Mt Fuji: A winter wonderland

On 3 different visits to Japan, I had not yet seen the symbol of Japan up close. On my birthday this year, I had but one wish. To see the breathtaking mountain up close. So, on the 8th December, we took off on a 2 hour bus trip from Tokyo to the beautiful Mt Fuji. That’s right, only 2 hours and you’re there!

Fuji Q Highland theme park below Mt Fuji

Our official bus stop was Fuji Q Highland, which was closest to our hotel. What is Fuji Q Highland? It doesn’t sound very Japanese? No it doesn’t. But, it is a crazy giant theme park at the base of Mt Fuji because someone decided that would be a cool thing to do. It was. Since we were there anyway, we decided to go in and have a look around. Lucky for us, if you don’t want to ride the ride, you can just walk into the park for free and pay at the rides if you decided to. One of the first things we saw, or rather heard over the PA system in a rather cringe advertisement, was an ice skating rink! I had never been ice skating before, so we made a bee-line for the ice.

Having never ice skated myself, I probably should have opted for one of the chair-helpers for first time skaters. But I’m super stingy with money and it cost an extra 300 yen (3.50) so I decided to tough it out. Fortunately, Georgia had been skating before, albeit a few years ago so she took off like she’d done it a thousand times. I however, took my time letting go of the wall. Eventually, I got the hang of it. Wouldn’t win and medals for fastest time but I was moving! In typical Japan fashion, there were people everywhere and huge groups of the cutest little kids all with matching bibs and helmets who were learning to skate. When it got too busy, we returned our ice skates and continued on our adventure.

Viewing platform in the middle of Fuji Q Highland

We found a couple of other family-friendly ride like the Ferris Wheel, Thomas the Tank Engine land and something that spun you around but never went upside down. But the most amazing thing we came across was the little platform in the middle of a random part of the park, with a perfect view of Mt Fuji.

Our little pedal-boat

After a quick stop for lunch we decided to keep going and caught a taxi to our next destination, Lake Kawaguchi. There are a total of 5 lakes that surround Mt Fuji, but Kawaguchi is by far the most popular and touristy. The first thing we saw when getting out of the taxi were the pedal boats. Almost anywhere with water in Japan you will find these boats! So, we hopped straight on and went for a paddle around the lake, admiring the view and keeping out of the way of the bigger boats.

Famous Blueberry and vanilla ice cream (an Mt Fuji cookie!)
Mt Fuji view from Kawaguchiko natural living center gardens

Next, we found the Kawaguchiko Sightseeing Bus which loops around the lake and stops at all the important places. From our current spot, we went to the end of the bus line to Kawaguchiko natural living center. This place housed a beautiful seasonal garden, usually with stunning flowers in the summer and spring. In winter, it was filled with gorgeous smelling lavender. Fortunately for us, this particular place is famous for blueberries. At certain times of the year you can pick your own blueberries and take a class to make jam. It was not blueberry picking season but we did get to have the blueberry and vanilla ice cream which, even at 2 degrees, was still delightful and fresh!

Music forest grounds

Our next and final stop along the bus route was the Kawaguchiko music forest. Oh, what a wonderful and magical place! Along the banks of the river with a view of Mt Fuji was this wonderful hidden paradise where everything was music themed. Looked a little like Disneyland with European inspired building, beautiful ponds, and even a swan (a real, live, Swan). Everywhere there was a chance to be musical. First, there was a table of hand bells of different kinds, but each with at least an octave to play around with. There were chimes, pipes and bells to keep musical people occupied. Of course, being musical ourselves, Jingle Bells, Do-re-mi, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star did make an appearance. However, the cool thing about the music forest were the performances. Everyday they hold opera and organ performances for the visitors and we were fortunate enough to catch both! The opera was performed alongside hundreds-year-old automatic organs that only played one song. The two opera singers were a pleasure to listen to, and made for a great performance. The organ performance was even more magical. It was a complete organ that took up half the building, I think a picture is the only way I can describe it. The organ has a total of 800 pipes, is 13 meters wide and 5 meters high. All 40 of the characters moved with their fully functioning instruments. There were drums, horns and its basically the biggest and most elaborate music box I have ever seen. INSANE!

After finally checking into our hotel, with a quick shower and a yummy buffet dinner, we were knackered from the day and went to sleep pretty quickly. The next day, we only had one thing on our agenda. The 5th station of Mt Fuji. Going up Mt Fuji, there are 10 stations (with 10 being the summit). A road only exists to the 5th station which lies at 2300m (Mt Fuji is 3700m). 5th station is easily accessible by bus and takes no longer than 50 minutes to reach. It is visited by thousands of people every year and is the major starting point for the Mt Fuji hike. Of course, you can’t climb Mt Fuji outside of summer so it was just a sightseeing day for us. The views were incredible and it was breathtaking to actually be on this splendid mountain and to be able to see the summit. We found the point where the hike actually starts, in preparation for summer when we plan to tackle Japanese highest mountain. The 5th station is full of food, souvenir shops and freezing cold winds. Seriously, SO cold and very snowy. A couple of hours at the top and we finally started our long trek back to Tokyo.

It was an incredible weekend and we are still so overwhelmed at the beauty of Mt Fuji. We can’t wait to tackle the climb next summer but for now, we feel so fortunate to have been able to see it that close.

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