I am sure that most of those who will read this article have seen this very famous photo. It is featured in every guide and tourist magazine about Japan although I have never known where this place was located.
I thought it was on some hills around Tokyo since we could see the Fuji and a big city at its foot but this is not the case. This vermillion pagoda standing out in the foreground and the mighty and legendary Mount Fuji at its back really exists and is not in Tokyo but rather in Fujiyoshida, a small town 2.30 hours away from Tokyo.
Fujiyoshida – 富士吉田市
Fujiyoshida is a peaceful city located at the feet of Mount Fuji, the holiest and tallest mount in Japan. The people living here have the privilege of seeing the symbol of Japan everyday but at the same time being wary of its dangerouness.
Besides this, Fujiyoshida seems a very liveable city with much nature surrounded by wonderful landscapes. Given its vicinity to the volcano, the city seems to have many onsen hotels where you can see with your own eyes the hot springs’ culture in Japan.
Fujiyoshida is also a very touristic spot, not just for the Onsen, but also for its strategic position near the Fuji five lakes and, of course, for the hiking-enthusiats. Here it is the starting point for your Fuji adventure or if you do not like the heights, you can also rent a bycicle and explore the area of the five lakes. Although I did not come here to hike nor to bike around.
How To Reach:
There are many ways to reach Fujiyoshida:
- you can either use the metro until Otsuki Station and then take the Fujikyu Railway
- make a reservation with the Highway Bus, which will brings you directly to Kawaguchiko.
Note that Fujiyoshida has various train stations: Yoshiikeonsenmae, a place recommended for Onsen enthusiats, Shimoyoshida, where you have to get off for Chureito Pagoda, Gekkouji, Fujisan, I assume the starting point of the hiking trail to Mount Fuji, Fujikyu Highland, an amusement park near the famous volcano, and Kawaguchiko, where I got off to go to the Onsen hotel.
Chureito Pagoda – 忠霊塔
The main purpose of this trip was visiting the breathtaking Chureito Pagoda, which is featured in many touristic magazines. Despite what many of you might think, Chureito Pagoda is relatively new. It was built in the 20th century as a peace memorial to pay honour to those who died in the wars.
The pagoda is just a part of a bigger religious complex called Arakura Sengen Shrine. From the Shrine to Chureito it takes, more or less, 10 minutes depending on how good you are at walking up steep stairs – it is nearly 400 steps up. On the way up, you will be treated to some wonderful landscapes and picturesque Torii that will remind you of those scenes in anime.
Congratulations for having made it to the top! Believe me, the scenery up there will appease your rage for walking this much up in the mountains. The pagoda in front of you is not that big but still impressive and nice decorated. Walk up some steps until you reach a small stage where you can get to take the clichè photo with the vermillion pagoda and the mount Fuji.
If you are lucky enough, you will be able to see Fujisan, the most worshipped and loved mount in Japan but most of the time the top is covered by the clouds due to its height. After all, it is the tallest mountain in Japan. I would recommend you to go in autumn or in spring because the vegetation will make everything better but if you happen to be in Japan in summer or winter, the visit is still worth the trip.
How To Reach:
Get off at Shimoyoshida Station along the Fujikyu Railway and then just follow the signs along the street. You have to walk for 10 minutes until the main shrine and an additional 10 minutes up to reach the Pagoda.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Onsen (Japanese Hot Springs) here are very popular and you can find many hotels that offer the option of a Hikaeri 日帰り, which baiscally means “one day at the hot spring”. There are the stations where you can go searching for Onsen: Kawaguchiko or Yoshiikeonsen-Mae.
I went to Kawaguchiko and passed through the entire town before reaching the shore of the lake Kawaguchi. Along the lake you can come across some hotels and some of these offer the Hikaeri option. The one I went to was called Royal Hotel. The onsen room is not that big nor you have a special view but it was very cute and feels very personal because there was nobody bathing.
To get to know more how to behave in a Onsen, I recommend you to read my old post. I managed to take some photos within the onsen room even though it is not allowed. Since there was nobody inside, I thought I would not harm anyone taking some photos to show my readers how onsen looks like. Of course, if there are people, I would never dare to do it as they are all naked 😉
After we got off the train, we were very hungry as we reached Shimoyoshida at noon, eating time. The place was quite deserted and there were not restaurants in sight so I checked on google maps and among “the cheapest ones” I spotted this very traditional Japanese restaurant making Udon so I followed the indications and ended up in a residential area.
The restaurant was, indeed, a house of a japanese family making homemade udon and it was quite an experience. We sat down on the tatami in a very traditional japanese room. If you happen to pass through here, i really recommend you this place. It is not only cheap but very japanese-like and the food is super yummy :3
Have you ever been here? Or have you ever heard of this place? Let me know in the comments below 😉