Kawaguchiko has some of the best views of Fuji in Japan— reflected across a lake, beyond carpets of moss phlox or a field of lavender—and there’s no shortage of things to do there either!
The biggest and most accessible of Fuji’s five lakes, Kawaguchiko is a wealth of natural resources, with stunning autumn leaves, cherry blossoms and flower festivals galore. With direct transport from Tokyo, it’s an unsurprisingly popular spot, and well worth a day trip. The need to escape city streets can be strong, and there is nowhere better to get in touch with nature, as well as ticking off the biggest sight in Japan. If you are planning to size up the beast before you climb there are buses to Fuji’s 5th station available too! With plenty of onsens, art museums and seasonal delights, there are plenty of things to see throughout the year, so add Kawaguchiko to your list!
You can make use of the old-fashioned sightseeing bus to access most sights around the lake—the Red Line travels around the east side of the lake from the main Kawaguchiko Station. You can purchase a ticket for all three lake sightseeing buses for 1,500 yen or choose just the Kawaguchiko and Saiko lines (red and blue respectively) for 1,200 yen—this covers two days and is great value if you are planning on seeing a lot of the sights. You can see the full map with routes and sights here. The rule with Kawaguchiko is that you can do some interesting things, but all come with a\the added bonus of Japan’s most famous mountain in the background, so you can’t go wrong! There’s plenty to see in the surrounding area, but here are some of the top spots:
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum and The Maple Corridor
A unique opportunity to see the works of Itchiku Kubota—a world-renowned specialist in the ancient art of fabric dyeing. Having started at the age of 20, Kubota became interested in the art of tsujigahana after serving as a prisoner of war and soon developed his own style and techniques. Although he did not have his own exhibition until the age of 60, he is now well known as a savior of an art once lost in the 17th century.
The museum has numerous example of his work including beautiful kimono as well as a tearoom with stunning views across the lake of Mt. Fuji. There are beautiful gardens surrounding the museum with waterfalls and forests. The museum is also close to the Maple Corridor, one the best spots in the whole area for autumn leaves. The Momiji Tunnel is further along the lake, but not served by the bus route unfortunately. If you fancy more day trips for autumn leaves, check our guide for ideas.
Access: Via the Red Line sightseeing bus or bicycle rental.
Hours: Dec-March: 10am – 4.30pm | April – Nov: 9.30am – 5pm | Closed Wednedays from December – March
Fuji Moss Phlox Festival
Carpets of over 800,000 shibazakura cover the ground before mount Fuji from mid-April to late May, creating stunning views with contrasting colors from flower to mountain to sky. For 2017 the dates are April 15th-May 28th and entry is 600 yen, but fees are waived depending on the flower quality at the end of the season. There are direct buses running from Shinjuku during the festival period, otherwise you can easily access the site by bus from Kawaguchiko Station (approx 30 minutes).
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center
To view Mt. Fuji from fields of lavender and blueberries is a pretty unique experience—and one you can only get at the Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center. The lavender is in peak bloom in June, which is also when nearby herb festivals take place. From July to mid-August you can pick your own blueberries and fruits at nearby farmed as organized by the center, including free transport to and from the nearby farms. Admission is free and it is open between 9am-6pm (closing at 5:30pm from November to March). It is closed on Fridays, except between June and August.
Access: Kawaguchiko Station
Ride the Mt. Kachikachi Ropeway
The ropeway gives fantastic views of both Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko, reaching an altitude of 1075m at its highest point. The ropeway connects Kawaguchi-Kohan Station with Fujimidai Station on top of the mountain within 3 minutes and there is a small observatory there. The ropeway is the setting for a story written by one of Japan’s literary masters, Osamu Dazai, which describes raccoons and rabbits being placed on gondolas and around the observatory to welcome guests. It runs 365 days a year from 9-9:30am to between 5-5:30pm depending on the season, but may stop due to bad weather (no view is worth that risk!). Tickets cost 410 yen one-way, or 720 yen for a return.
Fuji Q Highland
A theme park so dedicated to breaking world records it builds a new roller coaster every five years just to do so, Fuji-Q Highlands is a great place if you want to be scared out of your wits. There are multiple ways to achieve this, of course—from terrifying drops and knee-buckling speeds of the rides, to the horrifying haunted house. The haunted-hospital-themed house of horrors is catchily named the “Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear 4.0”, but that name will be the last thing you laugh at. So scary they had to install actual escape doors for people who can’t handle it, the one hour tour time is too much for most. There are over 40 attractions including onsen and a giant ice rink in winter, there’s enough to do even if you hate near-death experiences. With views of Fuji as you rocket at speeds of up to 172km/hr—this is a pretty unique way to see the greatest sight of Japan.
Access: 2 hrs from Shinjuku Station to Fuji-Q Highland Station via Otsuka Station. A direct bus from Shinjuku is also available and takes 1 hr and 40 mins
Tickets: Adult entry ticket is 1500 yen, a one-day free pass ticket is 5,700 yen, two days is 9,300 yen.
Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum
A slightly strange attraction but very popular nonetheless, the Music Forest Museum is dedicated to a mostly European collection of automatic musical instruments. The biggest attraction is the French fairground organ from 1905 which plays every half hour. There are European-style gardens with views of Mt. Fuji and are home to the shops, chapel, rose garden and restaurant. The stylized design of the museum and gardens create quite a surreal setting and are very pretty, reminiscent of a fairy-tale cottage.
Access: On the red bus route, alight at Ukai Orugoruno Mori Bijutsukan Station.
Tickets: 1,500 yen
Soak in the sights at an onsen
There are two primary onsen towns on the red bus route: Funatsu-Hama and Azagawa, each with plenty of hotels and public onsen which welcome day guests into their relaxing baths. Hotel Mifujien has good views of Fuji, although it is not the fanciest of onsen—entry costs 1,200 yen. For outdoor baths you can try Tensui Kawaguchiko, although there are no views it is a brilliant location surrounded by forests. Yurari has great views from the second-floor baths and has private onsen bookable from 1,700 yen for 50 minutes with views of that mountain we keep mentioning. You can also try Yamanakoka Hot Spa-Beni Fuji no Yu which has great views and a nearby morning market .
Houtou noodles – the local specialty
While you’re in Yamanashi, you’ll need to try the local noodles to complete your experience. The unusual flat noodles are cooked in a miso soup with vegetables to create a nourishing bowl of hearty goodness, similar to a stew. Despite looking like udon (albeit flatter), he noodles are prepared similarly to dumplings. There are plenty of places to try the dish, just keep your eyes peeled as you pass any restaurants. If you want to plan ahead, Hotou Fudou have restaurants around the lake as well as a great reputation for high-quality noodles.
So, in case that wasn’t enough for you, there is plenty more to see, all dotted along the shore and in the main town of Kawaguchiko. For example, you can visit the Yamanashi Gem Museum or the Fuji-san World Heritage Center if you want to head indoors and escape the heat/cold. Alternatively you could visit the Saikyo Iyanashi-Sato Nenba Healing Village with thatched buildings each containing a local craft demonstration. For shrines, you could visit the Fuji Omuro Sengen Jinja Shrine. The Kawaguchiko Museum of Art is on the East side of the lake, a few stops down from the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum listed above.
Getting from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko
Train: From Shinjuku Station you can take the Limited Express to Otsuki and then hop on the Fujikyu railway to Kawaguchiko—this takes just over 2 hours and costs 3,910 yen. If you want to save some cash, you can catch a local train (possibly changing at Takao, depending on the times) to Otsuki instead, which adds half an hour to your travel time but saves you nearly 1,500 yen.
Alternatively you could catch a highway bus from stations across Tokyo:
- Shinjuku Station – Buses are run every hour by Fujikyu and Keio Bus Services and costs around 1,750 yen. It takes just under 2 hours and most buses stop at Fuji-Q Highland before they reach the main station—which is handy for thrill-seekers.
- Shibuya Station – Buses are run approximately every two hours by Fujikyu and stop at the theme park before reaching Kawaguchiko and then Fujisan Station.
- Tokyo Station: Buses are run once or twice a day from the Yaesu South Exit to Kawaguchiko Station. Tickets cost around 2,000 yen.
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