Chasing spring and a view of Mount Fuji

Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

Chasing spring and a view of Mount Fuji

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Though we still are keeping our distance and traveling less because of COVID-19, the seasons outside keep turning. We are in the midst of the most desirable and pleasant seasons for outings, and the forests, mountains and landscape show bright seasonal colors in the impressive hues of pink, white, yellow, red and light green.

The temperature keeps rising, and a drive around natural beauty makes for an ideal and refreshing escape. One beautiful morning recently, my wife and I decided to hit the road driving out of our home in Yokosuka City toward Mount Fuji and the Five Lakes area. We wanted to check out the late arrival of spring surrounding Japan’s iconic mountain.

The Fuji Five Lakes area was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013 and lies in the northern heights of Mount Fuji about 3,300 feet above sea level. Lakes Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko and Motosuko make up the Fuji Five Lakes. Each of these lakes provide an outstanding view of the mountain and are a great spot to enjoy various outdoor activities like hiking, camping, fishing, as well as snow sports in the winter.

Anxious for a magnificent view of snow-capped Mt. Fuji with the beautiful lakes, we left our home around 9 a.m. Since we went on a Monday, there was little traffic and we had a pleasant drive. We drove through Yoko-Yoko and Tomei Expressways, and soon we could see Mt. Fuji up ahead greeting us and growing the closer we were to our destination. By 11 a.m. we arrived at Yamanakako Village in Yamanashi Prefecture.

A STROLL AROUND YAMANAKAKO

Yamanakako is the easternmost lake, boasts bright-blue waters, is oval-shaped and the largest among the lakes. The lake was surrounded by gently sloping mountains in bright spring colors. We parked the car on the north shore parking lot and ventured out for a stroll around the lake along a path lined of cherry trees in fully-blooming pinkish white blossoms. There were no clouds in the beautiful blue sky, but a strong wind blowing over the lake had waves crashing on the edge of the lake.

FUN AT KAWAGUCHIKO

After about an hour of strolling, we drove off toward our second lake, Kawaguchiko. The lake is the most popular and busiest among the five lakes, surrounded by a lot of hotels and amusement facilities, such as Fujiya Hotel and Fujikyu Highland. As there is a train station at the eastern shore, you can come to the lake from Tokyo (Shinjuku) via the Fujikyu line with a 2-hour train ride, as well.

It was already lunchtime, and we were hungry from all the driving, so we bought box lunches at a supermarket on the way and enjoyed a lakeside meal. The lake’s western shore remains calm and undeveloped, offering a great view of Mt. Fuji over the light green waters. We also saw a few people enjoying fishing and jet-skiing. My wife picked up some beautiful shells while strolling along the lakeside.

LAKE SAIKO AND NENBA VILLAGE

While the largest two lakes, Yamanakako and Kawaguchiko, are very popular and crowded with tourists, the other three lakes – Saiko, Shojiko and Motosuko - are barely developed as they are surrounded by the deep forest of Aokigahara Jukai. Interestingly, these three lakes are still connected with each other by underground waterways and consequently maintain the same surface level of 2,952 feet above sea.

The lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji, were originally one enormous lake but an ancient eruption and the lava flow separated the waters into the three Saiko, Shojiko and Motosuko lakes.

One of the three lakes, Saiko is often called "the lake of the maiden," with its clear, deep blue water and quiet atmosphere exuded a mysterious vibe. We found a few summer houses located around the north shore where we enjoyed a unique view of Mt. Fuji being reflected on the calm surface of the mysterious lake.

Located at the western end of Saiko, Nenba Village, aka “Saiko Iyashinosato Nenba,” is a must-see tourist attraction. This village features traditional folk houses and a small river with Mt. Fuji as a bright backdrop. There were many cherry blossom trees blooming during our visit, so we enjoyed walking around exploring the interior of the houses, which serve as shops selling crafts and pottery.

SPOOKY AND PRIMITIVE SHOJIKO

After a look at the houses of yesteryear, we headed to Shojiko, the smallest of the five lakes and located three miles west of Saiko. Shojiko is sparsely developed with just a few hotel facilities, and it has green-grey water with petrified lava flow protruding at the edge of the lake. This lake gave off a bit of a spooky and primitive air, as it is surrounded by Aokigahara-Jukai Forest’s mangled trees.

MOTOSUKO’S 1,000-YEN VIEW

Our last stop was at the fifth lake— Motosuko. This is the westernmost of the five and is blessed with a majestic view of Fuji and surrounding mountains. This is the landscape you’ll recognize form the back of the 1,000-yen bill.

Motosuko is the nation’s ninth deepest lake at 460-feet deep. The water temperature never falls below 39 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the only lake that does not freeze in the wintertime. We enjoyed driving around the narrow, rocky road along the lake to check out various views of the lake, forest, and Mt. Fuji.

SPRING WATER AND THE DRIVE HOME

We started our drive back to Yokosuka around 5 p.m., but not before stopping at a rest area first. We stopped at the Fuji Yoshida road station near Oshino Village to fill a water tank with Mt. Fuji’s famous spring water. We always make sure to get a jugful of this delicious and clear spring water whenever we’re in the area. It is the best water for brewing tea and coffee, so make sure you pick some up if you make it out!

Now’s a great time to visit Mt. Fuji and its Five Lakes. And, at only a few hours’ drive or less from most bases in the Kanto area, you won’t want to miss the cool fresh air as the temperatures start to rise.


1. Yamanakako, 2. Kawaguchiko, 3. Saiko, 4. Nenba Village, 5. Shojiko, 6. Motosuko

Fuji Five Lakes
Website

Saiko Iyashinosato Nenba
Location: 2710 Saiko Nenba, Fuji Kawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Pref.
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: 350 yen ($3); elementary and middle schoolers, 150 yen
Website (Japanese)
Tel: 0555-20-4677

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