This is the last of my travel diaries from my December trip to Japan, and if you’ve been reading from the start congratulations for making it! I decided to just consolidate Lake Hakone and Mt Fuji into one post because someone has been plagiarising my travel posts and I didn’t want to give any more opportunities to do so. It’s so frustrating! I’ve tried being civil but it was to no avail, so I just want to say if you are reading this post elsewhere, the original belongs to TheTummyTrain.com and nowhere else!
Anyway, it seemed only proper to pay a brief visit to Lake Ashi (aka Hakone Lake) at the Kanagawa Prefecture on our way to visit the famous Mt Fuji. As a bonus, our tour guide took us to ride the Japanese bullet train so that we could experience it. Having never explored Japan on my own yet, I haven’t been able to try commuting here so this was a welcome little taste of what it’s like. I know the Japan train system can be confusing because of the numerous lines belonging to the numerous private operators, but boy is the bullet train one incredibly comfortable one.
We passed by Mt. Fuji on the way to the lake and surprise, surprise! It was a super clear day. I tried to take as good a photo as I could from inside a fast-moving train and I can’t deny it does give off such a majestic feeling.
My first “encounter” with Mt. Fuji was very different. We were trying to view it from Fuji Kawaguchiko at the time and all I could see was mist. Whatever angle, if Mt. Fuji wants to hide, it does a good job of doing so. Makes you appreciate it more when you do see it though!
We had some bento lunch at the Motohakone Port right before our boat ride, and it filled our bellies with some much-needed warmth. Considering the numerous fabulous kaiseki meals I’ve had in different parts of Japan before, this isn’t the best by far. Still this was a necessary step to stop you from freezing to death on the boat, because despite the relatively sunny day it was still quite cold.
The scenic Lake Ashi is the product of Mount Hakone’s volcanic eruption some 3000 years past. Today it’s being used for sightseeing boat cruises. Standing at the dock, the lake already captured my mind by putting it in a place of calm. I suppose there’s a reason why I do enjoy a quiet cruise along a calm lake or river: it gives you a perfect moment to be surrounded by nature in all its forms all at once. There’s the cotton candy-sky above, mirrored by the clear blue sea. Then there are the browns and greens of life all around you. Moments like these I love to just stare out into the horizon thinking about absolutely nothing.
It’s quite a pleasure.
I can’t recall if I’ve ever done a cruise aboard a pirate ship though. Is that adorable or what? There were literally guys parading around in pirate costumes onboard, much to the delight of children. (Forgot to take photos though I think I do have some video footage for the travel video I’ll be posting soon.)
Despite staying at the deck almost the whole cruise, I don’t have that many photos. I must’ve spent more time absently staring into the distance than bothering with the camera, snapping back to reality only when the wind became a bit too harsh for my cheeks. It was then I headed inside one of the warmer parts of the ship to bundle up with my family.
I love that most of the shores around the lake have been maintained in their natural state. There are a few buildings in the distance, but mostly nature has remained untouched. The mix of colours make the landscape such eye-candy, but I bet this sight is more stunning during the summer.
Of course spotting the submerged torii gate that is the symbol of the Hakone Shrine only made me want to see it up close. The Hakone Shrine is one of the major tourist spots in the area but it wasn’t part of our itinerary.
Ironically enough, one of the main points of this cruise was so that we could view Mt. Fuji alongside the lake, but it wasn’t until we actually ventured to climb it that we caught a lovely glimpse. Stopping by an empty parking lot of a tourist centre, I caught sight of how the perfectly-shaped volcano seemed as if it had just woken up and shook off some snow from its head.
Just like most things in this world, Mt Fuji has its own fair share of interesting myths and legends. There was also a time when the Japanese believed Mt Fuji to be the center of the universe. Many people still do flock to the shrines up the different levels of Mt Fuji throughout the year to pray to its female deity Sengen-Sama. There is this belief that if you are able to climb all the way up to the crater you will be especially blessed.
My hiking trips in the Philippines have been limited to sandy and rocky terrain, but I imagine walking on snow is much more difficult and dangerous. Add to that this volcano has been dormant for thousands of years but it had some tremors of activity in 2007 if I’m not mistaken, so it’s still considered as active. According to the internet, the summit is a lava-strewn place with a small shrine and stone houses that act as shields from the harsh weather.
Our tour group “climbed” Mt Fuji up until the gigantic Osawa Parking View Point, 2020 metres above sea level. Needles to say it was coooold up here during winter, with chunks of icicles making people slip and slide occasionally.
But the view was nothing short of breathtaking. Literally. This isn’t a sight that I see often, considering where I live. Naked trees and snow-capped mountains belong together, but the rolling clouds between add quite the effect!
When you’re riveted by the view you can forget about how cold it is for the tiniest of moments, but once your hands start turning numb, it’s time to put on the gloves! Warm snacks are available here and I don’t think there is any better sight you can wish for with your food.
Most people are probably too busy taking selfies and tons of photos with this gorgeous backdrop rather than think of food though. I really love this semi-candid photo with the family. Despite how harsh the sun seems against our faces (I’m actually squinting against the sun) our fingers were frozen stiff! Everyone had their hands in their pockets haha!
Even as we were on our way back to Tokyo, Mt Fuji couldn’t help but remind us of its presence. When you’re driving up the highway towards Tokyo, it really is worth it to look out the window. This view is even clearer than the one we had earlier.
Since you can view Mt Fuji from many points around Japan, it’s worth a shot to try and capture it in different times of the day. Some people make it a mission to view Mt Fuji from all the possible spots because each area provides a unique look. We stopped by the Gotemba Outlet and I was able to capture this shot of Mt Fuji during sunset. I love how the light tinges the pristine snow cap a lollipop orange. Lovely.