Japan – Fujikyu

14 April. Checked out of Shinjuku Granbell hotel this morning. And proceeded to the Shinjuku highway bus terminal to catch our bus to Kawaguchiko. Reservations made here (pay on the day you travel at the Keio office at the bus terminal – cash only – and you get your tickets there. bus leaves on time).

Quick lunch at the first restaurant we saw nearby (which turned out to be chinese instead of japanese).

Travel time of around 2 hours from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko station.

highway bus to kawaguchiko

Paid and got our bus tickets out of Kawaguchiko for the next day (lovely staff at Shinjuku Granbell Hotel made the booking for us as you can only book via phone, which was always busy – [Yamanashi]0555-43-8181). Got our bearing and walked to our ryokan. Mt Fuji should be visible behind Kawaguchiko station, but was hidden in clouds that afternoon.

Our ryokan (traditional inn), Rakuyu Onsen (JPY34,950/night), was about 20 mins walk uphill. Monkeys run wild in this area. I was armed with a picture of the ryokan, so it was easy to spot, never mind that the name was only in japanese characters.

monkeys at kawaguchiko

We were welcomed with a cup of tea and delicious sweets as they check us in. me and sis in law were asked to choose our yukatas (summer kimonos) and belts to wear for lounging. We were shown the facilities – public onsen, unlimited free coffee/tea and wifi in the reception area with huge windows overlooking lake kawaguchiko (no views of Mt. Fuji from here, but you’d barely notice).

Our room was a good size (coming in from a cramped room in Tokyo) – separate toilets+bath+sink area, 3 futons laid out, space for a table with 3 seats on the side, and another table with 2 chairs overlooking the huge windows with the same majestic view of Lake Kawaguchiko. I think we were all giddy.

Rakuyu ryokan at Fujikyu

Usual toiletries + baskets to carry your stuff to the onsen. Tea and coffee facilities. We quickly made ourselves at home. Sis in law and I made our way down to town to look for snacks. Plenty of shops and restaurants around, or so I thought.

It was a bit of a climb from the town to the ryokan though. And we proceeded to enjoy our cheesecake and tea and the view.

the view from our room at Rakuyu

Dinner time came and we were armed with a map supplied by the ryokan. It listed various restaurants in the area. It was still early, before 7, walked around and there was no restaurant open! We ended up in a chinese eatery run by a husband and wife team. It was fun watching them cook in front of you in their well-used kitchen. They were poking fun at sis in law (most likely thinking the 18 year old was still a child) for not eating her veggies. She was rewarded with a candy too!

When in Kawaguchiko, prebook your dinner in your hotel, else you might go hungry!

we took photos of ourselves in our yukatas. and husband and i booked a private onsen (extra fee), sis in law tried the public onsen. 45mins in the private onsen seems plenty of time to soak in a hot tub. we had the same great view of the lake.

15 April. We were booked for a 7:30am breakfast at the hotel. And what a delicious and impressive kaiseki breakfast it was!

kaiseki breakfast at Rakuyu

Glad there was another customer who translated for us on checkout as there were no staff to answer our queries. We were given a lift to kawaguchiko station and deposited our bags in the coin locker (big and small lockers available).

We got on the Fujikyu commuter trains to head to Shimo Yoshida station. From Shimo Yoshida, we walked to Arakura Sengen shrine (follow the signs or follow the people). Headed up the stairs for some magnificent views of Mt. Fuji. It is better to head out early as Mt. Fuji is almost always hidden in clouds from mid-morning. We were lucky it was a very clear day and Mt. Fuji was visible even in the late afternoons that day. For the money shot, head up to the Chureito pagoda (lots of people gather there).

Mt. Fuji and the chureito pagoda
Mt. Fuji and the chureito pagoda

Even this late in the season, Arakura Sengen Shrine is still beautifully bedecked in cherry blossoms.

Arakura Sengen Shrine, Fujikyu

Lunch was back at Kawaguchiko station at a restaurant across the street.

We got on the bus to go to the Music Forest. With it’s european-inspired gardens, it looked like a typical tourist trap on paper. But the collection of music boxes intrigued me from the rest of the museums around kawaguchiko. And by music boxes, they don’t mean the jewellery box type music boxes – these are complicated machines (swiss and japan made) that can sound like a tinkling piano to a whole orchestra. There are regular demonstrations in the museum where the machines come to life, and that was fascinating.

And the trees, anywhere in Japan, they prune and primp their trees – they are so beautiful!

IMG_7747

We were back by bus late afternoon to Kawaguchiko station (check the bus times, they stop around 5pm depending on season). Note that driver speaks in Japanese but announces the bus stop numbers, so make sure you know where you’re getting off.

Restaurants around the station start closing at around 5:30pm. We settled for hurried noodles at the station canteen (closes at 8pm) after failing again to find dinner.

We are taking the overnight highway bus to Kyoto from Kawaguchiko. The bus is laid out differently, 3 in a row with space in between. Slippers and seats you can fully recline. But please mind the person behind you as it is possible to recline right into their lap. Curtains, too, if you need extra privacy. Toilets available, too as with most highway bus. I did manage to sleep.

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