Kawaguchiko has some of the best views of Mount 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. Here are a few cheapo tips for a day trip from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko.
The biggest and most accessible of Fuji’s five lakes, Kawaguchiko has a wealth of natural resources, with stunning autumn leaves, cherry blossoms and flower festivals galore. With direct transport from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko, 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 tick 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 from Kawaguchiko too. With onsen, art museums and seasonal delights, there are plenty of things to do throughout the year, so add Kawaguchiko to your bucket list!
Top sights in Kawaguchiko
It’s easy to make use of old-fashioned sightseeing buses to access most sights around Kawaguchiko—there are three “Retro Bus” lines, Red, Green and Blue, all departing from Kawaguchiko Station. You can purchase a two-day ticket for all three lake sightseeing buses for ¥1,500, or one for both the Kawaguchiko and Saiko lines (Red and Green respectively) for ¥1,300. You can see the full map with the routes and sights here. Another option is to rent a bicycle—there are a few stores dotted around the area.
Since everything in Kawaguchiko comes with the added bonus of Japan’s most famous mountain in the background, you can’t really go wrong, no matter what you decide to explore. There’s plenty to see in the area, but here is a selection of 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 very 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 examples of his work, including beautiful kimono, as well as a tearoom with stunning views across the lake of Mt. Fuji. There are gardens surrounding the museum, with mini waterfalls and forests. The museum is also close to the Maple Corridor, one the best spots in the whole area for autumn leaves. This Momiji Tunnel is further along the lake, but not served by the bus route. If you fancy more day trips for autumn leaves, see our guide to fall day trips from Tokyo for ideas.
Access: Via the Red Line sightseeing bus
Hours: Dec – March: 10am – 4.30pm | April – Nov: 9.30am – 5:30pm | Closed Tues, except during Oct – Nov
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. There are direct buses running from Shinjuku during the festival period; otherwise you can easily access the site by bus from Kawaguchiko Station (approximately 30 minutes).
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center
To view Mt. Fuji from fields of lavender and blueberries is a pretty awesome 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 the nearby herb festivals take place. From July to mid-August, you can pick your own blueberries and other fruit at nearby farms—this is organized by the center, including free transport to and from the farms.
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Access: Via the Red Line sightseeing bus
Hours: April – Oct: 9am – 6pm | Nov – March: 9am – 5:30pm | Closed Fridays in June – Aug
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. It connects Kawaguchi-Kohan Station with Fujimidai Station on top of the mountain within three 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.
Access: Via the Red Line sightseeing bus
Tickets: ¥410 one-way, or ¥720 for a return
Hours: 9 – 9:30am to between 5 – 5:30pm depending on the season, but may stop running in bad weather
A theme park so dedicated to breaking world records it builds a new rollercoaster every five years just to do so, Fuji-Q Highland is a great place if you want to be scared out of your wits. There are multiple ways to achieve this, of course—from the 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, so there’s enough to do even if you hate near-death experiences. With views of Fuji-san as you rocket at speeds of up to 172km/hr—this is a different way to enjoy the greatest sight of Japan. If you’re keen on Fuji-Q, it’s worth considering a Mt Fuji Pass—this covers your entrance, plus a bunch of other attractions and transport.
Access: Via the Red Line sightseeing bus. Alternatively, it’s two hours by train from Shinjuku Station to Fuji-Q Highland Station via Otsuka Station. A direct bus from Tokyo is also available.
Admission: Adult entry is ¥1,500, a one-day free pass ticket is ¥5,700, two days is ¥9,300
Hours: Basically 9am – 5pm, but hours as long as 7am – 10pm some days in summer
Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum
A slightly strange attraction but 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, which are home to shops, a 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 Line sightseeing bus route, alight at Ukai Orugoruno Mori Bijutsukan Station
Hours: 9am – 6pm or 9:30am – 5:30pm, depending on the season
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 Mt. Fuji, although it is not the fanciest of onsen. Entry costs ¥1,200. Yurari has great views from the second-floor baths, and has private onsen bookable from ¥1,700 for 50 minutes, with views of that mountain we keep mentioning. You can also try Yamanakoka Hot Spa-Beni Fuji no Yu, which has good views and a nearby morning market to boot.
Houtou noodles – the local specialty
While you’re in Yamanashi, you’ll want 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), the noodles are prepared similarly to dumplings. There are plenty of places to try the dish—just keep your eyes peeled as you pass restaurants. If you want to plan ahead, Hotou Fudou have restaurants around the lake, and a great reputation for high-quality noodles.
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 JR Shinjuku Station, you can take a Limited Express to Otsuki and then hop on the Fujikyu railway to Kawaguchiko—this takes just over two hours and costs ¥3,910. 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 can save you nearly ¥1,500.
Alternatively, you could catch a highway bus from stations across Tokyo, including Shinjuku, Shibuya and Tokyo. Tickets start around ¥1,800 and the ride takes about two hours, stopping at Fuji Q Highland on the way. You can book the return trip here.
Note: Route, price and other information in this post is subject to change.
This post was updated in June, 2018.
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