To get from Osaka to the Mt Fuji area using our JR train pass, we had to take six different trains. When the lady at the ticket window handed us the itinerary, we knew it would be a near miracle if we successfully made each connection. The trains here run precisely on time and our connection times were as short as three minutes. Plus, several of the connections were in the Tokyo area, where the train stations are a maze of different connecting lines. We were mentally prepared to miss connections and have to wait on later trains. Yet, we really wanted to just get it right the first time and get to Mt Fuji sooner. I held tightly to the itinerary in hand and said a prayer…
One by one, we starting making our connections. We could hardly believe it. It is only by the grace of God and the help of several kind Japanese people along the way that we made every single connection. As we boarded the last train, we both looked at each other in almost disbelief…we had made every single connection.
The last train dropped us off at the Kawaguchi Station in the Fuji Five Lakes area. So named because there are five lakes at the base of Mt Fuji. We stayed at a hotel near Lake Kawaguchi. The best views of Mt Fuji can be enjoyed from the lake’s northern shores. Tourists are warned that even though Kawaguchi is located right at the base of Mt Fuji, you may not see it as the mountain is notoriously shy and wreathed in clouds the majority of the time. We were lucky to have clear skies the day we arrived.
The Japanese always refer to Mt Fuji as Fuji-san; san simply means mountain. Mt Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 12,389 ft. It’s a stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707 (heavy volcanic activity up until then is what sculpted its smooth, symmetrical shape). The mountain is a well-known symbol of Japan and is world-renowned for its symmetry and serenity. It is one of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen.
We spent the afternoon walking along the path that wraps around the lake and enjoying the views of Mt Fuji. We stayed at the lake until sunset.
While in Kawaguchi, we stayed in traditional accommodation with Japanese futon bedding on a tatami (woven-straw) floor. I was excited to try it, but the thrill quickly vanished when I realize it was far from comfortable. It was so hard, the only way to sleep and not cut off circulation was to lay flat on your back. If this is traditional Japanese accommodation, then that explains why all the beds we’ve slept on in Japan have been so hard. For those of you reading this back home, please take a moment to appreciate the comfort of sleeping in your own bed tonight.
Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed a delicious Japanese-style breakfast. Hot tea, miso soup, eggs, rice, chicken skewers, salmon, and an unknown but super tasty vegetable. I couldn’t help but think…now THIS is the breakfast of champions. I felt like I could climb Mt Fuji after a breakfast like that.
Unfortunately, the official climbing season lasts only two months – July and August, so we were there at the completely wrong time of year. As an alternate climb, it was recommended that we hike up Mt Tenjo, a much, much smaller mountain nearby. At the start of our hike, Mt Fuji had just a wreath of clouds around the top. But by the end of our hike, it was hardly visible, even though all the skies around us were blue. Now we fully understood why they say Mt Fuji is so elusive. And now we appreciate even more the chance we had to see it so clearly the day before.
3) We feel inspired by all the systems the Japanese have put in place to help the blind and visually impaired be more independent – Braille on elevator buttons, signs, handrails, on the tops & sides of products; different chirps and tunes at crosswalks and intersections; and tactile paving. The textured patterns of the tiles let them know when to walk on (straight bar pattern) and when to stop (raised dome/circle pattern). We saw them on sidewalks and in train stations all over Japan.
4) We feel lucky that the earthquake that stuck off the coast of Japan our last day in the country was only of 5.5 magnitude. We were at the Narita airport when it happened. Although we felt it shake everything around us, there were no reports of damage or injury. Quakes are common in Japan.
5) And last, but certainly not least, we feel thankful for the hospitality and kindness shown to us by the Japanese people.