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Photo Diary: The 5 best places to view Mt Fuji in Japan

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

As the country's tallest peak, rising to 3776 meters above sea level, and an active volcano with the most idealistic shape, Mt Fuji stands as one of Japan's most iconic symbols. Sitting en route between the country's two most visited cities, Tokyo and Kyoto, even without trying Mt Fuji will sneak it's way into your peripherals; although I do recommend going out of your way (and doing so as often as possible) to sit down and witness all that this natural wonder has to offer. If you insist on taking a guided tour, there are a number of tours available through Viator, however I recommend that you DO NOT take this option as navigating your own way around Fuji is as easy as falling asleep after a long day of work and the sites that you'll be able to see will be far more rewarding. Instead I recommend working through the following list of what are, in my opinion, the 5 best places to view Mt Fuji in Japan that you can easily (and cheaply) navigate yourself to from your base in Tokyo.
1. Standing behind the Chureito Pagoda...

I'm 99.9% certain that there is a rip in space/time at this exact spot, that causes time to freeze. I don't quite know how long I stood behind the Chureito Pagoda gazing with love heart shaped eyes out to Mt Fuji and the sea of cherry blossoms surrounding it; but it could never be long enough. While the view is breathtaking enough, the site also holds historical and cultural importance as the pagoda is actually part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine, built way back in the 8th century.

How to get there:

Reaching the Pagoda from Tokyo couldn't be easier, all you need to do is follow the following 3 steps:

  1.  Take the Limited Express Super Azusa train from Shinjuku JR Station to Otsuki. This part of the journey will take approximately 60 minutes. 
  2. Take the Fujikyu Railway bound for Kawaguchiko from Otsuki to Shimo-Yoshida station. This journey will take approximately 40 minutes. 
  3. From Shimo-Yoshida station, the Chureito Pagoda is a mere 15 minute walk marked by clear and frequent english signs all the way from the station. Just a pre-warning, you will need to climb up 400 steps to reach the pagoda, but don't worry as your eyes will force your body to  stop and rest after each flight of stairs as the view of Mt Fuji watching you silently from behind becomes exponentially more impressive.
You can find the train timetable on Hyperdia

2. Aboard a swan paddle boat on Lake Kawaguchiko...

I originally found myself bound for this lake after reading about the infallible reflection of Mt Fuji commonly witnessed upon the lake - check it out for yourself here. Unfortunately on the day we went, there was too much wind about to create the mystical reflection. However, we found a view that was almost better - that from aboard one of the many swan paddle boats gathered around the lakeside. From where you board the boats, there is no view of Mt Fuji, so you could imagine how excitedly we paddled to reach the centre of the lake where Mt Fuji popped his head out for one final "Konnichiwa!".

How to get there:

Lake Kawaguchiko is located a short and easy 10 minute walk from Kawaguchiko station, which is just a few more stops from Shimo-Yoshida station. That is to say, to get here from Tokyo just follow the instructions above to the Chureito Pagoda but instead of alighting at Shimo-Yoshida alight at Kawaguchiko.

3. From the train traveling from Tokyo and Kyoto...

If this was a rom-com with you and Mt. Fuji cast as the romantic leads, this moment when you first spot Mt Fuji out the train window would be that weak-at-the-knees meet-cute moment. From it's perfect curves to it's icy stare, it will be the Patrick Verona to your Kat Stratford*. For the best views, sit on the left side of the train when traveling west and the right side of the train when traveling east.

How to get there:

Possibly the easiest of any of these places to reach, all you need to do is catch any train that runs between Tokyo and Kyoto or Osaka. Obviously, if you take any of the above mentioned trains to the Chureito Pagoda and Kawaguchiko, you'll also be treated to this view out your train window.

* If you don't understand this reference, go do yourself a favor and watch '10 Things I Hate about You' NOW!

4. From atop the volcano itself at the Fuji Fifth Station...

Okay so due to bad weather conditions, we were only able to travel to Fuji's Fourth Station but I have been informed that the view is quite the same from the Fifth Station; and thus I declare it one of the 5 best places to view Mt Fuji in Japan. What could be more beautiful than witnessing the majesty of the volcano up close and personal (i.e. ACTUALLY ON IT!). Better still, between July and September visitors are actually allowed to climb to the peak of the volcano. Outside of these months, climbing the volcano is far too perilous. The most popular trail is the Yoshida Trail and takes 5-7 hours to ascend and 2-3 hours to descend.

How to get there:

From Tokyo, there are two main ways to reach the Fuji Fifth station:

  1. Follow the above steps to catch a train from Shinjuku station (or wherever your base happens to be) to Kawaguchiko station (the very same station as view #2 is located nearby). From Kawaguchiko station, all you need to do is go to the bus ticket counter located inside the station to purchase your return bus ticket and then go wait at the bus stop for the bus to arrive. You can find the bus timetable courtesy of Japan Guide for both the off-season and climbing season by clicking here.
  2. Alternatively, there is a direct bus that travels from the bus terminal above Shinjuku JR station straight to Fuji Fifth station. Although I would recommend opting for the train which allows more flexibility, comfort and is mostly covered by the JR Rail Pass. You can find this bus timetable once again courtesy of Japan Guide for both the off-season and climbing season here.
5. From the Tokyo Sky Deck

Perhaps my biggest regret from my trip to Japan is not going all the way to the top of the Mori Tower where the 238 meter high, open air Sky Deck on the roof offers exhilarating, 360 degree views over the city and Mount Fuji on a clear day, but settling for the city view observation deck. Little did I know this view was waiting for me ... well until my friend Eric Ng ( sent me this photo revealing to me what I had just missed out on. Word of advice, even if it's your last 500 yen in your bank account AND even if there is a hurricane raging outside upgrade to the experience the sky deck.

How to get there:

Okay I lied above, this one is definitely the easiest to reach as it's actually still in Tokyo. All you need to do is catch the metro to Roppongi station and then partake in a leisurely 15 minute stroll to the Mori Tower that you'll see if you just look up.

Disagree with any of my selections? Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below :)