Mt. Fuji, also called “Fuji-san”, is an active volcano (actually it has three volcanoes inside :O ) located around 130 km away from Tokyo city. It is the highest peak in Japan and attracts almost 200,000 visitors every year. This iconic mountain is a pilgrimage site for locals, and has found its place on Japanese currency notes. Although active, it last erupted in the 1700s.
It’s cone shaped tip is covered with snow for about 5 months in a year. It is definitely a must visit if you are travelling to Tokyo and have some time on hand. Do note Fuji-san always shys away behind the clouds, so you’ll need a bit of patience to get a good glimpse of the mountain sometimes.
How to get there :
Since Fuji is a popular tourist destination, there are a lot of tour agencies organizing comfortable 1 day tours to the area covering 2-3 tourist spots. You may also take a combination of JP Rail and bus routes to cover the spots you wish to explore. There are hop-on and hop-off buses in the Fuji area as well that takes you to the popular tourist spots. The best way to go around is renting a car and exploring the area based on your flexibility, time and choices.
What you must know while renting a car from Tokyo to Fuji:
Do note that Japan has right hand drive and you will need an International License or Driver’s permit to rent a car there. There are ample road signs on the highway so it is unlikely you will get lost there! It can get a bit difficult to drive within the city because of traffic during peak hours and small alleys and roads which are sometimes one way. It can get a bit stressful while driving in the city and parking in the city is usually very expensive. We recommend picking up the car from the rental place nearest to your hotel.
It’s best to rent a car only when you go outside Tokyo City. Another pre-requisite is to have GPS equipped phones all the time. You will need GPS at-least while driving within the city, and the ones in the car may give you directions in Japanese sometimes! That’s when your phone GPS will be a lifesaver.
It came up to around 18000 Yen or 165USD, for a rental from Toyota without insurance for almost 28 + hours. This option was much cheaper than any of the tours. It was a comfortable 2-3 hours drive from Tokyo to Fuji area.
Accomodation near Fuji-san:
Areas near Mt. Fuji have quite a lot of accommodation options ranging from Hostels to AirBnB’s and from 3 stars to perfect luxury resorts. If you want to see serene views of volcano mountain over sunset and sunrise, we recommend staying there for a night. Some resorts and hotels and even hostels offer amazing views of Fuji right from your room! No, you do not need to wake up at 4 AM and run around to catch the perfect sunrise, you can watch it right from your bed 🙂 ! We stayed at MyStays @ Kawaguchiko area and had an amazing hotel experience. Rooms were pretty spacious unlike our accomodation in Tokyo 😉 !
We spent almost 24 hours in Fuji area and here are our picks for top things to do to make the most of your visit to Fuji:
Fuji 5 lakes:
Mt. Fuji is surrounded by five tranquil lakes : Yamanaka, Kawaguchi, Saiko, Shōji and Motosu.
Lake kawaguchi being the most popular has resorts and hotels lined all around it. It offers activities like boating around the lake and also has Mt. Fuji panoramic ropeway offering 360 degree views of the area. We went to Lake Kawaguchi at sunset and the view was breathtaking.
If you are hunting for the exact same view as on the thousand Japanese Yen note then Lake Yamanato is the place to go. It is a less explored, extremely beautiful lake which has boardwalk all around it and is lined with colorful trees.
Lake Saiko is the one in the infamous Aokigahara Jukai Forest (suicide forest). You may explore the other two lakes Shōji and Motosu, if you have more time at your hands.
Fuji Shiba-sakura Festival:
If you are visiting Mt. Fuji in the full bloom season (April-May), this festival is a must visit! Shiba-sakura or “moss phlox” are small flower plants resembling cherry blossoms and blooms from April to May. With amazing views and flower carpets all over the area and Fuji-san in the background, it is the perfect photo spot!
April and May can get a bit rainy and sometimes Mt. Fuji hides away behind the clouds. This place is bustling with tourists at all times with eateries lined along the flower beds. It also has hot air – balloon activity, though it is subjective to weather conditions.
This festival is open only for a limited time. Check out their official website before planning to visit this place : http://www.shibazakura.jp/eng/.
Narusawa Ice Cave & Fugaku Wind Cave:
The eerie Aokigahara Jukai Forest also popularly known as Suicide Forest is home to Lava caves formed by lava flowing from Mt Fuji. Narusawa Ice Cave & Fugaku Wind Cave, near Lake Saiko, are popular tourist destinations and an adventure in itself. Narusawa Ice Cave is 153 m long and height through the cave ranges from 1 meter to 3.6 meters. It can be a bit challenging as one part of the cave is really narrow and slippery. If you have small kids or travelling with elderly do take note of this.
Fugaku Wind Cave, on the other hand is much easier to access, as it has an average height of 8.7 meters. As we drove around the area, we went from one cave to another by road. There is also a trekking path between both the caves, in case you would like to wander around the suicide forest for some adrenaline rush.
Oshino Hakkai Springs:
Oshino Hakkai is a small village with a set of 8 fresh-water ponds. It is fed by the snow melting from the nearby area. You can stop by for a quick meal here with Mt Fuji in the backdrop.
Located in between Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Yamanato, the village has a museum, fish feeding area, shops with local produce, souvenir shops, fresh fruits and vegetables and much more. You can spend approximately 1-2 hours here.
Gotemba Premium Outlets:
Imagine over 200 premium outlet shops, including a Pokemon Store, right in the middle of villages and forests over looking Fuji. Since its opening in 2000, a lot of tours agencies arrange a one day tour which includes the Gotemba Premium Outlets on the itinerary.
You can find outlet stores of leading international brands ranging from luxury and fashion to electronics. The prices are better than the non outlet stores in the cities (but not so cheap since they are all international brands 😉 ). The food area can be a perfect stop if you wish to relax and enjoy a quick meal, beverage or some desserts.
The tourist attractions listed in our blog are just a few amazing places we could cover in 24 hours but other tourist attractions you may want to explore are: 5th station, Arakurayama Sengen Park, Fujiten Snow Resort and more! Happy exploring!