27 Jul Driving around the Fuji Five Lakes
Starting in Shizuoka we began driving around the Fuji Five Lakes. We got excellent views of Mount Fuji and also stopped at other great sights in the area. This was part of our 10 day Japan itinerary.
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First Mt Fuji view from Nippondaira Hotel.
Our morning started with exploring the large grounds in front of the hotel and getting our first glimpse of Mt.Fuji. It was foggy and there were clouds covering most of it but we were so happy to get any view of the elusive mountain. The main reason for staying at the Nippondaira Hotel was that it offered a great view including Mt.Fuji. With the mountain being visible for only a small percentage of the year, we wanted to take every opportunity we could to get a chance to see it. The hotel’s hilltop location gave it views of the bay area below and Mt.Fuji out in the distance. We took advantage of the large grounds and let Fletcher run around and burn energy before our car trip.
The hotel has a small chapel room for weddings.
Driving around The Fuji Five Lakes
Mt.Fuji became covered in clouds so, we went to our room and got organised to get on the road. After checking out, we got in the rental car. I entered a phone number I had for somewhere near Yamanakako into the GPS and checked the google maps route also. Then we began driving down the hill. We drove through town a little before stopping at the interchange (IC) and taking a ticket from the machine. This was the entrance for the Tomei Expressway which we followed for most of the way.
The road offered some nice views of Suruga Bay and we were able to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji between the moving clouds. The right lane was closed for most of the way. We couldn’t see the reason why and were joking that they must have a huge supply of safety cones as they seemed to go on forever. A car pulled out in front to slow the traffic. We finally came across the reason for the lane closure. Workers were trimming the plants in the centre of the expressway.
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At about 11:30am we arrived at our first stop, Lake Yamanaka. The largest of the Fuji five lakes. We had followed the GPS and found a park in front of the lake. There were some clouds around but they cleared enough for a great view of Mt.Fuji from behind the lake. Yamanakako was a lovely lake with several water birds including swans. We could also see boats out on the water and one was shaped like a large swan.
We spent some time strolling along the path, meeting a Japanese family with a cute baby. Many people were walking their dogs, most of which were dressed up. Across the road was a public toilet where I had my first experience with a squat toilet. After taking in the view we drove further up the road and bought lunch from a 7-11. We ate sandwiches and sushi rolls by the lake, then got back in the car and continued driving around the Fuji Five Lakes.
Our next stop was Oshino Hakkai, a short drive from Lake Yamanaka. Oshino Hakkai is a set of eight ponds fed by snowmelt from Mt. Fuji. The ponds are on the site of a former sixth lake, that dried up several hundred years ago. We arrived in the village area and drove down very narrow streets following the GPS direction for the phone number I had entered. I also checked the route on Google maps as I wasn’t sure the phone number would be correct for the actual tourist site. Tim missed the road leading to a carpark and we ended up driving down the road leading to the ponds, dodging all the people walking. He found a spot to turn around and we headed back and parked the car.
We walked down the same road we had accidentally driven down. It was lined with small stores selling all sorts of different things. We strolled around viewing each pond, one of which had a drinking area where people were using a cup to catch the water flowing into the pond. There is a large store selling all sorts of souvenirs and food items and also has an attached cafe.
We paid 300 yen each to enter the open-air museum and were told we couldn’t push our stroller around the grounds. The open-air museum had a nice garden area around a pond and some traditional thatched roof buildings. It was very small and the main farmhouse that can usually be entered was being renovated, which was disappointing. We didn’t feel it was worth the 600 yen it cost us to enter but may have been spoiled after visiting Shirakawago the previous year. We went up steep steps to a lookout spot that I believe would normally give a view of Mt. Fuji but we couldn’t find the mountain through the clouds.
Driving to more lakes
Fletcher was getting tired and cranky after walking around so, it was time to get back on the road.
We entered the number of our Kawaguchiko hotel into the GPS but it was only 13 km away and we knew Fletcher needed a decent sleep. Soon after driving out of the village he fell asleep and was still sleeping when we arrived in Lake Kawaguchi. Thinking we may as well take advantage of the situation, we drove straight past the hotel. We decided we would keep driving and see at least one more lake. We ended up driving by Lake Sai and Lake Shoji, the smallest two of the five lakes. Close to Lake Sai is an open-air museum and some caves, as our little one was sleeping we didn’t stop.
Mt. Fuji seen from Saiko.
Mt. Fuji seen from Shojiko.
After viewing the Lakes from the car, we drove back to Lake Kawaguchi. Our accommodation was at Hotel New Century and the parking was across the road in front of the lake. Spotting a sign for the hotel, we pulled in and a man approached. He asked if we were hotel guests before directing Tim to a park. Once parked and unloaded, the same man helped us to get across the busy road, stopping traffic so we could cross. We checked in and were told to leave our room key when we left for dinner and they would make up our futons for the night. The hotel felt dated and tired inside. We rode an old elevator up to our room.
The room itself also felt dated with dark furniture and pink curtains. It was clean and tidy. Best of all, the glass door opened onto a small balcony that overlooked Lake Kawaguchi and had views of Mt. Fuji. There were some complimentary biscuits in the shape of Mt. Fuji so I made us some green tea to have with them. Fletcher enjoyed this and made us take photos of him and his green tea.
We later went out, leaving our key as instructed. I had broken my glasses so we went to a large supermarket and bought superglue to fix them. We then ended up having McDonald’s for dinner as we had driven past it on the way in and we were now back out that way. Fletcher had a kid’s meal which at the time came with a cool toy. The collection was Bullet trains and each one came with a piece of track.
Returning to the hotel and entering our room, we found it had not been set up with bedding. We had been gone for quite some time but it was still fairly early so I waited. We wanted to get Fletcher settled for the night so, I went down to reception to ask for futons to be set up. I said we had already been out and just returned and was told someone would be up shortly. I went back to the room and after a while, a man entered. He was very grumpy and huffed about while laying out the bedding.
Our thoughts on the hotel
A Japanese style room in a hotel certainly doesn’t carry the same service as a more traditional ryokan. It was a little annoying being charged an extra rate for Fletcher. We weren’t eating at the hotel so, we thought perhaps he would get his own futon. That wasn’t the case. This was the only hotel we had come across that charged for a 2-year-old to share a bed. Luckily the room had such a great view, so we were able to overlook the rest.
Read the second part of our driving trip around Mount Fuji here.