On a clear day, you can see it from Tokyo: Fuji-san (富士山), or Mount Fuji. At 3776 metres, it’s Japan’s highest and most sacred mountain. He hasn’t been active since 1709 and for pilgrims it’s an absolute ‘highlight’ to enter him once. Japanese love Fuji-san!
And indeed, Mount Fuji is beautiful, just like its immediate surroundings. Especially the area north of the sacred mountain that is characterized by the 5 lakes. Generally speaking, there’s peace and quiet here. And that’s in stark contrast to the south where the big cities of Fuji, Fujinomiya, Mishima and Nuzama are located. Nevertheless, there is plenty to do in the surroundings of Mount Fuji.
History: Mount Fuji comes to life…
Fortunately, it’s not yet time! But it is clear that Mount Fuji is in a dangerous area with seismic activities. For more than 20 times it erupted and the environment was left behind devastated. The last time was in 1708, more than 300 years ago. Let’s hope a new eruption doesn’t happen for the time being.
Since 2013, the sacred mountain has been on the Unesco World Heritage list. And, of course, Mount Fuji is also Japan’s most important symbol internationally. But where the name Fuji came from is not very clear.
The first person to ever climb the mountain was an anonymous monk. It was not until 1868 that Sir Rutherford Alcock climbed Mount Fuji in September 1868. This made him the first foreigner to do so. And are you next? In total his walk took 8 hours up and 3 hours down. Luckily you can now start at a higher level, but nevertheless it is a tough climb. But more about that later…
Accommodation Mount Fuji
After Nikko National Park I went via Tokyo to the place Fuji, south of the high mountain. Here I stayed two nights at Nasubi Mount Fuji Backpackers. A fine hostel with an incredibly nice owner. A cozy place to meet other travelers. But a stay here depends on what you want to do in the surroundings of Mount Fuji. If you want to climb the mountain then this hostel is an excellent starting point. But for the north of Mount Fuji…
For one day I went to one of the 5 lakes (Kawaguchiko) north of Mount Fuji. But to get there I had to change 3 times. And my JR-pass was not valid everywhere. Nevertheless I found the area of the 5 lakes more relaxed than the city of Fuji.
Top 5 attractions Mount Fuji
Here are some of the options you could do in this region.
1. Climb Mount Fuji
Do you dare to take up the challenge? Climbing Mount Fuji in Japan is truly a ‘highlight’ of your journey. But realise that it’s quite a climb and that you’d better take 2 days off for it. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do this myself; I arrived in this area just on the very last climbing day at the beginning of September.
But through a roommate I discovered how beautiful and inspiring this walk must have been. He spent the night on the mountain and at sunrise he saw a large cloud cover with a magisterially beautiful sun. Do you intend to take up the challenge? For more information, please visit the Fujisan Climb website.
2. The Fujisan Sengen Shrine, the most important …shrine of Japan
But before you start, you should visit the Fujisan Sengen shrine. It is the most important Shinto sanctuary in honour of the goddess of volcanoes, Asama. Many pilgrims wash themselves in the pool and then undertake the long climb up. I wouldn’t advise you to do that, because the Fujisan Sengen Shrine is not directly at the foot of Mount Fuji. Unless you have the time!
Want to know more about the Fujisan Sengen Shrine? Then read the article Fujisan Sengen Shrine | Beginning of the Pilgrimage to Mount Fuji
3. The 5 lakes
I’d like to introduce them to you. These are Motosuko, Saiko, Kawaguchiko, Yamanakako and Shojiko. They are the 5 lakes north of Mount Fuji and for a relaxed environment you have to be here. Especially making a walk or a nice bike ride you’ll be fine here.
4. The Chureito pagoda overlooking Mount Fuji
Maybe you recognize the front of the Lonely Planet from a few years ago? This picture was taken at the Chureito Pagoda near the Arakura Sengen shrine north of Mount Fuji. With a little bit of nice weather you can take great pictures (Note: when the weather is nice). Otherwise you’ll have a great hike of 400 steps up. But what is the meaning of this pagoda?
Want to know more about the Chureito Pagoda and its history? Then read the article Chureito Pagode | A beautiful view of Mount Fuji
5. A place for suicide: The Aokigahara Forest
Northwest of Mount Fuji there is a very peculiar forest. It is called Aokigahara, but is better known as the suicide forest. Especially after the publication of the book Kuroi Kaiju (Black sea of trees) by Seicho Matsumoto in 1960 it went fast. In that book two lovers finally committed suicide in the Aokigaharabos. In the year 2002 even 78 bodies were found and maybe you will come across ‘someone’ during a visit. But most of all you see many signs trying to get suicidal people to change their minds.
Also at the Kegon Waterfall in Nikko National Park many people committed suicide. Why they did so can be read in the article Kegon Waterfall: 200 suicides in Nikko National Park.
It’s pretty easy to get into Fuji’s place. The Shinkansen between Tokyo and Kyoto drives through this place. However, there are several stations and for my hostel I could best be at JR Tokaido Main Line Fuji Station. From Tokyo I took the Shinkansen to Mishima and there I switched to the Tokaido Line.
For the 5 lakes the best option is to take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Otsuki Station. There you switch to the Fujikyo Railway Line to Kawaguchiko Station.
I made a daytrip from Fuji to Kawaguchiko, but the way to Kawaguchiko took more than 2 hours. And then I had to change trains a couple of times. In the article about the Chureito Pagoda you can find a description of this route.
Do you have more tips and comments about Mount Fuji and the 5 lakes? Feel free to leave a message!