forward too in Japan in October. But, as you probably have read in our blog about Tokyo, we didn’t do any research on Japan and we are actually one month too early for the real beautiful autumn colours.
After we’ve seen Chureito Pagoda we drive to Sengen Jinja Shrine, which it not far from here. It’s actually on the foot of the hill where the pagoda is on. Too bad the temple is closed today, so we move on to the next stop: Kitaguchihongufujisengen (say what?!) Shrine.
Kitaguchihongufujisengen Shrine, according to Aki, is the largest temple is this area and indeed it is enormous. What’s even more impressive are the two massive trees on both sides of the temple who are probably hundreds of years old.
We notice at every temple we’ve seen so far that most people visiting it perform a standard ritual before entering. Aki tells us about it so we can try it ourselves one time. Before entering a Shinto Shrine (shinto is the ancient Japanese religion) they have to purify themselves. Every shrine has a basin at the entrance to do this with several cups on a long stick, it looks a little bit like something we pour soup with, a huge spoon. With this spoon they take some water and pour it over their left hand first, then the right hand. After that they put some water in their left hand again to clean their mouth with (only the outside, because it’s not drinking water) and purify the left hand again. It’s important not to let the ‘dirty’ water drip back into the basin and not to touch the spoon with your mouth. They also clean the spoon after use.
After bowing under the gate, which is called a tori and is present at every Shinto Shrine, they can enter the temple. On the top of the stairs there’s a wooden box with several bars as a lid, in which people toss a 5 Yen coin for good luck. After doing this you should bow two times, klap your hands two times and then bow one last time. Not too fast of course, because the Gods need some time to process your request. After this you can leave the temple grounds, but not before bowing once again at the tori. We try to complete the ritual and seem like two perfect Japanese people while doing so (yeah right).
We move on to ‘8 ponds’, a very popular spot around Mount Fuji, especially to Chinese people. Touring car after touring car enters the parking lot and never ending groups of Chinese follow their assigned umbrella or flag-on-a-stick like a group of sheep. Don’t get in their way, because they’d probably just walk you over. I don’t know what it is with these people, but they seem to annoy us a lot. There are just so many of them and they have some very rude manners like bumping into you and speaking very, very loud. Anyway, I hope we get to meet a few in the future who can change our perceptions.
As you’ve probably guessed, 8 ponds is all about their ponds. They are full of lovely, big koi karpers and the water is very clear. Around the ponds it looks so nice with pretty trees, flowers and rocks. In good weather this place must be amazing to take pictures, but we don’t have any luck yet. You should try to be here as early as possible though, because even on this rainly day the place is overrun by (Chinese) people.
Aki takes us back home and promises to pick us up for dinner again, his treat. Of course it would be very rude to say no to that, right? At the same dinner table as yesterday Aki tells us he’s been thinking about the best way to help us furfill our dreams, to travel as long as possible. He offers us to stay in the Airbnb for free for as long as we like and we don’t have to worry about food either. We give him a little bit of a surprised look, is he serious? And can we accept this? It’s really too much to ask for, but Aki insists and we soon realise that this is his way of achieving his goal, to make other people happy. When he offers to take his car around Japan for two weeks we don’t know what to say. The trust he has in us, who he’s just met, is unbelievable. He really has a pure heart and I’m sure karma will pay him back one day. I wish there were more people like him on this planet, especially people with his trust. It’s a shame that does hardly exist anymore in the Netherlands.
Mount Fuji tour in our new car
The next day Aki’s on our doorstep early in the morning again. He only sleeps 4 hours a night and get’s up at 1.30 in the moring to work to achieve his goals. Luckily he doesn’t wake us at that hour yet, haha! I go with him to pick up the car that we can borrow, so he can get back to his meeting.
The car is a (very) small pick-up truck with in the trunk a vouwfiets, like the car wasn’t enough! He tells me we will get one more, but because he’s almost late for his meeting I have to pick it up myself. “At the convenience store there’s a similar car like this, with a bike in the trunk. Just drive there and take it out”, he said.
I decide to just drive to the store first and then see what I’ll find there. Indeed there is another truck here with in the trunk a similar bike as the one I have. So far the instructions were right, but hey, I’m the foreigner here who’s about to take a bike from a strangers car and take it away.. Something just doesn’t feel right.
I send a picture to Aki on Line (which is like the Japanese WhatsApp) to ask if it’s the right one. Hopefully he has time to answer. Luckily shortly after a ‘yes’ pops up on my screen. I assume he’s still in the meeting. I take the bike and drive off, expecting to be hearing loud yelling somewhere behind me anytime now. Nothing. Oh well, I think it should be fine then. Let’s pick up Milou and go on a road trip!
Fuji 5 lakes
Today the weather indeed has cleared up. Luckily the typhoon wasn’t too scary, but we did hear a lot of noise from the strong wind in the house last night and today there’s tree branches and other stuff scattered everywhere. Now the sun is out and the sky is blue. The perfect day to go and see Mount Fuji from every angle possible. Around Mount Fuji there’s 5 beautiful lakes with views on Japan’s largest mountain. Unfortunately the wind is still quite strong, so no reflectons for us, but we still shouldn’t complain. This view is just breathtaking.
We found the nicest view on the north west side of Lake Motosu, which is the most western lake.The bright, blue colour of the lake is stunning, especially with the autumn coloured leafs in the foreground and the iconic mountain in the background. We would have loved to drive all around the lake, but unfortunately the road was blocked half way down the circle and we had to go all the way back. The other lakes also offered great views, but nothing compared to this one.
At a Lawson Station, one of many convenience store chains in Japan, there’s free WiFi to check our messages. Aki tells us that one of his good friends has invited us to dinner at his restaurant tonight on his costs. The restaurant is located on the west side of Lake Yamanaka, so after watching the sunset at a perfect (and popular) spot on the other side of the lake we try to find it. Luckily it’s not hard to find, even though Google Maps doesn’t even know it. We take place at a table in a private room where we meet Aki’s wife and two kids. The restaurant is incredibly fancy and the chef even made Milou something vegan! All the food is delicious and it’s a great experience to have a traditional Japanese meal.
Aki’s next announcement is the cherry on our evening. He wants us to take his car all the way through Japan in the next to weeks to leave it behind in Osaka whe we fly to Nepal. We are so happy! Roadtripping is one of our favourite things, but because of our budget we haven’t had much opportunities yet to do this. I think we ask like 20 times if Aki’s sure about this but he made up his mind and trusts us completely. We couldn’t be more greatful. Let the fun begin! It’s time to do some planning, because we suddenly have a whole lot more options on where to go.
The next day we pack our bags and get ready to leave. We totally changed our plans and decided to go to the Japanese Alps! There we have a higher chance on seeing autumn landscapes. We’re ready to go when the door bell rings. It’s Aki who has one last surprise for us. A brand new tent and sleeping bags! Now we can build our own little campsite in the truck of our car, fantastic! He even lets us take 4 foutons to make sure we won’t get cold at night. Such a great idea to keep our costs down, what a great guy! It makes everything so much better when you know someone who can help you out like this in a strange country. It’s hard to say goodbye, but I’m sure we will meet again one day, hopefully when he and his family come and visit us in our home in the Netherlands.
Let the adventure of the Japanese Alps begin!
Check out all our Mount Fuji pictures here.