For Tim's birthday he got a surprise getaway to Fuji San (Japanese people refer to mountains as "san", the same honorific given to people - so cute!).
He only had a weekend in Japan before he had to return to Singapore so the plan was to travel south on Saturday, spend the night, and return on Sunday with plenty of time to spare before his flight out.
We wanted to take an airport limo bus that delivers people to and from Haneda and Narita Airports and included a stop near our destination. However, when we got to the departing station we weren't able to locate a ticket booth for this particular mode of transportation (turns out you have to buy it at the airport). We switched to Plan B and went by train. We could have taken the Narita Express but for half the price and an extra 45 minutes we took the local trains. It ended up being a 3-hour, 2400yen ($21) trip.
The Fujikyuko Line was the second leg of our journey and took us into Kawaguchiko Station. It was a quaint old train with wooden floors and Mt. Fuji logos throughout. Adorable.
Once we arrived at Kawaguchiko Station we took a quick walk down to Ryokan Konansou. I had booked a few months in advance so we were able to stay in a lovely Japanese-style room covered with tatami mats and a perfect view of Fuji San. We even had an extra bedroom and a spacious bathroom with heated floors.
But my favorite feature definitely had to be...
... our private onsen! The water was a little tricky to get into because the water was so hot and the air was so cold but once we were in it was heaven!
And of course... the reason we were here in the first place. FUJI SAN!
We set our alarms to wake up before sunrise so that we could watch the first rays light up the mountain.
It was pretty spectacular to get such a view without even leaving the room. Spoiled!
Our ryokan served a traditional Japanese breakfast in their dining room. We, along with the other foreigners, wore our regular clothes to the meal but the Japanese guests came down in yukata and slippers. We'll remember this for next time so we can try to pass for locals.
Then it was time to check out, leave our suitcase in the train station's coin locker, and venture out to see the sights around Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Saiko. We purchased tickets for unlimited rides on the Red and Green Line Sightseeing buses and headed off to our first stop.
Trip Advisor listed an impressive historical spot with gorgeous Mt. Fuji views at "Kawaguchi Sengen Shrine". The point on the map was a 20-minute walk from the bus line and main attractions and the shrine that we came across was lovely, with huge cedar trees.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the temple advertised.
Turns out the shrine we really wanted was the Fuji Asama Shrine, five miles south of our location. I found this to be very annoying because the misstep ate up an hour of our touring time. Tim was good-natured about the whole thing and we journeyed to our next stop - Oishi Park.
Oishi Park had beautiful views from the north side of Kawaguchi Lake and sweet-smelling lavender to boot. We took a tour around the gift shop and shared an ice cream cone before jumping back on the tour bus.
And here is where we made our fatal mistake. Once we returned to the main station we had 1 hour and 40 minutes before our scheduled bus ride back to Tokyo. With so much spare time we decided to board the Green Line bus and see some of the sights around the other side of the lake before heading out. We enjoyed gorgeous views of Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Saiko before we decided that we should disembark and take a return bus.
WELL as it happens, buses on this side of the lake only come every 30 minutes. By the time we waited 30 minutes, caught the next bus and arrived back at the station, we pulled in just in time to see our Tokyo-bound bus pull out. GAH!!!
Thank goodness the ticket attendant didn't make us pay for a new set of bus tickets (even though that's the policy for missing your bus). Instead we traded them in and waited another two hours for the next bus. This time we planted ourselves so that we could be curbside, suitcase in hand, and first in line when our boarding time came.
Side note: This "Highway Bus" turns out to be the best means of transportation between Mt. Fuji's Five Lakes and Tokyo. It was only 1 hour and 45 minutes and 1750yen ($15.50). Definitely the easiest, cheapest, and quickest way to go.
So, while the end of our trip went a bit awry we still had a great weekend and definitely recommend that visitors make a side-trip to see Fuji San for themselves!