Mount Fuji is Japan’s most recognizable natural landmark, a volcano whose shape is so stereotypically perfect, it has been immortalized by famous artists, poets and photographers for centuries. Surrounded by unrivalled natural beauty and less than two hours from central Tokyo, the area is a completely different side to Japan, one full of sacred scenery, ancient culture and two amazing options for the eco-friendly traveller.
The perfect antithesis to the neon lights and sardine-tin trains of Tokyo, Mount Fuji (Fujisan in Japanese) and the surrounding Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lakes) area is a land born from destruction. Hardened lava forms the bedrock for a sea of green, flanked by virgin forests and deep pure lakes that reflect the majestic mountain like a postcard. It is a place to truly appreciate the creative power of nature. For those seeking a challenge, Fujisan’s climbing season opens each year on 1st July, but the surrounding area’s wild-settings doubles as a beautiful getaway from the big city, even if you don’t intend to climb.
The appeal is obvious. Fuji Five Lakes offers a wealth of options for self discovery or guided tours and activities. Be inspired by lush scenery; drive or hike through forest floors covered in roots of hemlock with cypress trees snaking out over the ground through a blanket of moss. Visit ancient thatched villages at the foot of Fuji, rising from the earth behind, an imposing image to be adored for hundreds of miles. Hire a boat, canoe or partake in some water-sports on one of the five pristine lakes. Visit a vineyard to try award-winning Japanese wines or indulge in some nature-spotting. Rent a bike, explore an ice cave, or just relax and work on capturing the perfect picture of the notoriously elusive Fujisan peak.
Beginning in March this year, a sightseeing train, the ‘Fuji Excursion’, launched, running directly from Shinjuku, Tokyo to Kawaguchiko (part of the Fuji Five Lakes area) taking under two hours door-to-door, improving accessibility and opening up the area to easy exploration. Kawaguchiko, the largest and most developed of the lakes in the area, is edged with exceptional places to stay meaning there is no need to compromise on modern amenities. From luxe glamping style cabins at Hoshinoya, to the eco-luxe Fufu Kawaguchiko, both with uninterrupted views of Fuji and her glistening reflection in the sparkling teal-blue waters of the lake below, it’s the ideal destination to escape amongst awe-inspiring views or equally, for anyone who wants to delve headfirst into the outdoors.
Fufu Kawaguchiko lies in the foothills of Fuji, perfectly poised to appreciate her beauty from all of the serene guest rooms. Emerging from the landscape, the hotel is built from beautiful natural materials, designed to reduce waste and blend seamlessly to the ancient forest surrounds. The lobby area is immediately calming, bringing the outside in with floor to ceiling windows streaming with light and greenery cocooning small sections in which sunken sofas beckon you to relax with a cocktail. The place is a high-end take on the boho aesthetic. But don’t be fooled, there is real clout amongst the cool, from private hot-spring baths in every room, drawing fresh mineral-rich water from directly underneath the hotel and their own eco-friendly and divinely-scented, organic bathing products, to an assistant manager who spent many years working in Australia and has an affable manner and impeccable knowledge of what to do with your days with them. Dining in the restaurant is also a delight. Dinner and breakfast are included in the room rate and meals vary during your stay so that you are never served the same thing twice. Nothing here disappoints. Gambolling through the menu is like a lesson in what’s in season in the area and every aspect of the meal, from the food itself to the ceramics it’s served on, have been tailored to heighten your dining experience.
Blessed with a number of accommodation options, Kawaguchiko is also home to a luxury glamping style getaway from high-end hotel chain Hoshinoya. Despite it being Japan’s first glamping resort, there is not a single tent in sight. A resplendent Fuji forms the background of almost brutalist-style cabins, perched atop a hill surrounded by red pine. Cozy at every turn, balconies come with your own personal fire, staff carry breakfast boxes to your room in traditional mountain climbing gear, giant wooden decks and walkways are built amongst the trees throughout the property, with open fires, sleeping bags on loungers, hammocks strung between trees and daily complementary wine and refreshments served al fresco on the aptly named Cloud Terrace. There’s a host of activities on offer, from wood-chopping to food-smoking, morning canoeing on the lake or simply relaxing in bed and taking in the vast views.
Climbing season for Mount Fuji opens on 1st July every year and runs through until the end of September. Climbing can be tough with little shelter and high altitude, but it is still one of the world’s most popular climbs — in 2018 alone, almost 300,000 people ascended during the summer season. For those who don’t wish to climb, spring and autumn offer fantastic scenery, from springtime sakura blossom to bright red maples at the end of the year.