Kawaguchiko, popularly known as Lake Kawaguchiko, is one of the Fuji Five Lakes which surrounds Mt. Fuji and is actually the most visited attraction among the five lakes. In this blog post, I’ll tell you how I explored two of the Fuji Five Lakes’ Lake Kawaguchiko and Lake Saiko by bus.
Before I embarked on my solo backpacking trip, I was actually choosing between Kawaguchiko in the Yamanashi Prefecture and Karuizawa in the Nagano Prefecture. I have been to Yamanashi twice because I attended the Shibazakura Festival and visited the famous Fuji-Q Highlands.
After much contemplation, I ended up choosing Yamanashi over Nagano because I wanted to complete my Yamanashi Prefecture experience by touring Kawaguchiko.
To get to Kawaguchiko, I took a 2-hour train ride from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station. It was around 3:45 pm when I finally arrived in my destination.
Koe House Hostel
Prior to this trip, I was looking for an affordable accommodation and came across Koe House. I called them to book a one-night accommodation. Since it wasn’t peak season, there was no reservation fee required and the owner told me to settle the payment after I check in. The room was worth 2,300 yen per night.
The hostel can be easily seen from the Kawaguchiko Station. Due to the haggardness brought by the long train rides, I checked in at the hostel first and freshened up a bit. The hostel clerk was a fluent English speaker. She asked me if I wanted to join the onsen together with the other guests at 5:30pm. Since I haven’t been to any onsen facility in Japan, I agreed to join. It was only 700 yen and the transportation to the hot spring was free.
Kawaguchiko Sightseeing Bus
While waiting, I went back to the station and looked for discounted tours.
Similar to Nikko, an unlimited bus voucher that could take you anywhere in Kawaguchiko was available.
I bought the 2-Day Unlimited Sightseeing Bus Voucher for 1,200 yen only. To be able to use the voucher, you just have to show the pass to the bus driver when boarding and exiting the Retro Buses.
There are two types of buses that could take you to the tourist spots in Kawaguchiko. First is the “Red Line” which will bring you to areas around the Lake Kawaguchiko. The second one, the “Green Line”, will bring you to areas around Lake Saiko.
The tour around Lake Saiko was the tour that I anticipated the most because this is where the Aokigahara Forest is located. It is the most popular and the oldest forest in Japan and it is also known as the Suicide Forest. Continue reading and I’ll tell you more about my visit here.
Kawaguchiko Herb Hall
Basically, the Kawaguchiko Herb Hall is like a souvenir shop that offers a number of herbal products. Upon entrance, the hall has this very pleasant aroma and other fragrances. They conduct various classes such as Wreath Making, Pressed Flower, and Flower Arrangement classes. The payment for each class starts at 1,000 yen per person, with the materials already included.
Outside the Herb Hall is made up of a beautiful lavender garden with so many flowers.
Growing up in a city, I was never exposed to places such as this. It seemed unreal to me at first to be in such a beautiful place and I couldn’t tell if they were artificial or not but looking closely, there were all real!
Beside the garden is a greenhouse style coffee shop where you can buy delicious soft ice cream, snacks, and other refreshments. When you go around the Herb Hall, there are more stores selling soft ice cream. Also, I found it interesting that the flavor of the ice cream depends on the flower season. Since it was the lavender season, all the ice cream is sold in lavender flavor. It was very delicious and I highly recommend you to try it as well!
Yamanashi Gem Museum
The Yamanashi Gem Museum was just a few-minute walk from the Herb Hall. The entrance fee was 600 yen. Since I was on a budget trip, I opted to browse the Gem store inside. Taking photos inside the store was allowed but I felt like I was stealing these gems just from taking photos of it.
I spent almost an hour exploring the herb hall and the gem museum. Although Kawaguchiko is at the base of Mt. Fuji, I was very unfortunate because the view was obstructed the whole time I was there. Nevertheless, the area itself was already a great tourist attraction.
Instead of being in Japan, I felt that I was traveling in Europe. Every establishment’s design has a modern yet old-fashioned element in it. The entire area of Kawaguchiko is extremely untainted as well.
It was nearly 5:30 pm when I finished exploring these nearby areas, so I had to go back to the hostel. Guests were already gathered in the lobby only to find out that the trip was moved to 6:00 pm because the onsen facility was jam-packed. Together with my dorm mate, we decided to eat dinner while waiting.
As the clock approached 6:00 pm, everyone was gathered in the lobby and was very excited to go to the onsen. I met two young travelers from Vietnam and they told me that it was their first time to visit an onsen as well.
It was a very shocking experience for all of us but I think my first onsen experience deserves a separate blog post so stay tuned for my next entry!
How’s the weather?
The weather was gloomy the next day and my two dorm mates already left to hike Mt. Fuji when I woke up. I had packed my stuff before I ate breakfast, so I was ready to check out right after my scheduled tour for that day.
There is nothing more depressing than spending two days in Kawaguchiko during the heavy rains, seeing nothing but rain clouds obstructing the view of the majestic Mt. Fuji. Affected much? But of course, life goes on and I didn’t let the weather ruin my day. So, I told myself that someday, I will not just admire Mt. Fuji from the distance but I will conquer and ascend it soon!
The humidity in Kawaguchiko is 10% higher than in Tokyo so I thought that wearing my floral spaghetti strap dress would keep me comfortable. Very girly right? I had no choice but to wear my sneakers that were still wet from yesterday’s heavy rain because I knew that there would be lots of walking involved in the tour. The temperature in Kawaguchiko is also 6 °C cooler than Tokyo so I made sure to bring warm clothing just in case it gets chilly.
After I finished my breakfast, I proceeded to Kawaguchiko Station where the Sightseeing Retro Buses starts. The line was already long in the “Red Line” bus stop when I got there. I referred to my Bus Time Table, which also served as my guide while I visited tourist attractions.
For my first stop, I went to The Yagasaki Park. Am I in heaven?
It is a huge park that will welcome you with the fragrance of lavenders fronting the wide Lake Kawaguchiko. There were not many visitors during that time so I took my time to unwind. I felt like I owned the place!
And what would you do if you’re alone in a beautiful place? SELFIE!
Kawaguchiko Muse Museum
After several selfie shots, I walked around again to see what else are in this park. At the end of the lavender beds, I spotted the Kawaguchiko Muse Museum which displays the artworks of Atae Yuki, an internationally known doll maker and collector who uses old cotton fabric to create a soft-looking skin texture, making the dolls look like realistic and alive.
Mt. Kachikachi Ropeway
If only the weather permits a clear view of Mt. Fuji, I would have ridden the cable cars of the Mt. Kachikachi Ropeway. Its view was completely obstructed and the whole area was very foggy too. There wasn’t really anything left to see. I decided to go back to the bus stop and go to the next attraction as I thought that the cable ride wouldn’t be worth it. The truth is I have no money to ride the cable cars. Lol.
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum lies in between the paradise-like forest with breathtaking views of the calm lake of Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji.
This museum is so far the most fascinating museum I’ve ever seen. Why? It’s because the building is made up of Okinawan corals and limestones and the foundation of the main gallery building is made from Hiba trees that are more than 1000 years old.
With an entrance fee of 1,300 yen (USD13), you get to learn about the life of Itchiku Kubota and his fascinating artworks such as “Tsujigahana”. It is a technique in dying kimonos which and it was prevalent around the period of 13th to 15th century and became extinct during the 16th to 17th century. Kubota was 14 when he became a kimono artist. However, when he saw a 350-year old silk fragment, which was a remnant of Tsujigahana in Tokyo National Museum, he became fascinated and devoted his life to reviving and modernizing it.
Several years after, Kubota was captured by the Soviets and was imprisoned in Siberia during World War II. When he was released, he studied the tsujigahana technique and because no instructions survived that explains how to reproduce it, Kubota was forced to experiment on his own for decades.
“When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it.”
― Paolo Coelho
Eventually, Kubota was not just able to revive it he also modernized it. He had his first exhibition in 1977 at the age of 60. His works went around abroad and received various awards due to its exquisiteness and the superb quality of his works.
But here’s the catch, I wasn’t able to enter the museum and see his works because I didn’t have enough yens with me. So sad right?
Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum
Many online reviews that I read said that visiting the Itchiku Kubota Museum and the Music Forest Museum is definitely a must. Both of the museums had an entrance fee of 1,300 yen. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money with me so I wasn’t able to personally see what those two places have to offer so I ended up taking more selfies.
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center
Now, the Lake Saiko area: Fugaku Wind Cave and Aokigahara Forest
Fugaku Wind Cave
There wasn’t much time left when I visited the remaining attractions in the area like The Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center and the Wind Cave. All I knew was that my husband was already home from Okinawa and was waiting for me to go home. But I have to see the final leg of my journey — the Aokigahara Forest, also known as the Suicide Forest. (But tourism websites of Kawaguchiko call the forest, “The Sea of Trees.”)
Aokigahara Forest (Aokigahara Jukai)
Aokigahara Forest is just outside the Fugaku Wind Cave. Urban legends that I read online about this enigmatic suicide forest were enough to discourage people from trying to enter this forest.
Exploring the infamous Aokigahara Forest was the idea I thought was impossible. But apparently, it’s not. The forest is open to the public and it was indeed a major attraction.
There was a warning sign in Japanese that tells you to stay on the hiking trail and avoid going too far from the entrance. It was believed that people got lost because the GPS doesn’t work in some areas of the forest. The entrance also has this sign in Japanese about suicidal thoughts:
“Life is an important thing we receive from our parents. Think once more about your parents, your siblings, your children. Don’t suffer alone. Please talk with someone.”
Since I was alone on this journey, I waited for some people in the entrance so I could follow them. The hell I will not be walking there alone. Not too long, this was in the sight:
A small flower bouquet and a bottle of water. Perhaps, it was the tree where one of the suicide incidents took place and it was an offering for the soul. Past this scene, it was an eerie walk all throughout the woods.
Walking further was something my tummy didn’t like. I heard a growl and realized that I didn’t have anything for lunch. Against my will, I walked back down alone just to relieve my hunger and ate an ice cream. I hate it when my pocket isn’t big enough for my money! *Sarcasm*
On a serious note, Aokigahara Forest wasn’t as scary when you see it than when you think about it. I swear.
The Retro Bus was 15 minutes behind the schedule. I arrived at the hostel at 5:30 pm. This is the part that I hate the most when traveling, you wanted to stay longer but time would come that you really have to go. I bid goodbye to Daisy, the receptionist and took the next train going to Shinjuku.
There are more places left to see in Kawaguchiko, too bad that I only spent a day and a half to explore. If I had only arrived earlier during my first day, I would have explored more. Keep in mind that I will go back to this place when I’m ready to conquer Mt. Fuji! (And I will bring lots of money)
Overall, I definitely recommend having a side trip to Kawaguchiko if you are in Tokyo. I hope that I was able to convince you to visit this place. My tip? Bring enough cash as most attractions have admission fees!
FAQ: Is it possible to drive around Kawaguchiko and Saiko to visit those places?
YES! Bringing your car is actually very convenient and there are always parking lots near each attraction. It just happened that my husband was away and I don’t drive yet so I chose to wander via the sightseeing bus. Just use your GPS map when going to these places.
Here are the addresses of the notable attractions:
- Itchiku Kubota Museum: https://goo.gl/maps/OayYl
- Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum: https://goo.gl/maps/I4urg
- Fugaku Wind Cave: https://goo.gl/maps/6iIgG