It’s always the unexpected things that surprise you most, isn’t it? Lake Kawaguchi (Kawaguchiko) was a side-stop we decided on late in our trip planning, after finding out about the Fuji Shibazakura festival (Pink Moss Festival) which happens every April-May delivering a stunning landscape of vibrant pink flowers amongst the backdrop of stunning Mt Fuji. It was the original reason why we decided to do a two night / 1 full day stop over at Kawaguchiko- to visit this festival. As luck would have it, when we arrived, we heard that the flowers were blooming much later than expected this year and so it just wasn’t worth our effort to trek to the festival grounds.
The removal of the festival from our itinerary gave heaps of breathing space in our schedule to check out other things in the area. So instead, we spent our day hopping on and off the tourist sightseeing bus and exploring Kawaguchiko itself. Turns out, it was the best decision ever and Kawaguchiko ended up being probably my favourite stopover!
For those who haven’t heard of Lake Kawaguchi (or Kawaguchiko), it is one of the five lakes in the ‘Fuji Five Lakes’ region, and is one of the best spots to stay if you plan on viewing Mt Fuji.
Why you should stay overnight at Kawaguchiko
Most people visit Mt Fuji as a day trip from Tokyo (some people even combine it with Hakone in one day!) However, I really feel that this area has so much to offer that we decided to opt for two nights here so that we could have an entire full day exploring the area, without the hassle of having to wake up early to take multiple trains and leave the area early to train back to the city. Another reason that also weighted heavily on us spending two nights here was that we really wanted to see Mt Fuji. Viewing Mt Fuji can be a tough task. Fujisan is pretty temperamental and it’s not every day it likes to show its face so we wanted to have extra time to make sure it would happen and we were so lucky, because on the day we arrived, it was cloudy but on the full day in Kawaguchiko, the sky was completely clear! Of course, if you happen to visit on a bad day, Kawaguchiko still has lots to offer and has a beautiful retreat like feel.
If you are visiting Kawaguchiko too, I would definitely recommend staying overnight here. It just makes things so much more stress-free and plus, the day trip from Tokyo is actually quite a long one, it can take quite a few hours and chunk of your day to make your way down.
Where to stay at Kawaguchiko
When picking a hotel in the area, I would recommend you make sure the hotel you pick is either within walking distance to Kawaguchiko station, or offers a free shuttle service to and from Kawaguchiko station. This is extremely handy because taxis aren’t easy to catch on the street and Kawaguchiko station is where you’ll be doing all your transfers, whether it is arriving/leaving the area, or to catch one of the many handy tourist shuttle buses that take you around the lake and to the festival if you are visiting during the Pink Moss Festival season. The trains and buses all leave from here (the bus station is right outside the train station) so definitely make sure you can access this area easy. Most hotels should offer free transfers to and from, as it is basically a necessity!
Things to do at Lake Kawaguchi
(ONE FULL DAY ITINERARY)
MORNING: EXPLORE LAKE KAWAGUCHI
Lake Kawaguchi is the ultimate place to view Mt Fuji from afar and if you are lucky to be visiting during cherry blossom season – which by the way, really comes down to a stroke of luck because you never know when they will bloom – then you are in for a treat!
To get around Lake Kawaguchi, take the ‘red line’ sightseeing bus. The tourist information centre which is right next to Kawaguchiko station is extremely helpful when it comes to exploring the area and I definitely recommend you pop in for all your questions. They’ll point you to where you can buy a 2 day sightseeing bus pass (worth it as it’s unlimited travel) and also provide you with maps and bus timetables in the area. The red bus comes every 15 mins both directions & the green bus is less frequent and comes every half hour.
What to see around Kawaguchi
If cherry blossoms are in bloom, then I’m sure you’ll want to make a beeline straight towards them! When we were visiting Kawaguchiko, we were pleasantly surprised with cherry blossoms in peak bloom. This was such a good trade off for us, as we were originally hoping to see the shibazakura but because they bloomed late, we were lucky enough to have caught the cherry blossoms blooming late instead!
There are so many cherry blossom trees around KAwaguchiko lake, all you need to do is hop on the shuttle bus (take the red coloured ‘red line’ bus) around the lake and simply hop on and hop off whenever you see some cherry blossom trees! There are an absolute heap of them along the north side of the lake, rows and rows. It is here that I think is the best place to view the blossoms because you can see them with Mt Fuji in the background.
Boat hire / Kachi Kachi Railway
We really wanted to do boat hire but it wasn’t available on the day we were there as it was too windy, but if it is available, you should definitely check it out! You can hire pedal boats as well as wooden boats which is just outside the Kachi Kachi Railway, on stop 11 on the Red Line. If you love a good lookout view, then definitely check out Kachi Kachi Railway which takes you high up to see Mt Fuji from above ground. We didn’t get a chance to visit Kachi Kachi because of the unexpected blossoms, but I would definitely have loved to have visited if it weren’t for that.
LUNCH / AFTERNOON: VISIT IYASHI NO SATO
After spending a morning hopping on and off the Red Line sightseeing bus that goes around Kawaguchiko, it’s time to head back to Kawaguchiko station and transfer onto the Green Line sightseeing bus to visit a small, secluded (but very worthwhile!) village called Iyashi No Sato.
Iyashi No Sato is stop 68 on the Green Line sightseeing bus and it is definitely probably the most far away place you could visit on the Green Line sightseeing bus. The village is actually situated on Lake Saiko, another separate lake next to Lake Kawaguchi and takes about 50 minutes to 1 hour to reach by bus. It is indeed far, but if you love off-beat travel and visiting lesser known places, then I would totally recommend it.
There are 21 huts in Iyashi no Sato, with each hut offering something unique to tourists. Some are shops, art studios, restaurants, etc and entry to the village is 350 yen each for adults. We didn’t get time to see it all but we did manage to come for the reasons we wanted to visit. They were:
1. To eat soba noodles: the atmosphere and handmade soba noodles here are absolutely delicious.
2. To rent kimonos and samurai costumes: for 1000 yen each, this has got to be the best deal I’ve heard of! (cf. Kyoto, where rental is more around 4000 yen).
3. To see the traditional Japanese huts.
4. To see Mt Fuji from a different vantage point.
LATE AFTERNOON: HEAD TO CHUREITO PAGODA FOR SUNSET
I told you this is a monster day! After exploring Iyashi No Sato, it’s time to head back to Kawaguchiko station via the Green Line bus and then get on the local train to Shimoyoshida station to visit the famous Chureito Pagoda. Chureito Pagoda is by far the most picturesque place to be. It’s where you find that postcard view of Mt Fuji peeping from behind the cherry blossom trees. The Pagoda itself is sits on top of 400 steps however the climb is so worth the energy and every time you turn back to look at the view, you are going to be mind blown by the beauty of it all and just how towering high Mt Fuji is.
There are probably going to be a zillion people here all wanting to see the sunset so be prepared, it will definitely not be as peaceful as it seems to be!
I hope this post is super helpful and do let me know if you ever get a chance to visit the area too!