Winter attractions in Mt. Fuji and this winter

Winter attractions in Mt. Fuji and this winter

Winter is usually a low season for tourism in Mt. Fuji area and your schedule allows only winter time (in Japan) to travel. No worries. You can still find a variety of attractions in the area.

Onsen around Mt. Fuji, The criteria for choosing it

Onsen around Mt. Fuji, The criteria for choosing it

You expect to enjoy an "Onsen" (hot spring) experience while traveling in Mt. Fuji and Fuji Five Lakes area. This has even greater appeal as it's winter now. So, how would you do it?

Japan’s geological characteristic with over 100 active volcanoes has created a unique by-product onsen, and Mt. Fuji being one of such active volcanoes also has many onsens around it. While the onsen visit can be with all sorts of purposes, when it comes to onsens in Mt. Fuji area, the view of Mt. Fuji available there has a central role of attracting more customers to one over the other. 

First of all, what is "Onsen"?
In Japan, hot springs are defined by the Hot Spring Law. It stipulates that a water fountainhead can be accredited as an onsen if it satisfies one or more of the following criteria.
- The water is 25 degrees Celsius or warmer.
or
- It contains at least one of 19 designated chemical elements at specified values.
This means that anyone who digs underground and finds warm enough water can declare it an onsen, even if it doesn’t contain any of the 19 minerals said to have medicinal effects.
What about the situation in northern foot of Mt. Fuji? It should be the other way around as Yamanashi prefecture is Japan's No.1 producer of mineral water and the Mt. Fuji area is a major source.

Compared with traditional hot spring resorts found in other parts of Japan, onsens in Mt. Fuji and Fuji Five Lakes area are fairly new. For example, the onsens in Fujikawaguchiko were first developed in 1992 and now there are total 5 fountainheads developed to serve local onsen facilities. One can say that they were added as an afterthought to lure more tourists and in doing so, people's conceived image of onsen was taken into consideration, i.e. meeting both criteria by digging underground as deep as 1,500 m to source hot spring water which is heated by geothermal heat. Also, unlike water-rich onsens where water gushes out from the ground naturally, these newly explored hot springs artificially pump water up from underground. 

So, the stage is set for enjoying onsen experiences in Mt. Fuji area, ... almost. It's incomplete without the views of Mt. Fuji. This is also true for "Sento" (public bathhouse) which is a facility that offers fee-based bathing, but instead of a real view, a view in the form of a mural painting of Mt. Fuji.
While they became scarce nowadays because the home bath prevailed, there used to be large numbers of sento bathhouses and it was common to those mainly in eastern Japan to have background mural painting in bathing room for guests to enjoy. Especially the mural painting of Mt. Fuji was characteristic of the sento of Tokyo and the suburbs of Kanto region where Mt. Fuji could be seen. So, upon hearing the word sento, many people recall a painted mural of Mt. Fuji. 

Onsen facilities, both accommodations with hot spring baths and day-visit types that have no accommodations but are open to all visitors, are scattered throughout the area. As there are many attractions at hotels and inns besides baths and the onsens there are usually for staying guests only, I cover day-visit onsens.

  • Fuji Chobo-no-Yu Yurari in Narusawa
    This day-visit onsen offers panoramic views of Mt. Fuji from its open-air baths, with 16 different types of baths to choose from including a cave bath. It has a free shuttle service from/to Kawaguchiko Station (reservation required).
     
  • Yamanakako Onsen Benifuji-no-Yu in Yamanakako
    This day-visit onsen has outdoor baths with beautiful scenery like a Japanese garden and offers views of Mt. Fuji from the bath. Also, enjoy impressive views of "Benifuji" when it opens early in the morning in winter season.

These above are casual hot spring facilities for bathing and resting for tourists and no special preparation is necessary. For those who are hoping for a traditional onsen culture experience, here is one for you (no view of Mt. Fuji though).

  • Yoshinoike Onsen in Fujiyoshida
    Established in 1856, this former "Ryokan" (Japanese style inn) is a day-visit hot spring where visitors can experience the taste from the old days such as structure and layout of the building including excellent wooden beams. The black granite bath tub is small and rooms for bathing and changing are not separated, i.e. no wall. It is located a short way from Yoshinoike Onsen-mae Station of Fujikyuko Line.

The onsen visit has been and still is one of the favorite leisure activities for all ages in Japan. Located right by the mountain, having an open-air bath while enjoying the spectacular view of Mt. Fuji is a memorable experience. When you are in Mt. Fuji and Fuji Five Lakes area, enjoy the real view of Mt. Fuji while you soak and relax in an onsen!

Shimoyoshida is an attractive neighborhood worth visiting, not just a gateway to the "Chureito Pagoda"

Shimoyoshida is an attractive neighborhood worth visiting, not just a gateway to the "Chureito Pagoda"

The very popular "Chureito Pagoda" in Arakurayama Sengen Park is firmly on your agenda and you travel to Shimoyoshida, ... Shimoyoshida Station of Fujikyuko Line in most cases.
You are wrong about Shimoyoshida!

It's a quiet and old traditional neighborhood in Fujiyoshida city, not just a name of a train station. The area still has the feel of the prosperous good-old days, 1950's and 1960's era nostalgia, and has provided the setting for many dramas and movies. A shopping arcade with shops, cafes with a retro look and labyrinthine side streets ... you will feel like you were taken back in time to the nostalgic era of 50-60 years ago. Also views of Mt. Fuji over the arcade will appeal to your sentiments.

The heart of Shimoyoshida is the area between Gekkoji and Shimoyoshida Stations and you will arrive there easily and straight by taking Fujikyuko Line and getting off at either station. Alternatively, you come down from Kamiyoshida area, the town of Oshi Pilgrim's Inn, toward north.

During 1950's and 1960's, Fujiyoshida prospered with its textile industry and the industry was centered in Shimoyoshida. Many merchants also gathered at markets to trade textiles. After business, they enjoyed the nightlife around the Gekkoji area which became a social center and streets of Nishiura were lively with merchants and industry workers for entertainment.
Among the many shops and other businesses which were once there, some old ones have remained in business while many others have become cafes, restaurants, etc. or closed down. The neighborhood today still retains what used to be when it prospered with its textile industry. Many narrow streets and alleys of that era filled with unique wooden houses, corrugated sheet metal houses, rusted siding, mortar buildings, rows of sheet metal walls, and old signboards still remain and give the area its unique atmosphere.
The sky high above is dominated by Mt. Fuji and its magnificence stands beyond the electric wires. Omuro Sengen Shrine and Gekkoji Pond are also in the neighborhood and provide pockets of open and silent space.

In early November a photography community walk was held in Shimoyoshida and I participated in this one-day photography workshop conducted by a photo instructor from Ricoh Imaging. Strolling through the streets, nostalgic scenes over the arcade can be found in many places throughout the area. Some of the many cafes and shops are housed in restored buildings.

Shimoyoshida is an attractive neighborhood worth visiting. Explore the area by your own foot and spend a unique and nostalgic time in this area.
If you are not sure of this, please feel free to request a community guided walk of 'Shimoyoshida'. It's free of charge!

Festive 2015 "Kurabiraki" at one and only sake brewery in Fuji Five Lakes region!

Festive 2015 "Kurabiraki" at one and only sake brewery in Fuji Five Lakes region!

Visited the 22nd Annual Kainokaiun "Kurabiraki" and enjoyed not only its festive atmosphere but also ... sake!

"Kurabiraki" is a sake brewery's annual open day event. Since ancient times, sake breweries have invited people to their cellars on a lucky day at the beginning of the year and held a variety of events such as introducing sake brewing process and tasting new brew.

Located in Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko at the northern foot of Mt. Fuji, Ide Brewery, a brewer of sake, Japanese rice wine, "Kainokaiun" originates from the soy sauce brewing began in the middle of Edo period (around 1700). It has operated for over 300 years ever since and with the current family head (Ideyogoemon) as the 21st, has prospered as the one and only sake brewery in Fuji Five Lakes region.
This year its annual "Kurabiraki" open day was held on 14 and 15 February and drew a large number of visitors to the event, touring the cellar and sake brewing process introduced by the chief brewer along with tasting variety of sake such as the Kurabiraki limited one and fresh new brew made using local ingredients.

"Kurabiraki" at Ide Brewery is in February every year. So, plan ahead and come to experience this local traditional festivity.

A friendly but cautionary note: Please be careful not to drink too much.

Best Fujisan view guided tours are available now!

Best Fujisan view guided tours are available now!

Limited occasions and winter time only!

Best Fujisan view guided tours to watch glorious 'Diamond Fuji' are available now.

What is 'Diamond Fuji'?
It is the special phenomenon where at the moment that the sun and the top of Mt. Fuji overlap, the light of the sunrise or sunset shines from the peak, creating a diamond like spectacular brilliance. In the winter months, you can view this special phenomenon at its best.

I climbed a mountain early in the morning on New Year's Day to observe the first sunrise in 2015 as a form of Diamond Fuji [the above photo]. Although it had light snow during the night on New Year's Eve, it was fine in the morning with clear sky and I could enjoy the Diamond Fuji.

Position and time to watch Diamond Fuji are interrelated and conditions change every day. So, join me on the tours and let me take you to the places to personally experience the best Fujisan view.

"Dosojin" festival: Local traditional culture in Little New Year

"Dosojin" festival: Local traditional culture in Little New Year

Meet "Dosojin" and celebrate Little New Year in 'Dosojin' festival!

"Dosojin", guardian deity, festival is an event with a long tradition held in "Koshogatsu", First Full Moon Festival or literally Little New Year. Traditionally the first full moon of the lunar new year has been celebrated, and many events associated with it are held in many local communities of the area during the 14th-16th days of the lunar New Year.
Among the spectacles of the festival, following are the highlights:
1. "Goshinnboku tate", sacred tree erection, especially a process of erecting the sacred tree (30 - 40m long) through concerted efforts by community residents
2. "Dondon yaki", a bonfire ceremony called New Year's bonfire

I went to one in Kawaguchi district in the morning and the above photos are from it. 'Goshinboku', the sacred tree, to be erected was so large that it was taking hours of efforts by community residents. Also notice that 'Dosojin' of the festival here has a spherical shape.

The events are only at this time of the year. So, experience local traditional culture with community-level varieties if you happen to be around in town.

If you take no shortcut to the top, you start off here.

If you take no shortcut to the top, you start off here.

Originally Yoshida trail starts from a shrine, that is - Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine in Fujiyoshida city, and a sign pointing to the trail can be found in the precincts. At 850 meters in elevation, it takes about 11/6 hours to go up/down the trail respectively.

If this sounds too daunting, there is a shortcut. By starting from Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station at 2305 meters instead, it can be cut down to about 6.5/3.5 hours.

Forgotten climbing trail was full of mushrooms

Forgotten climbing trail was full of mushrooms

Shoji trail, another Mt. Fuji climbing trail which starts from Lake Shoji and leads to Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, passes through the Mt. Fuji primeval forest which was designated a natural monument in 1926.

Fujisan fired up for the Yoshida Fire Festival!

Fujisan fired up for the Yoshida Fire Festival!

The end of the Mt. Fuji climbing season is marked by the Yoshida Fire Festival held in Fujiyoshida city, Yamanashi.

It is rated one of the "three most unique festivals in Japan" and is designated a significant intangible folk cultural asset of Japan.

On 26 August, when the veil of darkness falls, huge torches are lit along city's streets in traditional neighborhood, turning the night into a sea of fire and festivity. Everyone is fired up, and so is Fujisan as seen in red color.

Fujisan Curator has just been launched!

Fujisan Curator has just been launched!

Fujisan Curator
Guiding Light to the Unique Travel Experience

Personally experience "magic moment"
Fujisan contextual scene
Only here in Japan