Kawaguchiko is a tourist town through and through. There were plenty of large hotels by the lake trying to cash in on Fujisan.
The town had a few quirky sights, like this sculpture.
We found that the Japanese really appreciated geology. Unlike in Sydney where you’re lucky to find a mineral shop or museum in the entire city, there were little shops and museums everywhere. This museum had an extensive and impressive collection.
And what is a town without a big event – like a marathon right in front of our hotel.
But I think the meals, and its setting was a bit of a tourist attraction in itself. This was our dining room at the hotel.
In between, we just had enough room for a simple bowl of ramen.
The marathon began on the morning of our departure, and we struggled against the tide of thousands of eager runners to reach the train station. No rest for us though, we had another train to catch.
Fujisan wasn’t the only thing to see at Kawaguchiko. The lake itself was a pretty sight in itself. We saw it from above.
And from ground level.
As we walked around the lake, we caught plenty of autumn foliage that was bright as can be.
Our destination was the tourist town of Kawaguchiko, famous for its view of Mount Fuji (or Fujisan, as the Japanese call the sacred mountain). At 3776 metres, it’s Japan’s highest mountain and renowned for being a bit camera-shy – it’s obscured by cloud for most of the year. We felt very lucky to get many fantastic views of the mountain. In fact, you really couldn’t miss it.
From our hotel rooftop early in the morning.
Zooming in up-close.
From the train station.
And the main road.
My favourite views were from the lakeside mid-morning.
It was a view to admire (or distract) while fishing.
And a spectacular accompaniment to autumn foliage.
And peeping from behind the hills.
By late afternoon the clouds had started to roll in, though it didn’t make the view any less spectacular. It almost made us forget that we were looking at a volcano (albeit a dormant one).
Our visit to Izu-Kogen concluded all too quickly, and we were once again at the station, taking multiple trains, one of which was of course the shinkansen.
For those who have never taken a high-speed train, I took a little video at one of our transit points, Atami Station. It’s a taste of how fast those trains go, and shows a little of what goes on at a Japanese train station.
1. Speed of train, and how nonchalant everyone is about it.
2. Barriers between the platform and the track – rather a good idea.
3. People still go around in Japanese dress – even while travelling.
4. The station master’s pointing routine in the background. It’s a Japanese thing to ensure that everything is done according to plan.
It was a rather long day on 5 separate services. The last was an all-stations service full of noisy high school kids. We were rather glad near the end to see this, our destination.
The coast line that greeted us was a dramatic one, even on an overcast day. Here, the forest and the ancient lava flow met the Pacific Ocean.
The basalt column cliffs were formed from lava flows from Omuroyama, about 4000 years ago. In geological terms, that’s all very recent. The flows went on for miles, and it’s a great place to walk along.
The Jogasaki Coast walk was 9km long, but we didn’t need to walk such a long way to get some great views.
There was even a 60 metre suspension bridge (suspended 18 metres above the sea) from which to appreciate the scene.
We weren’t the only ones enjoying the morning walk. This couple were walking a pair of beagles along the bridge. I must say that our beagle, Bridie, wouldn’t be so daring as these little guys.
After all that food at the onsen, we really needed a walk. Luckily, the onsen had that covered too – the next morning we joined their free guided walk down to the Jogasaki Coast.
The first part of the walk was by a fast-flowing river that ran through some spectacular forest.
It was a temperate rainforest, and there were plenty of details to take in.
We even saw a lovely-looking spider. These guys aren’t deadly, but they do make you pretty sick. Luckily they are pretty tame, unlike some of its Aussie relatives.
We followed the river until it tumbled into the sea.
And then, what did we find?
Breakfast at the onsen ryokan was appropriately lavish. This is Japanese rice porridge with many, many accompaniments.
And dinner was once again kaiseki style.
The dinners here were definitely the best we had in Japan. They utilised plenty of local seasonal produce, and being by the sea, it included plenty of seafood.
So very refined. There was also plenty of ingredients from the land too.
And of course, there were some intricate desserts too.
We were really happy after all that food! And a few kilos heavier too. Perhaps it was time for some exercise?
‘Onsen’ is the Japanese word for ‘hot spring’, and being at the junction of three tectonic plates, there’s a lot of hot water spurting from the ground. Many of the famous hot springs are up in the mountains, but because of Hubby’s geological interest we visited one that was near the ocean.
The Izu peninsula is closer to Tokyo than Kyoto, so we backtracked quite a few kilometers on the Shinkansen. We stayed in the small seaside town of Izu-Kogen, at Ryokan Hanafubuki, an onsen resort.
The ryokan is actually many buildings, some accommodation, others for hot springs, all located on a lush forest/garden.
Each hot spring (there are seven of them) had water piped from underground, an adjacent enclosed private garden and lockable doors, so you can have the place to yourself. This was really a place to relax and enjoy the onsen.
Our rooms were enormous this time, with private gardens and even a sitting room.
In a garden close by, we could see the local (currently dormant) volcano, Omuroyama. There was even a lounge chair from which we could contemplate its form. So Japanese.