Fujimania Part 2

There are five lakes around Fujisan and in the morning of my return day, I rode with a bus to the neighboring lake called Saiko (which simply means “west lake”), to a traditional reed roof houses village with Fujisan views.

The weather was going downhill with more and more clouds, but Fujisan was still visible. Lake Saiko is smaller than Lake Kawaguchi and has only two small villages at its east and west ends. There is no train line going to the lake. In the past the bus rode from 9:00 in the morning to around 17:00 every half hour, bringing tourists to and from Lake Saiko, but now there are only two buses during weekdays and three buses during the weekend, that’s all! So you have to time it well to get there. It was worth the ride though, since the traditional reed roof house village is a very nice place to see.

Half of the around thirty houses are museums, the other half house crafts shops and I did quite some shopping, pottery items, incense and an arts shop with the drawings of a Japanese artists, he draws Buddhist themes, animals and also dragons 🙂


There are restaurants in three of the houses and I had some udon noodles there before heading back to Kawaguchi. Arrived there I rode once more with the gondola up the hill for more Fujisan views and then headed back home.

It was a fantastic little trip, but let’s be honest, without sunshine and the mountain out it’s only half as nice. You definitely need good weather for visiting the place 🙂 but if you have good weather, lucky you! The pictures do not do the closeness of the mountain justice. It’s an awesome place and I shall surely go there again 🙂

Fujimania Part 1

Since I, for the first time ever, had some holidays left that I had to take until the end of March, I took two days off and wondered what to do with them. Our state of emergency had just ended and we were officially allowed to travel again. (It’s possible to travel also during the state of emergency if necessary.)
I decided on going to Lake Kawaguchi at the base of Mt. Fuji in the hope to have good weather and get a proper look at the famous mountain. I’ve actually never been to Lake Kawaguchi before, dreading the masses of tourists there. It’s, after all, the main spot for Fujisan. But since the number of tourists is so much reduced, I thought now was a good chance to head there.
It’s only two hours by train and off I went. On my arrival day the weather was cloudy and cold and the top of Fujisan hid in the clouds. Nevertheless the base was visible and wow, Kawaguchi is really close to the mountain with no other hill anymore in between. I locked my luggage away in a station locker and promptly rented a bicycle to go exploring. Lake Kawaguchi is exactly north of the mountain and I rode along the northern shore visiting parks and a large shrine.

Lake Kawaguchi is at a height of about 850 meters and was much colder than Yokohama and I was happy for the down jacket I brought. It was so cold and windy that I needed a break and went to the very nice Yamanashi gem museum. They have a large collection of very pretty gems and a nice, big shop also.
Then I checked into my hotel and it was perfectly situated at the south side of the lake with a great view at the lake and the mountain beyond it. Said mountain peeled itself more and more out of the clouds and the sunset was breathtaking while revealing the top of the mountain.


Sunrise was before 6:00 and I woke up at 6:00 and couldn’t resist peaking through the curtains and OMG not a cloud in the blue sky and a most magnificent view. After that I couldn’t really sleep anymore and got up around seven, having breakfast while enjoying the view.


In walking distance from the hotel is a ropeway up the hill and I went up there with one of the first gondolas. That hill is 1090 meters high and allows an undisturbed view at the entire Fujisan. Such an awesome sight.


On I went to the train station and rode three stations to a place called Shimoyoshida where there is a shrine and a five story pagoda with a famous Fujisan view. The view is indeed magnificent but you have to struggle up a ginormous over 400 stairs to get up there. It is well worth the climb though. The pagoda is famous for cherry blossom views but I was two weeks too early for that unfortunately.


Back at lake Kawaguchi I rented a bicycle again and rode along the south side of the lake to enjoy the views from there. Last but not least I took a boat ride on the lake with more Fujisan views.
In the evening and after another magnificent sunset, there was a surprise fireworks over the lake, which was visible from my hotel window as well and it concluded a perfect day at the incredible mountain.

Mt. Fuji – 2nd Station

With the mercury ever rising and rising, I saw no way to do e.g. temple sightseeing around Numazu. A third trip to Osezaki also seemed kinda boring and thus I decided to get higher up to escape the brooding heat and that was an extremely good idea! I wanted to go to one of Mt. Fuji’s 5th stations (there are four or them) but I soon found out that Mt. Fuji is closed for the climbing season of 2020 due to the coronavirus. This may sound odd, but: around 100,000 people climb Mt. Fuji every year, most of those climbs happen during the climbing season in July and August, when there is no snow even on the top of the 3776 meter mountain. Also, usually, the huts on the stations 5 to 9 are open during those 2 months. But, this year, everything was shut down. However, one of the bus services up the mountain still went to the 2nd station on the south side, which lies at 1450 meters. That sounded high enough to me and I rode to Mishima by train and from there around 90 min with a normal city bus, not a coach bus, as I had expected. The bus passes also Fuji Safari Park, but I’ve been there once before and it’s “only” at 900 meter elevation. The bus usually climbs up until the Fujimino 5th station but ended this year at the 2nd station with its park called Mizugatsuka.


At Mizugatsuka is a large (pretty newly built) souvenir shop and restaurant, a parking lot for a thousand cars and that’s it. It offers various walking routes around the area. It also has jogging/running courses around the car park and hordes of runners galloped around there. The by far best thing of the place was the temperature – a balmy 23 degrees Celsius. When I returned to Numazu in the evening it was 37 degrees Celsius there… Mt. Fuji itself, which you can theoretically see from a clearing in the forest and from atop a nearby hill, was shrouded in what I have come to call the mothership cloud. If there are clouds, they get stuck at Mt. Fuji, since it’s in their way coming from the sea barely a few kilometers away. It looked to me like the clouds were starting at around 2000 meters elevation. I then ventured on one of the walks/hikes that start from the car park of about 90 min to a shrine at the flank of the mountain. The path was fantastic. Very easy to walk, almost no ups and downs as it went parallel to the mountain and since it had been super wet all of July, every log and rock around was covered in very green moss.

It was absolutely beautiful to walk through these woods. The path was sometimes hard to discern, but every few meters pink ribbons in the trees helped to identify the path and here and there were also signposts. The shrine was standing guard over a cave and a few underpasses, but the cave itself was off limits and also didn’t look very big, just for one person to be able to crawl through, which is not my kind of thing 😉

At the car park were maybe a hundred cars, on the trail to the shrine, I met maybe ten people. It was a great walk and a welcome respite from the omnipresent heat. The bus had around eight passengers along the route. I don’t know how busy the area is during non-covid times.
I once attempted to climb Mt. Fuji some 15 years ago. It was end of July, the bus from Shinjuku was full, there were hundreds and hundreds of people on the same trail. (Despite wonderful weather in Tokyo, there was a thunderstorm around Mt. Fuji. It rained like hell, I slipped on the wet rocks and hurt my knee and gave up, spending the rest of the night in the 8th station hut). I’m not sure how many people would be at this second station and Mizugatsuka park in a normal year, but I surely enjoyed the relative peace and quiet. It was kind of just right, a few people there to make you feel not too lonely, but not enough people to disturb you. So, even though I didn’t see the top of the mountain, I thoroughly enjoyed the walk to the shrine and the fantastic temperatures.

Where is Numazu?

Numazu is not such a popular Mt. Fuji destination as Hakone or Gotemba or Lake Kawaguchi, but I chose Numazu because it is located at the sea 🙂
Deprived of my visit to Okinawa I wanted to have at least a little bit of ocean in August and actually I got more ocean than I expected 🙂
Numazu downtown is rather sad, I must say. I’m not sure if it is COVID related or not, but many of the shops in the Main Street down from the station towards the port had their shutters closed. After checking into the hotel, I walked down to the beach and was a bit disappointed. First of all the beach is gravel, not sand and second it was not maintained but loads of wood debris and plastic among it lay on the beach. Another point of disappointment was that a mothership cloud huddled around Mt. Fuji and it was not enticing the eye.


However, I made one discovery. I saw something like a ferry leaving Numazu port. Yeah! Boat! Back at the hotel I found out that this is a ferry which goes only during the summer to a place called Osezaki, on the northeastern tip of the Izu peninsula.
I went to the port and the ferry promptly the next morning and had a fantastic little day trip. It was nicely windy and the 33 Celsius felt like 33 Celsius instead of 41 or so in the city. Blue sky, blue sea, boat, great views of the surrounding hills and at the end of the boat ride awaited a sleepy beach village of some twenty houses only, and I wonder if anybody even lives there when it’s not summer. The ferry was built for 200 passengers but only 15 or so were on board. I feel so bad for all these summer holiday providers all over the world who are not making good business this summer. One of the staff on board sold shrimp crackers for the seagulls and I admired their flight skills and several took the snacks from my hand without harming me. Their precision is amazing.


Arrived at the beach there were at least some normal summer activities going on but even there all sales staff at whatever stalls wore masks and some of the guests too.


The Osezaki peninsula has a shrine and a pond with carp to offer and some very old trees and is altogether beautiful. In other weather it must look even more amazing to have Mt. Fuji across the bay, but the mothership cloud hung over the mountain the entire time, seeming not to move even a centimeter.


I thoroughly enjoyed the place and the wind and it truly felt like summer vacation.
Arrived back in Numazu port, I went to the small deep sea aquarium there. It’s nice, but cannot compete with the great and huge Notojima aquarium the week before.
On the way home I crossed paths with a not very well looking guy in his fifties. His face was super red, he was not wearing a hat and he was walking very fast while staggering a bit. He looked like a dangerous case of heat stroke… I am sure there were many that day in Japan, which saw temperatures sore to over 40 Celsius in some places and that with high humidity… uh.

On my second day in Numazu I actually did the same thing as the day before, I took that ferry to Osezaki. It seemed the most sensible thing to do in the insane heat. It was even hotter than the previous day due to less wind. But luckily on the ferry and at the Osezaki peninsula tip there was still some wind to be had which made the heat bearable, if just barely. But my second trip was rewarded with the very tip of Mt. Fuji peaking above the omnipresent mothership cloud. I had contemplated to go into the water, but a prickly heat rash from the day before on my legs made me decide against it, that rash would have definitely gone worse in the merciless sun. Nevertheless I had a good time at the beach in the shade and with some wind in my face.

Up the Mountain

I’d like to share my fascination with a German colleague (who does not live in Japan) who has been climbing Mt. Fuji ten times by now. I kid you not.
And I’ll be using his “hobby” to justify mine, hahaha 😉
So, during the months of July and August, when Mt. Fuji is mostly snow free, the mountain suffers “open season” and hordes of people are climbing it. You can climb Mt. Fuji in other months as well, but then you face snow on the top and also, the mountain huts are not open. There are several mountain huts between the 6th to 9th stations, but they only operate during those two months and if you go outside of the season, you have to do real “alpine” climbing without “help”.
So that colleague is finding some business trip “excuse” every year, comes to Japan, stays over a weekend and climbs Mt. Fuji. Usually he is taking other colleagues with him, who are more or less enthused by the prospect, but who don’t dare to decline, because the Mt. Fuji fan is high up the pecking order.

I have tried to do the Mt. Fuji climb as well, some fifteen or so years ago and it was a horror trip! 😉 There was brilliant weather in Tokyo on the day of my climb, 35 degrees Celsius, sunshine, but when the bus arrived at the fifth station at 2500 meters, where the end of the road is, there was a mighty thunderstorm. It rained cats and dogs, it was windy, it was bloody cold.
The most popular way to climb the beast is to arrive there at 22:00 in the evening, climb up during the night, be for sunrise at the top and then climb down again.
I struggled up the mountain in the dark in rain and sometimes I had the feeling the wind would blow me off the slope to an untimely death. I slipped somewhere on the wet rocks and hurt my knee and gave up at the 8th station, which is at around 3000 meters and climbed back down after the sun rose (I had a magnificent sunrise above the clouds too after waiting a few hours at the mountain hut and the weather getting better).
Apart from the physical strain – you are not alone while climbing. In July and August there is a queue up the mountain. You cannot walk your own pace, you are trapped in the path with hundreds of others in front of you and behind you.
Where is the fun in that? Once it’s quite interesting, but why do you have to do that ten times??? Every year??? There are plenty of beautiful mountains in the European Alps just around the corner for the German colleague, why climb Mt. Fuji with thousands of others once a year? It totally escapes me what is interesting and fascinating about that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mt. Fuji, but I decided that it’s a wonderful mountain to look at because of its symmetry, you don’t need to climb the guy! Once maybe, yeah, but not ten times! 😉

Nevertheless, looking at the Mt. Fuji fan, I feel very comfortable about my own “madness”: flying around the world to see heavy metal bands, hahaha. Sometimes I have that short, brief, insignificant thought that I’m crazy hanging out in rain and vicious knee-deep mud for three days to see bands, but when I hear/see this story of the dude who flies half around the world to climb Mt. Fuji every year, I feel very sane, normal and unweird! Thanks, Sir, for making me feel good about myself. And, Oh yes, I depart for Wacken in five days! Yeah! 😉

New Neighborhood

One of the nice things of moving is that you get to explore your new neighborhood 🙂
I’m not yet done exploring of course, but here are some major spots around me.
Apart from having Yokohama Lalaport and Ikea in bicycle distance, which I find extremely practical, the major highlight of the neighborhood is the Tsurumi river. It has “endless” bicycle paths to either side of it and it’s a pleasure to ride along there.
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Next there are two fairly big temples close by, the Tokanji and the Rinkoji.
Tokanji:
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Rinkoji:
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The Rinkoji comes with a view of Mt. Fuji:
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I have the slight feeling that a house for the dead here costs more than a house for the living…

Let’s see what else I will find while exploring y new neighborhood 🙂