Tag Archive | Mt Fuji

Sayonara Tokyo!

Recently I was asked which was my favourite of all the places we visited in and around Tokyo. After some deliberation I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to choose just one. As the largest metropolis in the world, Tokyo is overflowing with fascinating sights and unique experiences. We were there for eight days and we only saw a fraction of this amazing city. Come with me for one last walk before we say goodbye to Tokyo.

Old Yasuda Garden

Old Yasuda Garden

Yakuoin Temple, Mt Takao

Yakuoin Temple, Mt Takao

Our neighbourhood, Funabori

Our neighbourhood, Funabori

Kabuki Theatre

Kabuki Theatre

Buddhist temple, Jiyugaoka

Buddhist temple, Jiyugaoka

Shibuya

Shibuya

Outside the Imperial Palace

Outside the Imperial Palace

Ueno Park

Ueno Park

Entrance to Tokyo Disneyland

Entrance to Tokyo Disneyland

View of Mt Fuji from Mt Komagatake

View of Mt Fuji from Mt Komagatake

Takeshita Street, Harajuku

Takeshita Street, Harajuku

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine

Five Storied Pagoda, Sensoji Temple

Five Storied Pagoda, Sensoji Temple

As Arnie would say, I’ll be back!

Autumn in the Mountains

In late September the days in Tokyo were very warm and very humid. But as we travelled into the mountains the scenery became more autumnal. At Mt Fuji’s Fifth Station the seasonal beauty of the deciduous trees framed the mountain views perfectly.

P1010645

P1010681

A Day Trip to Mt Fuji

Weekly Photo Challenge – Orange

Unusual! Unexpected! Unbelievable!

When we travel, we like to find somewhere a little different to visit, so with this in mind I googled “unusual things to do in Tokyo”. My search found classes in calligraphy, Ikebana and Tea Ceremony, but it was “mountain temple walk” which caught my attention. Some more research revealed that the mountain was Mt Takao, the temple was Yakuo-in, and both were located in Meiji Memorial Forest Takao Quasi-National Park. With the added attractions of a cable car, a chair lift, and hiking tracks this seemed like the perfect day trip for us.

We travelled by train from Shinjuku to Takaosanguchi Station, a 50 minute journey through the suburbs past temples, shrines and cemeteries, schools and homes to the western edge of Tokyo. A shaded footpath which wound its way along the river bank led us to Kiyotaki cable car station. The six minute cable car ride was the beginning of our ascent of Mt Takao and we rose steeply through the forest to Takaosan Station.

P1020438

P1020446

From the station we began our uphill walk, passing food stalls and souvenir shops until we came to Tako-sugi – the Octopus Tree. The roots of this 450 year old cedar tree have wound themselves tightly around the stones at its base like the legs of an octopus. Legend tells how the tree roots which blocked the path moved themselves rather than be chopped away; today the tree is symbolic of a path leading to good fortune.

We continued upwards, the track lined on one side with red lanterns and prayer walls and an avenue of giant cedars on the other, until we came to the gate to Yakuo-in Temple.

P1020464

P1020584

The entrance to the temple was guarded by several tengu, long-nosed mystical beings who drive away evil and welcome the good. Beyond the gate was the temple complex with Yakuo-in, established in 744, at its centre. The area around the Buddhist temple was busy but the atmosphere was one of peace and prayer, with people making offerings at tiny fountains and buying charms at the colourful stalls. Worshippers fanned the smoke rising from the enormous incense burner towards themselves in the hope of absorbing some of its reputed healing powers.

P1020497

P1020514

The walking track circled behind the temple and continued uphill, mostly shaded by the forest with the occasional gap in the trees revealing tantalising glimpses of distant mountain ranges. We sat on one of the many benches along the track to eat our picnic lunch, the cool shade giving us some respite on this warm autumn day.

P1020574

After a rest we ventured on, signs pointing the way up a final flight of steps, until suddenly, we stepped out of the forest into the open air at the summit of the mountain. At an elevation of 599 metres, we could see where the outer edges of Tokyo met the forest while far away in the distance the skyscrapers of the city were softened by the heat haze of midday.

P1020560

A short walk to the northern side of the mountain revealed the majesty of the Tanzawa Mountain Range, and there, nestled amongst the blue-tinged line of mountains was Mt Fuji, delicately framed by a backdrop of pale cloud. Yoshi, our guide on our day trip to Mt Fuji, had said the mountain top is only free of cloud an average of two days each week and here it was; beautifully clear for the second time. Nowhere in my research had I read that Mt Fuji was visible from Mt Takao, so seeing the sacred mountain again was an unexpected surprise and the perfect reward for our uphill walk.

P1020555

Reluctantly we bid farewell to Mt Fuji, retraced our steps from the summit of Mt Takao past Yakuo-in to the tree-lined path below. After hiking up the mountain we chose the easy way down, on the chair lift from Sanroku Station to Sanjo Station. It was only a 12 minute ride downhill, but it seemed much longer as we glided silently through the trees and caught our last glimpses of Tokyo stretching away into the distance.

P1020605

Our day trip out of Tokyo was more than unusual. It had turned out to be the most memorable day of our holiday; a day filled with walking, temples, mountains and a breath-taking view – unexpected, unbelievable – truly a privilege!

P1020546

A Day Trip to Mt Fuji

Mt Fuji is an instantly recognisable icon of Japan so it was at the top of our list of places to go while in Tokyo. Our original plan was to take ourselves to the mountain and the national parks around it, but after researching we realised that an independent day trip was going to be difficult to achieve. The different vantage points and places of interest around the mountain are spread far and wide and without a car we would not be able to visit most of them. So we decided to go on a guided day trip to see this majestic mountain.

To meet the coach for our day tripping adventure we had to make our own way to Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal in the city centre. We were careful to follow the detailed directions in our reservation email and allowed for peak hour train travel, so we arrived at the bus terminal with plenty of time to spare. Our guide Yoshi began his commentary before the coach had even left the terminal and he continued to entertain and enlighten us throughout the day with interesting information and anecdotes about the mountain and its surrounds, including the disconcerting fact that the mountain, an active volcano, erupts around every 300 years and the last eruption was 306 years ago!

It didn’t take long before we left the centre of Tokyo and soon we were travelling through lush green farmland, dense forests and small towns as we headed into the mountains. Yoshi said: “The top of Fujisan is only visible on average two days every week. Hopefully we will be lucky enough to have a clear view from the Visitor Centre today.” With a cloudless blue sky the day was picture-perfect and so was our first view of Mt Fuji, framed by a touch of autumn colour.

P1010620

From the Visitor Centre we travelled into Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, halfway up the mountain at 2300 metres. The station is located just below the tree line and the steep slopes of volcanic rock. Instead of visiting the souvenir shops and hotels, where climbers stay in readiness for early morning departures, we followed the uphill path through the red torii gates to Komitake Shrine. From here we could see Lake Yamanaka nestled in between the deep blue mountains of the national park.

P1010642

P1010633

P1010646

Mt Fuji is surrounded by five lakes and it was to Lake Kawaguchiko we went for our lunch stop. Instead of upgrading to a Japanese lunch we decided to bring our own, purchased at our local 7/11 store in the morning. While everyone else on our tour spent 50 minutes inside a restaurant eating udon and miso soup, we sat on the shore of the lake watching tourists paddling their giant swan boats across the water.

P1010698

We even had time for some exploration along the lakefront where we met the local shopkeepers. “Your Japanese is very good,” said one after I thanked her for my purchase. Little did she know that “Arigatou gozaimasu” was one of the three Japanese phrases I know.

After leaving the sparkling waters of Lake Kawaguchiko we headed to another large lake for a leisurely cruise. Lake Ashi, a crater lake in Hakone National Park, is a popular holiday spot and we cruised past several resorts on the shore of the lake, surrounded by thick forests of Japanese cedar.

P1010744

P1010735

Our destination was the Mt Komagatake Ropeway, a cable car which travels 1800 metres in seven minutes to the summit of Mt Komagatake. From 1357 metres there are spectacular views of Lake Ashi, Mt Fuji and the volcanic mountains of Hakone and even though by late afternoon, after a very humid day, it was quite hazy, we still had a sense of the majestic beauty of this area.

P1010752

P1010758

After spending our day at one famous symbol of Japan we finished our tour on another national icon. We travelled from Hakone back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen. There’s a reason it’s called the Bullet Train. On the normal express train from Tokyo Central Station to Hakone the journey takes 85 minutes, but we hurtled through the darkening countryside at breakneck speed and were back in the city centre in half an hour.

As independent travellers, guided tours are not often included in our travel plans, but taking this day trip, on an air-conditioned coach with an English-speaking tour guide, to destinations we wouldn’t have been able to reach on our own was definitely a great choice. We just need to go back again and spend a few days. There’s much more to see around Mt Fuji.

P1010668