Category Archives: Fuji Sightseeing

Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway

Mt. Fuji panoramic ropeway. Visited today it’s about  1.5 hours away out main gate. We left base around 11:30am and traffic wasn’t bad. You will take toll roads and it’s 20$ each way (40$) total. The toll road does have multiple tunnels you will drive through. Coming back to base we left around 3pm and it took us 2.5 hours due to 2 car accidents along the toll road that had traffic moving slow. It really wasn’t bad,we got to take in more of the scenery at a slower speed.

The ropeway has free parking across the street right next to the lake but can be limited. There is a kiosk to buy tickets once you reach the ropeway building or you can buy from a person. Cheap tickets and kids that aren’t in school are free. One way/ round trip/ bundle tickets are available. We got the round trip ropeway tickets with boat ride.

Once tickets are bought the car that takes you up the mountain gives you amazing views of surrounding mountains and the lake. On top of the mountain plenty of places for souvenirs that are cheap and picture opportunities in front of mt Fuji along with a cafe.

The boat ride has an upper/lower deck depending on the experience you want. The ride is really smooth, you can see locals fishing and tourists in swan paddle boats, rented boats etc. not sure on the cost of private boats but the people that rent them out drive you around the lake. 
There are many hotels, restaurants , and shops in the area. It’s a great day trip. – Katie Kolka, June 2019

Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway

The views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi from the top of the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway are magnificent!  It’s an easy one hour drive from Yokota (1970Y in tolls each way) to the free parking lot at the base of the ropeway. A 3 minute trip up 600 feet in a 36 passenger gondola car takes you to the observation deck for 360 degree views of Fuji, the lake and the Alps in the distance.  A short ten minute hike leads to the top of Mt. Tenjo and a longer 3 hr trail leads to Mitsutoge-yama.  After enjoying the views, when you get back to the base you probably won’t be able to resist the smell that the comes from the Fujiyama cookie factory.  It’s okay, it’s only 140Y for a Fuji shaped cookie.  Zeke Lyons – January 2018

Summit of Mt. Tenjo


Observation deck

Fujiyama cookies

Related links:

Lavender Fields on Lake Kawaguchi

20160629_132108 The Kawaguchiko Herb Festival takes place in mid-June through early July. You get to see a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi and lavender fields especially on a sunny day. Be prepared for mud since it blooms during the rainy season. The lavender fields are located on Kawaguchi Lake. There are small flower parks, Yagizaki Park and Oishi Park. Admission to the parks is free. It was a nice walk along the lake with a few small restaurants.

20160629_131914 There is parking right in front of the shopping area in Yagizaki Park and it’s free to park. There were a lot of shops and fresh produce in Kawaguchi Natural Living Center in Oishi Park. If you would like to make the trip a full day, there are several other things to do around the area. For example, in Music Box Forest there is a music box from the Titanic on display. We didn’t go there, but the admission is Y1500 for adults. The drive was about 90 minutes. – Kathryn Flint, June 2016

Kawaguchiko Herb Festival 2016: June 17th to July 10th (Oishi Park is until July 18th) 9am to 6pm at Yagizaki Park and Oishi Park
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center:
Yagizaki park festival map:
Kawaguchiko Music Box Forest:
Yagizaki Park

Oishi Park

Kawaguchiko Music Forest

Hiking Mt. Fuji with kids

Every year thousands of people make the trek to the top of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s 2014-07-14 15.03.17tallest peak. A hike up Mt. Fuji most popularly begins at the “5th station” and ends at the 10th station, or summit. The Outdoor Recreation group, on base, take many trips to Fuji every summer, but you must be 16 years or older to join their tours. Though quite a challenging hike, it is very possible for children of all ages to make it to the top. My daughters were 6 and 7 when we made our trip up Mt. Fuji, so here are a few tips and suggestions for anyone considering this amazing adventure.

First off, and most importantly, your child needs to have the desire. If they are not 100% on board, I would not attempt it. The going can certainly get rough, so having your child’s buy in is paramount. (**TIP- if you think your child is not “all in” you can still easily make it to the 6th station, take in the views, turn around and have ice cream at the 5th station, and call it a day.)2014-08-09 08.28.04 HDR

The terrain is challenging, but not insurmountable. The 5th to 7th station trail is mostly gravelly rock on a steep incline.2014-08-09 07.00.52 HDR

After the 7th station, it gets more rocky, and boulder-like. My girls almost did better than we did because kids are so agile with low centers of gravity!2014-08-09 08.49.11 HDR

And closer to the top, it is almost straight up, like a stair case.2014-08-09 13.20.57 HDR

The down route consists of switchbacks all the way down the mountain, which I found considerably easier than the up. And it’s much faster, too. (If you don’t make it to the top, there is a path to reach this down route around the 8.5 station. Find it! It will make life easier.)2014-08-09 14.38.43

The Yoshida Trail is the most popular trail and also the most accessible from base. There are several mountain huts with food, and drink along the way, also lots of restrooms along the way, which cost about Y200, for each use. (Keep in mind, you may only go inside  most of the huts if you are staying the night there. There is no other form of shelter on the mountain, as you are way above the tree line. This can get difficult if you run into bad weather.)2014-08-09 11.15.53 HDR

Speaking of weather, the volatility of this mountain is your biggest unknown and can either make or break your trip. Even if you have clear skies at the bottom, you never know what’s going on up top. High winds are common, as is rain and even snow in early July. Trust me, staying dry is HUGE when it comes to reaching the summit, especially with kids. We bought the cheap plastic rain outfits from a convenience store and cut them off to fit. I think this was a difference maker in our success. (On the other hand, I had a friend get third degree burns on her lips from sun exposure, so be prepared for anything and everything!) I like this website for weather at the top. 12.47.55 HDRAltitude sickness can also be a very real problem for people of all ages. Make sure you take lots of breaks and have lots of snacks and drinks on hand. (Find out more about altitude sickness here. I would recommend buying an oxygen can at Outdoor Recreation before you go, if you don’t need it then they will let you return it for a refund. This was a difference maker in my oldest daughter reaching the top. (You remove the lid and it attaches like a face mask, then push the button and breathe.)2014-08-10 07.35.53

Lets talk logistics. The hiking season is very short, officially only July and August, and sometimes the first few weeks of September. During July and August, the toll road that leads to the 5th station is closed to local traffic. You must park and ride the shuttle to the 5th station to begin your hike. The Fuji Hokuroku is a great place to park and the shuttle runs every 30 minutes to the 5th station, and takes approximately 30 minutes. (See the schedule here; ) Cost of parking is Y1,000 and cost of the shuttle, round trip, is Y1,860 adult and Y930 child, cash only. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes between 0530-2200 Sunday-Thursday and 0430-2200 on Friday and Saturday. You don’t need reservations for the shuttle, just show up and buy your ticket at a hut at the parking lot.

Be sure to take lots of yen, even more then you think you’ll need. If you are planning to buy food and water, everything gets more expensive the higher you get.  Don’t forget, the restrooms cost Y200 per use and you may want to purchase a souvenir hiking stick, as well. The initial cost was Y1,200 and you can buy stamps from each hut you reach. Each stamp costs about Y200-400, but it is such a one-of-a-kind souvenir, I’m really glad I have it.2014-08-11 15.03.00

When you make it to the top, there is an actual town with a shrine, and a ramen shop, of course! You can circle the crater if you wish, which will add an extra hour to your trip. For us, getting to the top and down before dark was our goal. It took us 8 hours to reach the summit, we spent about 30 minutes at the top, and 3 hours to climb down.    We took the 0500 shuttle and began the hike at 0530, and were back at the car by 1900 and home around 2100. So, plan for a long day. Also, throw some dry clothes in the car, for the return. Just in case! (You might consider spending the night before or after at Camp Fuji, this really cut down our drive time in the morning).2014-08-09 13.30.52 HDR

This is a good website for general information. And, definitely stop into Outdoor Recreation to pick up a map and a list of packing essentials. They are very knowledgeable about the mountain and you can even rent water gear, and adult hiking boots. We found some very reasonable hiking boots for our daughters at Sports Depo, across from Moritown mall.2014-07-13 04.47.52 HDR

The bottom line is, you know your kid and their personality. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “fun” activity, but it was a very rewarding one for our family. It was a very good test of will and perseverance, and my  daughters still talk about lessons learned while on the side of Mt. Fuji often. So, be prepared, do your homework, and make some memories! Jamie Cowan, July 2015

DIRECTIONS TO HOKUROKU PARKING LOT: Plan on this drive taking you about 1.5 hours from base. GPS coordinates, 35.4819018, 138.7734145

Fall Colors Route Near Mt. Fuji and Lakes

DSC01438Here is a good ‘day’ outing if you’re interested in seeing some of the main fall spots near Mt. Fuji. The fall colors peak somewhere between mid-October to mid-November, but check this website for its report on fall colors round Mt. Fuji, Tokyo and Japan so you can plan your visit –

The trip drives around Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Saiko and is best taken during the week and on clear days, when Fuji is visible. Total driving time (not including stops) is about 3.5 hours in good/light traffic. The tolls, round trip, cost ¥4000 (in 2014). This circuit also works well in the spring, when cherry blossoms bloom at Chureito Pagoda and along Lake Kawaguchi.


Begin at Chureito Pagoda (GPS N35.49969, E138.80025). Please see the map below.

FullSizeRenderFollow the road around Lake Kawaguchi, and you have the choice of two free parking lot areas: one parking lot is at the beginning of ¾ miles of fall trees and the other is at the end of this stretch of road. The first parking lot has the GPS coordinates 35.5205999, 138.7714245, and is located next to the Museum of Art. The one at the end, and further along the lake, is near a maple lined canal and has the GPS coordinates 35.5266438,138.7618775. The maple lined canal is down the hill from this parking lot and is a great highlight if you go when its color is in peak. The canal is less than 100 yards long, but all around this area and further up the mountain lane are some great looking seasonal trees. Between the two parking spots there are maple and gingko trees lining the main street as well as along the same distance on the path’s edge of lake Kawaguchi.

Continuing on your drive along Lake Kawaguchi, be prepared to stop for more amazing maple trees at this free parking spot, GPS 35.5153416,138.7369953. Near the far end of the lake there is a good and relatively well-priced, Italian restaurant on the right hand side.

Following this, you can drive to the thatched village settlement with the GPS coordinates 35.501374, 138.659046. Saiko Iyashi No Sato Nenba. Please see the link for parking and prices.

If you have extra time and energy, further around Lake Saiko there is a 20 to 30 minute hike up to Koyodai summit that has fall colors en route and at the top. You can drive to the top of this, but the road is unpaved and very rough. The GPS coordinates for the parking lot at the BOTTOM of Koyodai summit are 35.481077, 138.6720221. The GPS coordinates for the parking lot at the TOP of the summit are 35.4841543, 138.6795045. Linda Bell, November 2014.

Chureito Pagoda

untitled-03198The five storied Chureito Pagoda, surrounded by cherry trees and overlooking Mt. Fuji, is a beautiful, quintessential Japanese spot.    We visited the Pagoda in fall, during Veteran’s weekend, and the colors were fantastic, although the cherry trees had lost all their leaves.  The Pagoda is located near the top of a hill, and untitled-03228There are a number of points to visit on the way. At the base of the hillside there are a series of steps that lead to a lovely big torri gate. Continue up to Arakura Sengen Shrine/‘Temple’. There is a small parking lot here. From this parking lot, you climb almost 400 steps to reach Chureito Pagoda. The effort is worth it!  When we visited there were no entrance or parking fees. The Pagoda was built as a peace memorial in 1963 and it overlooks Fujiyoshida City.
untitled-38DIRECTIONS:  The Pagoda is over an hour away from Yokota, in good traffic, and it’s not very far from Fuji Q Highland Amusement Park. There are several small parking lots at the base of the hill where Chureito Pagoda is located. The GPS coordinates to the parking lot adjacent to Arakura Sengen Shrine/‘Temple’ are N35.49969 E138.80025. Parking space might be quite limited during spring with it being a potentially popular spot. – Linda Bell, December 2013

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun

Water Slides by Linda Bell HakoneHakone Kowakien Yunessun is a water amusement park and spa resort in Hakone-machi, Hakone. It has over 25 water attractions with fun and kitschy theme pools like the red wine pool, green tea pool, Greek Santorini pool, and Roman baths (see photos below).  There are also different spas, water slides, and kiddie pools. Water temperatures vary between the different pools from ~100F to cold spring water. This park is great because it can entertain a wide range of ages from babies to grandparents.

Red wine spa pool linda bell hakoneTo buy tickets to the park proceed to the second floor of the building.  There are three main tickets you can buy, depending on what zones you want to visit. A ticket to the Yunessun Zone gives you entry to the swimsuit-wearing zone. Admission, here, is ¥2800 for adults and ¥1500 for children over 3 years old. A ticket to The Mori No Yu Spa Resort Zone gives entry to two separate nude areas for men and women, and admission here is adults ¥1800 and children over 3 years old ¥1200. A combo ticket can also be purchased which allows entry into both zones. This costs ¥4000 and ¥2000 for both adults and children respectively. I believe tickets for just the afternoon session can be purchased for 1pm til close, but check. Discounted tickets may be bought by using Google Translate at this web site A map of the park, in English, is available on the second floor, but you may need to approach a staff member in order to get one.

Greek Santorini Pool by linda bell hakoneEach ticket holder will be given a plastic bracelet which will act as a key to your locker and also allow you to purchase items at the various restaurants and vending machines. Once you pass the ticketed turnstile and take off your shoes, the locker rooms are basically down the hallway, to your right, on the same floor. The first number on your bracelet does NOT denote a particular floor for your changing room. I don’t believe there are any family changing rooms.

Roman Baths linda bell hakoneThe men’s and women’s locker rooms exit into the same area, the “Clock Square”.  There are a number of restaurant/fast-food places inside the park that range in price and variety. Tattoos are not allowed to be seen at the park. You may need to use sun block/swim tops as part of the park is outdoors. I would not recommend bringing a stroller as the park has many stairs and potentially crowded hallways, and swim diapers need to be accompanied with a swimsuit. In general, the pools aren’t very deep. Our three year old (100cm) was too small for only one of the pools.

When you’ve finished at the park, you leave through the same hallways that you entered, and pay off your bracelet’s amount at the park’s machines. We used cash, but according to the park’s website the reception takes credit cards.  We only visited the Yunessun portion of the park on a Sunday, in summer, and it was relatively crowded so I would suggest trying to go during the week to get the most out of your experience.

The Yunessun Zone opens at 9am, year round, and closes at 7pm from March-October. The rest of the time it closes at 6pm. The Mori No Yu Zone is, however, open from 11am-9pm throughout the year.  For more details about this destination, please visit their website:

Parking at Hakone Kowakien Yunessun park is ¥1000 for the day, but it might be free for the first two hours of your visit (this needs to be confirmed). Parking fees are paid to the automated machine on your way out of the parking lot. Large notes are not accepted e.g. ¥5,000. We arrived at the park after 10am, after we’d stayed the night in Hakone, and we got one of the last parking spots.  – Linda Bell, September 2013.

DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates to the entrance of the Park’s parking lot are 35.23916, 139.04460.

For more on Hakone check this separate entry: Hakone.


Fuji Q Highland Amusement Park

fuji q sarah strausLocated at the base of Mt. Fuji, Fuji Q Highland is a wonderful place to spend the day, especially if you love roller coasters!  The park boasts 14 roller coasters – and they are intense.  The Dodonpa goes so fast… 111 miles per hour in 1.8 seconds after take off.  The Fujiyama is a huge roller coaster with multiple loops and drops that seem to go on forever.  The Takabisha has a vertical ascent and rather than just a free fall to start, actually hangs upside down during its initial descent.   Most of these roller coasters have a height restriction of 130 cm (4 ft 3 in) and age restriction of 10 years, though there seems to be no age restriction and 120 cm for the Fujiyama.

Ok, honestly, I enjoy watching roller coasters from the ground rather than riding them and I had younger kids with me the day I went (ages 5 and 3).  Still, there was a lot to do and we had a great day!  There are plenty of intermediary rides that are not as intense as the big roller coasters.  Our favorite was the mouse in the clouds roller-coaster that zipped through the trees.  Both our kids met the 100 cm height requirement and could ride with an adult.  Many of the other rides have a height requirement of 110 cm.  Elementary aged kids will have a great time too… there are plenty of rides for every age.

fuji q sarah strausThere are many rides suitable for the very young.  The large Ferris wheel, tea cups, Merry-go-round are all very tame.  Thomas the Train land is filled with rides great for 2 and 3-year-olds.  See the separate entry on Thomas the Train Land.  For those who want to be scared, there are two horror rides – The Ultimate Horror Maze and a Monster House.  I didn’t go on these either, but even the entrances looked scary.

There are plenty of restaurants and snack bars throughout the park as well as food courts like the Food Stadium.  On the third floor of the Food Stadium the Latteria serves hamburgers and fries.  I would avoid the Pizza-La – especially if you have kids.  They do not have any slices of plain cheese pizza and the topping are truly strange.  There are plenty of places to eat a picnic if you’ve brought a packed lunch/snacks.  I would recommend bringing and refilling your water bottles there too because the ice cold water that comes out of the tap tastes wonderful.

fuji q sarah strausObviously any amusement park is going to be more fun when the lines are short and the area isn’t too crowded.  We went on the last Friday in August when Japanese schools had resumed after summer break.  The park wasn’t too crowded and in particular, there were no lines for all the rides designed for smaller kids.  The roller coaster lines were 1 hour 30 minutes during the day, but after 6pm the wait was closer to 15 minutes.

For a list of prices check the webpage here.  It is possible to just buy your entrance into the park and then pay for rides as you go.  However, if the park isn’t crowded and you plan to ride on a lot of rides, it might be worth it to just pay the full entrance fee that includes unlimited access to all of the rides. Instead of a full pass for our kids, we bought the cheaper kids pass.  It allowed them to ride everything they were old enough for except this funny, yellow roller coaster toward the entrance, near the tea cups.   Everything I read says the hours are 9am-6pm on the weekends, 9-5 weekdays.  However, they must be open longer during the summer… at least we stayed there long after 6pm in August when we went.  I’m not sure what their summer/holiday hours are.  Open year around but closed one Tuesday a month.  Check here for which Tuesdays.   Japan Guide has a nice review of the park and some good photos.  GPS coordinates for parking: 35.486655,138.77625.

DIRECTIONS:  Basically head to Mt. Fuji, towards lake Kawaguchi.  Find your way to the Chuo and head away from Tokyo, toward Mt. Fuji.  When the freeway splits, head toward Kawaguchi/Fuji/Tsuru.  As you travel towards Mt. Fuji you’ll see the Fuji Q roller coasters at the base of the mountain before the exit.  Exit the freeway at Kawaguchi, pay the toll (we paid ¥1900 each way) and turn almost immediately into the parking area.  GPS 35.486655,138.77625.  From this parking lot you’ll walk right under the impressive Fujiyama roller coaster.  Go through the gift shop and the little french village to find the pay booths.  If you purchase an all inclusive day pass, go to the photo booth before entering the park.  Here you can exchange the pass you just bought for a pass with your photo on it.  You’ll show this pass at each ride. – Sarah Straus, September 2013

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Thomas Land at Fuji-Q

photo-102bIf you have a little one who is a fan of Thomas the Train then you must visit Thomas Land inside Fuji-q Highland (Fujique) Amusement Park. It is located in the back section of Fuji-q, but feels very separate once you enter the Thomas Land section.There are nine different rides that both kids and adults can ride including a little roller coaster,  a water boat ride, and a ride that lets your kids fly Harold. photo-100You will also find a movie theater, a maze, restaurants, gift shops, and a small man made pond/creek where kids can wade in to cool off. So bring a change of clothes for them just in case.  Click here to read a description of all the attractions. 

It is a perfect day trip since it takes less than an hour and half to get there when taking the expressway. Note that it will cost you around ¥2,100 in tolls one way. So be prepared for that. There is a train station near by if you prefer.

photo-104You could easily spend hours in Thomas Land depending on how many times your children want to ride each attraction and how long the lines are. My family just recently went on a Saturday in July and the lines were very short. The longest we waited was ten minutes to ride the train.

Costs: Click here to see the entrance fees There are two options when paying to get in the park. You can pay just the entrance fee and then pay for rides as you go, which is what we did. Entrance fee is ¥1,300 for adults and ¥700 for children 3-11. Children 2 and under get into the amusement park for free. Children 2 and under also ride all the Thomas Land rides for free. So you will not need to buy tickets for them to ride the attractions. photo-101Once you get into Thomas Land you will see ticket machines that sell tickets for the rides in this section. Use these machines to buy tickets for the rides you want to go on. Rides in Thomas Land cost between ¥200-¥300 per person.

The second option is to buy a day pass which covers the entrance fee and then allows you to ride all the rides in both Fuji-q and  Thomas Land without having to buy additional tickets for each ride. See the website for more details on one and two passes.

photo-103Important tips
*When you exit the toll road the entrance for one of the parking lots is immediately to your left. It is easy to miss so be prepared. If you do miss it there are additional parking lots but I believe this one is the closet to the main gate.   

*Once you enter the main gate of Fuji-q you will have to go through the gift shop and a little French village called La ville de Gaspard et Lisa to get to the actual ticket counter.   There are two small rides in this village, but continue on to get to Fuji Q.  They accept both yen and credit cards.

*There are park maps available in English for both Fuji-q and Thomas Land. Once you have entered Fuji-q follow the blue line on the ground to get to Thomas Land.

*You will have to pay for parking. I believe it is ¥1000.

* Park hours for Thomas Land are 9:00-17:00 on weekdays and 9:00-18:00 on weekends and holidays  Fuji Q stays open longer.

photo-106The park closes one Tuesday a month, so check the webpage before you try to go on a Tue:

*There were only two rides inside Thomas Land that had age/height restrictions. So this amusement park is suitable for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and even young elementary school ages.  We took our 3 year old and 22 month old and both enjoyed themselves.

*Fuji-q is also know as Fijikyu Highland. This may be what you find when you search for it on your map app on the Iphone.

GPS Coordinates: 35.486463,138.780627

GPS Coordinates for parking lot described above: 35.486655,138.77625           Renee Booe, July 2013

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Camping and Cabins at Lake Saiko

campground saiko meg martinAcross from Lake Saiko there is a great little campground.  The campsites are small but surrounded by trees and very quiet.  Lake Saiko is right across the road, making it easily accessible.  Additionally, there is camping right on the beach, but when I went this area was crowded.  The campground was very clean, with clean bathrooms, and a picnic area with charcoal grills, running water and soap/brushes available for cleaning up.  The campground owner was very nice and great with kids.  We were able to get firewood free with purchase of the campsite, though this may have been a special promotion.  We also rented a boat to take out on the lake for just ¥500/day.  There was lots of great fishing.    Camping price: ¥3,450/night.  There are also cabins available.  For more information, to make a reservation or print a coupon, check their webpage:  GPS: 35.492088, 138.68533.  Located on the south side of Saiko Lake, on Route 710.  Address: Saiko 2202 Fujikawaguchiko Yamanashi Japan 401-0334.  – Megan Martin, July 2013 – see more of Megan’s photos below.

boating on the lake saiko meg martinWant to go camping but didn’t bring your camping gear to Yokota?  You can rent camping gear from Yokota’s Outdoor Rec.

See all entries for Fuji and the Five Lakes area.

saiko cabin meg martin firewood at saiko camping meg martin saiko camping meg martin saiko camping office cabins saiko meg martin cabins saiko meg martin 2


Thatched-House Settlement Near Fuji

thatched sarah strausSaiko Iyashi No Sato Nenba is a settlement which was rebuilt after a devastating typhoon in 1966 destroyed the area.  It is a settlement with thatched houses of “Kabuto-zukuri” (roofed like Samuri warrior helmet).  Now after 40 years the area has been restored and remains rooted in the region’s history, culture and the natural environment. 

Thatched houses by Jenn 2The area is pedestrians only and built into a beautiful hillside with gorgeous views of Mt. Fuji.  Once you park, walk to the ticket counter and you will receive a map of the settlement.  There are 22 separate buildings each representing a different aspect of the old culture.  For example, there is the Gorone-Kan (house to lie down and doze) and the Kutsurogi-ya (house of relaxation) and House of Oishi-tsumugi and Fabrics.  Each of the houses are open to walk through and many have shops or activities which invite participation.  On the day we visited (Sunday) there was an opportunity to participate in the art of paper making, dressing up in traditional Japanese clothing and Samurai warrior armor for a photo op (extra fee).  In addition, lots of houses sold souvenirs representing their cultural element.

Thatched houses by Jenn 3Be sure to bring your camera as the views of Mt. Fuji are amazing, the grounds are well kept and set in an idyllic Japanese hillside complete with babbling brook running through the middle.  There is also a few small restaurants at the entrance with vending machines, ice cream, and clean restroom.  The admission fee is: Adult ¥350, Child ¥150.  Hours of operation are Summer: (Mar-Nov) 9am-5pm, open daily; Winter: (Dec-Feb) 9:30am-4:30pm, closed Wednesdays.   Website:  but you’ll have to run it through translator!  There are coupons for entry online sometimes.  GPS: 35.501374, 138.659046 to turn off for parking.

Thatched houses by Jenn 1DIRECTIONS: Leave Yokota from Fussa gate and turn left onto Route 16.  Follow Route 16 to the Chuo Expwy.  At the Otsuki JCT stay left to continue on the Chuo towards Fuji.  At the Kawaguchiko Interchange exit the Chuo (you’ll be right next to Fujikyu Highland).  Make a Right onto Route 139 (away from Fujikyu).  Stay on 139 until you come to sign for Route 21.  You’ll turn Right onto Route 21.  You’ll see signs for Saiko Iyashio-Sato Village on your left.  Parking is Free and plenty of it.  – Jennifer Bobrowski, July 2013.

sarah straus thatchedComments by Sarah Straus, August 2013: We went on a Sunday in early August and had a wonderful time.  It took us just 1.5 hours drive there, though in Sunday afternoon traffic it took us closer to 3 hours to drive home.  The grounds were gorgeous and there was plenty to do with kids.  My favorite part was the opportunity to dress up in traditional clothes for ¥1000 each.  Adults and children can all dress up.  There are gorgeous kimono and fun ninja costumes complete with swords.  Once dressed up, you are free to walk the grounds with no time limit.  Makes for some amazing photo opportunities.

jenny iverson thatched roofPhoto from Jenny Iverson, November 2013

See all entries for Fuji and the Five Lakes area.  The Canady Restaurant is just up the road.

Oshino Hakkai: Fuji Village

sarah straus fuji OH4 - Jenn BOshino Hakkai is a beautiful and peaceful place located in the Fuji Five Lakes area between Kawaguchi-Ko and Yamanaka-Ko. It consists of eight freshwater ponds. These ponds are thought to be the site of Mount Fuji’s sixth lake, which dried up hundreds of years ago. Fed from the snow melt of Mount Fuji, the pond’s water is filtered down the mountain through porous layers of lava, arriving at Oshino Hakkai almost 80 years later! The water is crystal clear, and each pond is home to different fresh water plants and marine life at varying depths.

OH3 - Jenn BOH6 - Jenn BNear one of the ponds, water has been diverted to come up through a ‘fountain’ of sorts. There is a sign challenging you to hold your hand in the water for 30 seconds without removing it, accomplish this feat and you will have good luck. The water is extremely cold, and my kids enjoyed the challenge! On the backside of the fountain, there are water spouts where you can fill up your water bottle, or use your hands to scoop up some water for a drink. I recommend bringing a bottle. We didn’t know this ahead of time and bought a plastic bottle for ¥150. Because this water comes from Mount Fuji, and it’s been filtered for nearly 80 years, it is highly revered by locals. It’s even listed as some of the best water in Japan. What a neat opportunity to drink 80 year old, crystal clear water from Mount Fuji! The views of nearby Mount Fuji are not to be missed either!

OH7 - Jenn BOH5 - Jenn BThe area of Oshino Hakkai is also a great place to walk around. It has many souvenir shops, restaurants, and markets. It is tucked within a little village, so as you are approaching the site, be sure to grab any available parking. We easily parked at a nearby store parking lot and walked a few blocks to Oshino Hakkai. It is free to enter, and since this is a natural location, it’s open every day of the year! GPS: 35.46045,138.83281. – report & photos by Jenn Bobrowski, July 2013, top photo by Sarah Straus, Oct 2013.

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oshino Hakkai sarah strausComments Sarah Straus, October 2013: This was such a beautiful place to visit.  If you go, be sure to pay the small entrance fee to enter the open air museum that surrounds the largest pond and has several thatched roofed buildings.  You can enter the buildings and in one climb the stairs to the second floor and then up again to a viewing platform at the roof-line.  The observation deck on top of the museums entrance is worth climbing for an even better view of Mt. Fuji.  This photo was taken in another spot, walking distance from the main little downtown of Oshino Hakkai.  It is a garden with a 200 yen suggested donation.  Just follow the stream back toward the main road and cross the street.  You’ll have to go through a parking lot to enter this garden.

Fuji Five Lakes

Rebekah Storman fuji lakeThe Fuji Five Lakes area is defined as the area north of Mt. Fuji, where five lakes can be found. This area is popular for those seeking outdoor adventures including boating, skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, swimming, camping, fishing etc. Open year round, winter sports include ice skating, and ice fishing. If you are not seeking outdoor adventure, you can discover museums, amusement parks, hot spring baths and more.  

Yamanaka-Ko is the largest of the Fuji Five Lakes and is the second most developed lake behind Kawaguchi-Ko. If you are not into “roughing” it, there are plenty of hotels and restaurants to enjoy the lake in comfort. However, if you don’t mind getting close with mother nature, camping is common during the summer months. During the winter, the lake freezes over and offers ice fishing and skating.

Kawaguchi-Ko is the most developed and accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes. The lake is surrounded by restaurants, hotels, shops and more. A variety of museums, hot spring baths and tours will keep you entertained throughout the day. Additionally, the lake is located near the popular Fuji Q Highland amusement park. The northern shore offers stunning views of Mount Fuji.

Kawaguchi-Ko is also a popular place to begin your climb of Mount Fuji. If you are interested in climbing the mountain from bottom to top, you may want to start here. However, if you are looking for an easier climb, it is recommended that you begin your ascent at the Kawaguchi Fifth Station.

Sai-Ko is much less developed and is noted for its quiet, secluded setting. If you are interested in outdoor sports, this may be the lake for you. Rustic cabins and camping are offered and many outdoor activities include trout fishing, canoeing and hiking. The popular hike of Koyodai (Maple Hill) offers magnificent views of Mount Fuji.

If you are tired of the heat, you might be interested in exploring a few of Mount Fuji’s volcanic caves near Sai-Ko. These volcanic caves were developed during many of Mount Fuji’s eruptions and temperatures in the caves are near freezing. Three of these caves are accessible to tourists for exploring, namely the Bat Cave, Ice Cave and Wind Cave. Enjoy the cool temperatures, but be sure to bring a jacket, and watch for low ceilings and slippery surfaces.

Shoji-Ko is the smallest of the Fuji Five Lakes. Very sparsely developed, the Lake offers hotels on the northern shore with views of Mount Fuji. At the northwestern tip of the lake, fresh water marshes display spectacular colors in the autumn. Outdoor activities include fishing, hiking, and water sports such as wind surfing, boating and jet skiing.

Motosu-Ko is the deepest of the lakes and never freezes over in winter. Its deep blue water is a perfect mirror for Mt. Fuji. Simply flip over the ¥1000 note for a sneak peak of this stunning lake reflecting the image of Mount Fuji. Towards the end of April and through June, enjoy the Fuji Shibazakura Festival. Beginning in July, people camp along the beaches and enjoy paddle boarding and wind surfing. Outdoor activities also include kayaking, bike riding, scuba diving, hiking and more. On a hot day, the water is quite refreshing. If you plan to spend a day on the beach and jump in the water, don’t forget your waterproof shoes and folding chairs, as the beaches are quite rocky.IMG_0750

There are paddle board and kayak rentals on the northwestern shore, just off of the Lake’s west Highway 709 at Motosu Central Lodge. GPS, 35.47357,138.573555. – Michelle Nexon, July 2013; top photo by Rebekah Storman, November 2013.

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Mt. Fuji – Kawaguchiko Fifth Station

Mount Fuji, a nearly perfect volcanic cone rising to an altitude of 3,776 meters (12,388 feet), is Japan’s highest peak and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mountain is famous for being the world’s second highest free-standing mountain, second to Mount Kilimanjaro of Africa. Its northern base is adorned with five lakes making it ideal for year-round recreation. Fuji1

Want to climb Mt. Fuji? Awesome! Get ready for an experience that you will never forget. The official climbing season is from July through August. During the hiking season, mountain huts (stations) are open, offering water, souvenirs, rest, and bathrooms for a small fee throughout the climb. Before climbing Mt Fuji, you can opt to purchase a hiking stick for ¥1000-1200. At each station along the climb, you can get a stamp on your stick for ¥200-500. Keep in mind, the higher you climb, the more expensive things become. Bathrooms cost ¥100-200 per use.

Fuji2The most popular climbing route begins at Lake Kawaguchi. However, climbers often begin their ascent at the Kawaguchiko Fifth Station (2305 meters). Do approach the hike prepared and with caution, as this is an extreme physical and mental challenge. To learn more about climbing this mammoth volcano, don’t hesitate to visit Yokota Outdoor Recreation. There are many experienced guides who have climbed Mt. Fuji more times than they can count and have a wealth of knowledge to share. You can also find an information booklet and a safety slideshow on their website. If you are looking for a pre-planned trip, Outdoor Recreation also offers many Mt. Fuji Mountaineering trips throughout the climbing season starting at $40. Fuji4

Have small children, or don’t want to climb? No problem. The Kawaguchiko Fifth Station offers various souvenir shops, ice cream, restaurants and bathrooms for those who want to visit the mountain, even if they’re not climbing. While at the Fifth Station, be sure to check out the Komitake Shrine, hidden behind the shops and don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the amazing views.

Please note that access is limited to the Mount Fuji 5th Station during peak periods. During these periods, vehicles are required to park at the Fujihokuroku parking area for ¥1000. From here, you can take a 50 minute shuttle bus ride to the 5th Station. Roundtrip bus fare is ¥1800 per adult and ¥900 per child. Contact the Fujikyu Yamanashi Bus for more information. GPS 35.394173, 138.732847. – Michelle Nexon, July 2013.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: To get to the Kawaguchiko Fifth Station, take the JR Chuo/Ome Line from Fussa to Tachikawa. Switch to the JR Chuo Line Rapid Service to Takao. At Takao, switch to the JR Chuo Line. In approximately 45 minutes, you will arrive at Otsuki. At Otsuki, switch to the Fujikyu Railway. After approximately 60 minutes, you will arrive at Kawaguchiko Station. At Kawaguchiko Station, you can purchase a round trip bus ticket to the Kawaguchi Fifth Station for approximately ¥2000. One way on the bus takes approximately 50 minutes.

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Fuji Shibazakura Festival (Pink Phlox Festival)

Shibazakura by Shelly 3Toward the end of April through the beginning of June, you can see amazing fields of 800,000 pink, white, and lavender blooms at the base of Mount Fuji. Bring your camera and enjoy this great photo opportunity.  As well there are booths selling all kinds of food and desserts. It is a bit of a walk from the parking area to the flowers and it is a gravel-surface so wear comfortable shoes.  It is also cooler close to the mountain than it is in Yokota.  Stroller friendly.  Parking is ¥500. Admission is ¥600 for adults, ¥250 for kids. The website for the festival is   GPS coordinates: 35.437614, 138.601688.  It is located at the base of Mt. Fuji near Lake Motosu.  – Shelley Maroon, April 2013, photos below by Linda Bell May 2014.

Linda Bell







Linda Bell



Sara Curry Photo Fujiten 2013Fujiten is a ski resort at the bottom of Mt. Fuji about 90 minutes from Yokota Air Base.  It is an easy day trip and a great place to learn how to ski. Fujiten also offers a separate sledding area with two hills and a snow playground consisting of snow tunnels, a man-made igloo and snow “mountains” to climb.  It is perfect for children 0-10 years of age who want to enjoy a day in the snow.   A central movable walkway helps little ones and their parents climb the hills so there is more time for sledding.  The entrance fee for sledding is ¥600 per person for the day.  Kids can purchase a lunch set and sled pass for ¥1100 a day.  Plastic sled rentals are available for ¥500.  The large ski lodge offers a variety of Japanese and Chinese lunches as well as chicken nuggets, french fries and corn dogs.  Our family has gone sledding here for the last three years and our kids have a blast in the snow.  It is also a great place to take pictures of Mt. Fuji on a clear day.  I recommend going during the week or on an American holiday like Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Superbowl Monday or Presidents’ Day to avoid the crowds. – Sara Curry, January 2013
DIRECTIONS: The Yujo has maps and directions available from the base.  Also, check the webpage:  GPS Coordinates: 35.441862, 138.687444.

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Fuji Safari Park

Fuji Safari Park makes for a great day trip, especially fun for families.   Drive your own car through the park for the price of admission or pay extra to ride the park bus or take a walking tour.  Riding the bus will allow a much needed break from the car and give you a chance to feed animals like the bears, lions, and camels. My kids loved this part. Make sure to bring yen for other activities such as horse and pony rides and feeding the kangaroos.  Bring your own food or buy food at restaurants found in the park.  They serve reasonably priced basic dishes such as curry, ramen soup, salad, and donburi. Credit cards accepted.  Be sure to bring your camera! Not only might you get some fun photos at the park, but also it is a great place to take photos of or with Mt Fuji.   The park is stroller friendly and you can leave your stroller at the ticket office during the bus ride.  As a side note, save time to check out the roller slide park in the town of Susano just a short fifteen minutes from the park.
General Admission 2012: Adults ¥2,700, children age 4 – jr high ¥1,500.  Additional cost for bus tour: ¥1,200 per person, children aged 2 and under free. Walking safari open late March through Nov 30, ¥500 per person, age 4 and under free. Open Daily: Summer: 9am-5pm, Winter (Nov 1- Mar 15): 10am – 3:30pm. Coupons are available online and by using your point card before major purchases (like food and the gift store) you can earn points towards a free ticket, good for one year. – Megan Miller entry & photos, November 2012.
Directions  Following our GPS it took us 3 hours to get there on the Tomei expressway but only 1.5 hrs on the way back taking the Chuo.  So, I recommend taking the Chuo there too.  Be sure to look at a map before you go even if you have a GPS.  Go to the Yujo for a map and the guys there can answer any further questions.  GPS Coordinates: 35.260303, 138.810489.  Phone 055-998-1311. 
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Interested in Safari Parks?  Also check out the entry on Gumna Safari Park.

Saiko Bat Cave

You won’t see any bats here, but there is a pretty good sized cave to explore. We went through with three kids 7, 5 and 18 months, and they got through okay. There is a whole area where the cave ceiling is three feet tall, so you have to do some serious crouching or it is possible to go around this part if you’d rather. The cave is lit and paths are well-defined, so we felt safe letting our kids explore. It was a little muddy, but boots are available upon request, and hard-hats are provided and mandatory. My 18-month-old was in a carrier, but she probably could have walked around if I’d let her.  They didn’t have a helmet to fit her, so if you have a child under 3 you may want to take a bike helmet just in case.  Our 7 and 5-year-old stayed pretty clean, but a little one would likely come out covered in mud, so consider bringing a change of clothes.  There is an easy nature walk through the woods to get to the cave, where you can see some smaller cave formations and tons of volcanic rock, lichens, mushrooms, and other marvels of nature. There is a little information display with lots of old batman posters and some local information about bats (all in Japanese.) There was also a poster of all the children’s books about bats, so the kids enjoyed finding some they knew on there. We did this side-trip on a day trip to Fuji, and it took about an hour for the whole stop. Entrance was ¥300 for adults, ¥150 for kids and free for kids 5 and under.  Note: Also see Shelley’s review of Canady Restaurant just 2.4 kilometers away.  GPS 35.49422, 138.67154. -Shelley, October 2012.




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Crab-walking in the tunnel, Shelley, 2012







Bat information gallery, Shelley, 2012


Hakone is a popular vacation getaway about one and a half hours outside of Tokyo. It is a beautiful little area nestled in the crater of a volcano. Just getting there is part of the fun. You take the Odakyu line from Shinjuku to Odawara, then transfer to a tiny railroad line called the Hakone Yumoto line that winds its way up the lower part of the volcano. As it gets higher, it has to reverse directions several times to switchback up the steeper areas.
Along the way, make sure you stop for a while at the Chokoku-no-mori station to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. It is a beautiful art museum with most of its display dedicated to large sculptures that dot beautiful lawns. They also have a building dedicated to works by Picasso.

All photos by Kevin Green

After getting back on the Hakone Yumoto line, you go all the way to the end and then take a cable car that pulls you straight up a steep section of the slope. From here there is a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. At the end of the cable car, you get on a ropeway that takes you over the crest of the mountain into the gigantic crater. Looking out the ropeway, you pass a section where they are drilling into the side of the mountain to prevent the pressure from building up and causing an explosion. Make sure you get off at the stop in the middle of the ropeway to see the “sulfurous vapor erupting area.” Here you can take a short nature walk and see the sulfur steaming from the ground, and natural hot springs from the volcano. You can eat eggs boiled in the hot water which the Japanese say will help you live longer. Along the nature trail there are signs in Japanese and English that tell you such things as “This area was once covered with tall trees, but now you can find only the species which have been able to survive such things as Volcanic eruption.” The ropeway will then take you the rest of the way into the crater to Lake Ashi, which you cross on large replicas of pirate ships.
Lake Ashi is a crater lake famous for its reflection of Mt. Fuji on clear, calm days. The boat takes you to Hanokemachi which is a historical area from the 1600’s, including the Hakone Checkpoint and a portion of an ancient highway that was lined with cedars to provide shade hundreds of years ago. By the time we get here we are pretty tired, so we catch a bus to the Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita to spend the night. It is a beautiful hotel established in 1878, making it the oldest western-style hotel in Japan. It has been visited by many famous people including Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, Margaret Thatcher, Hellen Keller, and many emperors of Japan. It is nestled among trees, and has a beautiful garden in back which is home to the only California Redwood tree in Japan. Inside the decor is beautiful, including many wood carvings. You can also bathe in the natural hot spring onsens. The next day, be sure to see some of the many other attractions in the area including the Hakone Ashinoyu Flower Center (a gigantic greenhouse with many types of flowers and other plants – indoors, so nice even in case of rain) and the Botanical Garden of the Wetlands.
On our way home the next day, we stopped at the Odawara Castle. The old castle town of Odawara serves as the main gateway to the Hakone district. About a 10-minute walk from Odawara Station is the reconstructed five-story donjon (central structure of the castle). It houses a museum of historical materials, ancient suits of armor and swords, folk arts & crafts, and special exhibits. The view of Sagami Bay from the fourth floor is excellent. Open 9am-4:30pm, admission is Y200 for adults, Y100 for children. The park surrounding the castle includes a playground and small zoo. Brian & Kristen Marriott, 2001.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Driving in these areas, especially on weekends or in the summer, can be very difficult. Traffic is extremely heavy and slow. To maximize your sightseeing time, it is well worth the effort to leave no later than 5am. To enter the Hakone district at Odawara, take Rt. 16 from Yokota south, until it joins Rt. 129. Just north of Atsugi, you will see elevated Rt. 246 and a sign for the Tomei Expressway. Turn right immediately after passing under elevated Rt. 246 – this leads to a ramp that puts you on 246. Go through Atsugi. Look for signs for Odawara/Atsugi toll road (this will be south of Atsugi). When you see the signs, it will be a right turn. You will drive parallel to the toll road for several kilometers before entering. Once you are on the toll road, you will pass through two tollbooths and pay Y350 at each. When the toll road ends, follow the signs to Rt. 1. At Miyanshita (about 7km), the road will divide. The hotel is at the fork on the left. The right fork of the road will lead to Gora. The left fork will lead to Lake Ashi, which you could visit before checking in at the hotel, since check-in is not until 2pm.

TRAIN DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa. Change to the Chuo Line and go to Tokyo Station. You can take either the Shinkansen (“Kodama Train”, takes 42 minutes, runs every 20 minutes) or a regular train (Tokaido Line, takes 90 minutes, runs every 15 minutes) to Odawara Station. You can also reach the Hakone area from Shinjuku or Machida stations on the Odakyu Railway. Express trains run regularly to Odawara (takes 90 minutes), while the super-fast “Romance Car” runs only every 30 minutes (seat reservations required). Two different transportation companies, Hakone Tozan Railway and Izu Hakone Railway, offer discount tickets from which you can choose. These passes are convenient for multiple use of various modes of transportation after you reach the Hakone area and are valid for four days. The Hakone Free Pass allows you to use the Hakone Tozan Railway, bus, cable car, ropeway, the Odakyu highway bus (between Togendai and the Tomei Gotemba Expressway interchange) and the Hakone excursion boat on Lake Ashi as many times as you wish. These passes are sold at all Odakyu Railway stations and at the Hakone Tozan Information Center at Odawara Station (“Romance Car” ticket not included). Approximate prices from Odawara are Y3,500 for adults and Y1,750 for children (Y4,600 per adult from Shinjuku). Depending on the attraction, the pass includes 10% discounts for Gora Park, Hakone Museum, Chokoku-no-Mori (Hakone Open Air Museum), Hakone Checkpoint, Narikawa Art Forum, Hakone Arboretum, Owakudani Natural Science Museum, etc. A similar pass known as the Hakone-Wide Free Pass allows use of the Izu Hakone bus, cable car, ropeway, excursion bus, and includes discounts at various attractions. The pass is sold at travel agencies and the Izu Hakone Information Center at Odawara Station (for a little less than the other pass.) Cheryl Raggio, Margaret Summers.Lodging in Hakone Fujiya Hotel near the Miyanoshita

(Fujiya Hotel Garden, Sarah Straus, November 2011)

Station. They have a special foreigner’s rate of about $130 per night. All of their employees study English in the United States and making reservations by phone is easy. You can contact them at FUJIYA HOTEL 359 Miyanoshita, Hakone, Kanagawa Pref., Tel.0460-2-2211, Telex. 3892-718, Fax 0460-2-2215. E-mail/ Camp Fuji. Other people stay at Camp Fuji, a little further away, but less expensive ($25/day in 2001). They then drive into Hakone. The number for billeting is 265-5502. (Camp Fuji Operator is 265-5011)

For more information, see:

• For information on Odakyu Railroad, information, including Hakone Free Pass.  For the Japan National Tourist Organization’s “Practical Travel Guide” on Hakone. (Click on “Regional Tourist Guides” then “Practical Travel Guide”

Our Hakone Trip

Over Thanksgiving break my husband, 1 year old, 3 year old and I went to Hakone for two nights. It was fun for everyone and there is an amazing hotel there that has a foreigner rate of $133/night plus tax. There is hotel parking. The hotel is: Fujiya Hotel. You have to call to get the special rate, which is offered during the week, not weekends. It is an older hotel with big rooms and a beautiful garden in the back. There is a lot to do in Hakone. We most enjoyed the ropeway ride over the volcano and the Open Air Museum, which houses some fabulous kid friendly sculptures. I thought this webpage was helpful while planning what to do on the trip: It has a nice overview of the various attractions. We didn’t figure out how to buy the Hakone Free Pass, which allows one payment for two days of transport on all the Hakone trains, funicular, ropeway, pirate ship, and buses. Over Thanksgiving the hotel was not too busy and the fall colors were amazing! We’ll definitely go again. –Sarah S., 2012

Hakone Open Air Museum – kids can climb up into this sculpture and run around at the very center.  Sarah Straus, 2011.