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When we were planning our trip to Japan, we wanted to experience a little bit of everything: history, city and nature. We got our history lesson in Kyoto, a full dose of city life in Tokyo and for nature we went to Lake Kawaguchi in the Fuji Five Lakes district. Well-known for the Mount Fuji view from the lakeside, we discovered many more things to do in Kawaguchiko. Rather than taking a quick Fuji Five Lakes day trip, we spent two full days at the lake between our visits to Kyoto and Tokyo. Our Kawaguchiko itinerary was filled with sightseeing, hikes and local cuisine.
Lake Kawaguchi, Mt. Fuji
Lake Kawaguchi, a popular tourist destination for nature-seekers, is located in the Yamanashi Prefecture on the border between Minobu and Fujikawaguchiko, Japan. Of the Fuji Five Lakes, it is the largest and most developed for tourism. One of the biggest Mt. Fuji attractions is climbing the mountain – and Lake Kawaguchi is a logical base for visitors making the trek. However, the climbing season is extremely short (limited to just late July, August and early September). Our visit was in late September (which we learned is not the best time to visit Mt. Fuji…more on that at the end of the post), so we were seeking Kawaguchiko things to do that didn’t involve summiting the peak.
Tourists visiting outside the climbing season (or during, for that matter) often have just one concern: where to see Mount Fuji. While figuring out the best way to see Mt. Fuji was certainly a must-do on our trip to the lake, we discovered many other things to do in Mt. Fuji and the surrounding area than just look at the mountain.
Things To Do in Kawaguchiko, Japan
Wondering what to do in Kawaguchiko? Our list of Kawaguchiko attractions can easily fill a Mount Fuji day trip itinerary or a long weekend at the lake. Rather than booking a Lake Kawaguchiko tour, we planned our own Mt. Fuji sightseeing trip and used the Kawaguchiko sightseeing bus to get around the lake. In addition to our advice of what to do in Lake Kawaguchiko, there is other pertinent information you will need for your trip. At the end of the post, we include helpful tips like where to stay in Kawaguchiko, Fuji Five Lakes weather information, how to get to Lake Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji day trip details.
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#1 Find the Best Views of Mt. Fuji, Japan (or not)
Hurtling down the tracks on an eastbound Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train from Kyoto, Kris spotted the soaring peak of Mt. Fuji for the first time. We stared through the train window in awe as the majestic mountain flashed between buildings. With eyes peeled, we watched until the tracks turned and Mt. Fuji was no longer visible. Little did we know, our seats on the train would be the best place to see Mt. Fuji during our trip. Shortly after our sighting, before we even arrived at the lake, storm clouds moved in and settled over the peak for the next three days.
How to See Mt. Fuji from Kawaguchiko, Japan
Despite the dismal weather, we were intent on scouting out where to view Mt. Fuji. I was fancifully convinced that once we found the best spot to see Mt. Fuji, the travel gods would part the clouds and magically reveal the mountain, just for our benefit. I was wrong. However, in our quest we did find several places to see Mt. Fuji…had the clouds not been hiding her.
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center – Lake Kawaguchi
We think the best view of Mt. Fuji from Kawaguchiko is on the north side of the lake at the Natural Living Center. The center, which is easily reached by the Kawaguchiko Sightseeing Bus Red Line, offers iconic Mt. Fuji viewing spots along the shoreline. Beautiful gardens line the lakeside and, in addition to the views, guests can pick up souvenirs or buy an ice cream cone. Top Tip: Frame the colorful flowers in the foreground for the best Mt. Fuji-Lake Kawaguchi photographs.
Best Mount Fuji Five Lakes View – Lake Shoji
Lake Shoji is one of the Mt. Fuji Five Lakes, which can be reached on the Blue Line of the Sightseeing Bus Kawaguchiko. With far fewer crowds and sweeping lake views, we think Shojiko is absolutely the best place to view Mt. Fuji. When we were standing on the pebbly beach, the clouds cleared just enough for us to glimpse a Mount Fuji top view – and we could only imagine what is would have looked like in its entirety. Top Tip: Tourists using the sightseeing Kawaguchiko tour bus will want to disembark at Panorama Observatory. Unfortunately, with the infrequency of the Blue Line, passengers will want/need to catch the bus on the return route, only allowing about 20 minutes at the spot. Make sure to keep an eye on the time!
What is the Best Time to See Mt. Fuji, Five Lakes
As seeing Mt. Fuji tops the list of Lake Kawaguchi things to do, most visitors (like us!) simply ask the question, “Where is the best place to see Mount Fuji?” without thinking about other important factors, like what time of day or season is the best to see the mountain.
- What is the Best Time to See Mt. Fuji: Early in the morning, around 8:00am.
- What is the Best Time of Year to See Mt. Fuji: Wintertime.
- What is the Best Month to See Mt. Fuji: December, followed by January.
#2 Watch Sunset at Chureito Pagoda (or…not)
No Mount Fuji itinerary is complete without taking in the view (or at least attempting to take in the view!) of Chureito Pagoda and Mount Fuji from Arakurayama Sengen Park. Quintessentially Japanese, the red five-story pagoda rises high on a hillside with Mt. Fuji perfectly framed in the background. In springtime, the picture-perfect scene is completed with blossoming cherry trees. For many, the iconic viewpoint is what inspires a day trip to Kawaguchiko – and even on a cloudy day, it shouldn’t be missed.
Getting to Chureito Pagoda Viewpoint
Although the Chureito Pagoda viewpoint ranks as one of the top things to do in Fujikawaguchiko, it takes a little effort and organization to get to the Kawaguchiko tourist attraction. Visitors without a car will want to take a Fujikyuko Line train from Kawaguchiko Station to Shimoyoshida Station (ticket: 300 yen). From the station, follow the signs through the neighborhood to the Shiogama Shrine and then climb the stairs to the pagoda. The viewpoint is accessed via a trail in Arakurayama Sengen Park behind the pagoda.
#3 Walk Through Aokigahara Woods, Japan
Escaping the city and getting lost in nature is why many people take a Kawaguchiko trip – and Aokigahara Woods is the perfect place to get a full dose of flora and fauna. The dense forest, called The Sea of Trees, sits on a bed of broken volcanic rock that is covered in a blanket of green moss and twisted roots. Bright orange and red mushrooms are the only variance to the green hue. The landscape is crisscrossed by numerous trails, not all of which are clear or obvious paths. In places where a trail is not visible, markers (such as ties on trees) help hikers navigate the way.
Towering trees block the sunlight and – in many places – cellphone reception is non-existent, rendering devices useless. In the mornings, the forest is often shrouded in fog, creating an ethereal atmosphere – but it’s not just the mist that stirs the uneasiness. The Aokigahara Woods are also known as The Suicide Forest for the number of people who choose to end their life at the park. Macabre fans flock to the woods, which have a long history of death, while nature-lovers go to enjoy the serene surroundings.
Although hiking is the main reason to go to Aokigahara Woods, there are other sights in the forest to add to your Lake Kawaguchiko Itinerary, such as exploring the region’s caves. Past volcanic activity has created lava tube caves – of which three have become Lake Kawaguchi attractions. Bat Cave, Wind Cave and Ice Cave are the three caves that are open to the public (but all three require a ticket). We did not visit the caves, but you can read reviews on TripAdvisor – Bat, Wind, Ice.
The expansive Aokigahara Forest lies south of Saiko Lake (which is west of Lake Kawaguchi) and extends to Mount Fuji. Travelers who want to experience just a small slice of the woods can easily do so by hopping on the short Aokigahara Jukai Nature Trail. Using the Sightseeing Lake Kawaguchiko Bus Green Line, visitors who disembark at the Saiko Bat Cave stop will find the trailhead near the parking lot. Follow the trail through the woods toward Wind Cave and Ice Cave, where there is another Green Line bus stop.
Top Tip: There is also a Blue Line Lake Kawaguchiko bus stop near the Wind Cave shop and café; jump on an eastbound Blue Line bus to the Panorama Observatory bus stop on Lake Shojiko for the Mt. Fuji viewpoint we mentioned above.
#4 Eat Famous Hoto Noodles Kawaguchiko, Japan
If you are wondering what to do at Kawaguchiko for local cuisine, then eating the regional specialty, Hoto Noodles, is a must! The hearty and satisfying meal is served in a large pot and consists of noodles and vegetables cooked in a miso soup. Although that may sound like typical Japanese fare, what makes Hoto different is the wide, flat noodles used to prepare the dish. The hand-prepared noodles are cooked along with the other ingredients. Closely resembling Udon Noodles, Hoto Noodles are actually thicker and prepared in similarity to dumplings. Another key element in the dish is pumpkin, which adds an essential flavor.
There are numerous Kawaguchiko restaurants that serve Hoto Noodles, but the most popular place to get a steaming pot of Hoto Noodles is Hoto Fudo (read reviews here!). Located across the street from Kawaguchiko Station, patrons line up down the street for a bowl of their noodles. Inside, guests can sit on tatami mats at traditional Japanese dining tables or at a shared table. The cauldrons of the famous Kawaguchiko food, which are prepared in an open kitchen, are large enough for two people to share!
#5 Relax in an Onsen with Mt. Fuji View
Soaking in the thermal hot springs at an onsen is one of the top things to do in Lake Kawaguchiko. Due to the volcanic activity, the region is rife with public baths that utilize the geothermally heated spring water. The waters are thought to have healing properties and – quite frankly – feel incredible after long days of sightseeing and hiking. The hotel where we stayed (more on that at the end of the post!) had a public bath that proved to be a fantastic way to both start and end our days at the lake.
At most onsen, there are strict rules and guests will want to make sure to oblige by the guidelines. The pools are not for bathing, but rather for soaking; to ensure the cleanliness of the water visitors are instructed to thoroughly wash body and hair prior to entering the bath (even though submerging your head or hair is also against the rules). Most onsen are separated by gender and bathers are required to go sans-swimsuit. Some onsen ban users with tattoos – especially a large tattoo that can’t be covered with Band-aid – so, check in advance.
The best onsen near Mt. Fuji are located on the shores of Lake Kawaguchi. Read this Lake Kawaguchiko blog post for the details on the 5 best onsen in Kawaguchiko with Mt. Fuji views.
#6 Indulge at Izakaya High Spirits
We ate several incredible meals around Kawaguchiko town, but none are as memorable as our dinner at Izakaya High Spirits. The small restaurant, which seats fewer than 20 people, is manned entirely by owner/chef, Tsuyoshi ‘Go’ Natori. Through his education and work experience in the United States, he has developed a flare for preparing fusion cuisine that he serves to his guests in tapas-style. Both the space and the owner exude a community ambiance, with patrons of different tables engaging each other in conversation while Go maneuvers between the tables and behind the counter to prepare each dish himself.
Our meal began with warm sake – the perfect starter on a cool, rainy night. The first dish we indulged in was a plate of scrumptiously fresh sashimi – and then we progressed to a bowl of spicy kim chi, a dish of locally-prepared eggplant and a platter of torch-roasted, truffle-oil potatoes. The evening culminated with a heaping portion of slow-roasted brisket that left us wanting more, but we were too full to eat another bite. If you want to eat a meal at the best restaurant in Kawaguchiko, we highly recommend booking a table at Izakaya High Spirits (read reviews here!)
Kawaguchiko, Japan Map
Our map of Mt. Fuji area and Kawaguchi Lake includes the sights on our recommended list of things to do in Kawaguchiko. Use this link to Google Maps for an online version of our Fuji Five Lakes Map.
Now You Can Plan Your Complete 2 Week Japan Itinerary!
More Things To Do around Mt. Fuji, Kawaguchiko, Japan
There are many more Mt. Fuji things to do at Lake Kawaguchi, Japan – especially if the weather is nice! The following activities and sights can be added to your Fuji Five Lakes Itinerary.
Climb Mount Mitsutoge
One of the top things to do in Fuji Five Lakes District is hiking. For a full-day highlighted by views of Mt. Fuji, waterfalls, buddha statues and forest, the Mt. Mitsu-toge trail is an ideal hike. Read more about this hike.
Say a Prayer at Fujiyoshida Sengen Jinja Shrine
Traditionally, Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine was the starting point for the climb to the top of Mt. Fuji. Trekkers would stop at the shrine prior to their hike to say a prayer before setting off on the trail behind the shrine. Today, most climbers start at Fuji 5th Station, which halves the distance to the summit. The 17th century shrine, however, remains a Kawaguchiko point of interest.
Soar to the Mountaintop on the Kawaguchiko Ropeway
Riding the Kachi Kachi Ropeway (also called Mt. Tenjo Ropeway or Lake Kawaguchi Ropeway) to the viewing platform is one of the top things to do at Lake Kawaguchiko. From the lake, the Ropeway Kawaguchiko ascends 400-meters to a viewing platform. Both the lake and Mount Fuji are visible from the deck. Guests can ride roundtrip or take the ropeway up and hike back down.
Visit a Historic Village – Iyashi No Sato or Oshino Hakkai
Visitors interested in learning more about the region can visit one of the historic mountain villages. Paying a visit to either Iyashi No Sato or Oshino Hakkai gives an introduction to life in the mountains and is one of the top things to do in Fuji Five Lakes.
Sample Products at the Kawaguchiko Herb Hall
Sitting near the lake’s shore, next to the Gem Museum, the Herb Hall is a shop specializing in local herbs, tea and flowers – including Kawaguchiko lavender. However, the real reason most people stop at the shop is for the ice cream, of which lavender Kawaguchiko flavor with edible flowers is the most popular.
Set Sail on a Kawaguchiko Lake Cruise
One of the best ways to enjoy the lake is by setting sail on a Kawaguchiko sightseeing boat. One of the popular boat excursions is the Lake Kawaguchi Pleasure Boat, which docks near the Kawaguchiko Ropeway and takes visitors on a 20-minute tour around the lake.
Listen at the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum
Dedicated to automatic musical instruments (such as music boxes and organs), the Lake Kawaguchi Music Forest Museum is a popular lake attraction. Located near the shore of Lake Kawaguchi, the museum is both indoors and outdoors – and an interesting sight for music lovers.
Walk across Lake Kawaguchi Ohashi Bridge
The Kaaguchiko Ohashi Bridge crosses the water near the middle of the lake. From the sidewalk path, there are spectacular views of Mt. Fuji.
Get Informed at the Fujisan World Heritage Center
The free Fujisan World Heritage Center provides exhibits and information about Mt. Fuji – including climbing info, weather conditions and tourist attractions.
Find the Fuji Omuro Sengen Shrine
Located along the shore of Lake Kawaguchi is Fuji Omura Sengen Shrine. Dedicated to Mt. Fuji, it is the oldest Shinto Shrine of its kind in the region.
Ride a Roller Coaster at Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park
The Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park opened in 1968 not far from Lake Kawaguchi. The park features numerous roller coasters and haunted houses. Within the park are smaller theme parks, like Thomas Land.
Sightseeing Kawaguchiko Bus
Getting around Kawaguchiko without a car is easy with the Kawaguchiko sightseeing bus. There are three sightseeing routes on the Retro Bus Kawaguchiko: Red Line, Green Line and Blue Line. The Red Line takes visitors to sights on the east end of Lake Kawaguchi, with stops at popular destinations like the Natural Living Center, the Ropeway and Herb Hall. The Green Line travels along the southern Kawaguchiko shore and around Lake Saiko, with stops at Bat Cave and Wind Cave near Aokigahara Forest. The Blue Line, which intersects with the Green Line near Ice Cave, transports passengers to Lake Shojiko, with stops for Mt. Fuji viewpoints at Panorama Observatory.
Kawaguchiko Bus Pass
The Kawaguchiko sightseeing bus fare can be paid per ride with cash, but for most visitors it makes more sense to purchase a Kawaguchiko Pass that is good for unlimited rides on two consecutive days. Note: There is NO Retro Bus Kawaguchiko 1-day pass! If you request a Retro Bus Kawaguchiko One-Day Pass they will sell you a TWO-DAY pass, because that is the only bus pass that they offer. The pass can be purchased from the driver or at the Sightseeing Bus booth at the train station. More info here.
Kawaguchiko Bus Map
The Kawaguchiko Line Retro Bus map can be found online. However, we also recommend picking up a Fuji Retro Bus Sightseeing Guide Map at the train station booth.
As we have previously stated (and as I’m sure you can tell by our photos), the Lake Kawaguchi weather was cloudy and rainy during our entire trip. It shouldn’t have surprised us though, because September is historically one of the rainiest months with the least amount of sunshine. According to historical data, the most rain falls in Kawaguchiko from June to October. March, April, May and November see significantly less rain – but the least rainfall is in January, February and December. Unfortunately, the winter months are also the most frigid.
Kawaguchiko Day Trip
We planned a longer stay at the lake rather than taking a Lake Kawaguchiko day tour because we hoped the longevity of our trip would provide us with at least one day of clear weather. That obviously didn’t work out for us. Despite the foul weather, we were able to create an enjoyable Mt. Fuji Lake Kawaguchi Tour on our own. However, tourists who don’t want to worry about planning what to do around Mt. Fuji can join a popular Lake Kawaguchiko Day Trip.
One Day Trip Kawaguchiko
Join this highly-rated tour from Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchiko in a coach bus for a full day of fun! Visit the Oshino Hakkai village, go to Mt. Fuji 5th Station and experience a 4D flight simulator at Fuji Airways. Find out more about this Mt. Fuji day trip!
Mt. Fuji 5 Lakes Day Trip
For a more personalized experience, take a Private VIP Fuji Five Lakes Day Tour to top attractions. On the private Fuji Five Lakes Tour, visitors will see Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station, ride the Kawaguchiko Ropeway and sample local fare. Get the details about this Mt. Fuji Kawaguchiko tour!
Kawaguchi Lake visitors not joining a tour (and without a car) will need to sort their own public transportation to the region. Both buses and trains service Lake Kawaguchi. The Kawaguchiko Train Station is located just south of the lake (the Kawaguchiko Bus Station is in the same location, directly in front of the train station entrance).
Kawaguchiko Station Building to Lake Kawaguchi
To get from Kawaguchiko Station to Lake Kawaguchiko, it’s a short walk (or bus ride) downhill to the lakeside. Use this Google Maps link for a Kawaguchiko Station Map.
Mount Fuji from Tokyo
Traveling from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko is a popular Mt. Fuji day trip (or longer). DIY travelers can take a Tokyo to Kawaguchiko bus (which is the cheapest way to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo) or ride one of the trains.
Kyoto to Lake Kawaguchi
We traveled to Kawaguchiko from Kyoto on the Tokaido Shinkansen Bullet Train. We departed the train at Mishima and rode a bus to Kawaguchi Lake. There were more economical options than the bullet train, but cost-saving buses (which really were not that much less expensive) were too time consuming.
How to get from Kawaguchiko to Tokyo
When we departed Lake Kawaguchi, we traveled by bus to Tokyo. The Kawaguchiko to Tokyo bus that we took left around mid-day, took two hours and was run by JR Bus. We boarded the bus at Kawaguchiko Station and disembarked at Tokyo Station, from which we had numerous options for public transportation to get to our Tokyo accommodations. For details and information of how to get to Mt. Fuji from Tokyo, use this link.
Hakone or Kawaguchiko?
Many travelers choose between visiting Lake Kawaguchi and Hakone, part of the Fuji-Hokone-Izu National Park, which is located southeast of Mt. Fuji. Much like Kawaguchi, the region is known for thermal hot springs. Attractions at Hakone, which sits on Lake Ashinoko, include shrines, museums and a ropeway. The Hokone view of Mt. Fuji across the lake is stunning. The two towns are very similar, but we felt Lake Kawaguchi was in a more natural setting with a better vantage point of Mt. Fuji.
Where To Stay around Mount Fuji, Japan
Visitors have numerous accommodation options when it comes to where to stay in Lake Kawaguchi. We stayed at Kawaguchiko Hotel, which is located right on the shore overlooking the lake. The historic hotel is somewhat dated, which is part of the charm, and offers a (paid) breakfast and public baths (included). Our room was spacious (by Japanese standards) and had windows facing Mt. Fuji (but we wouldn’t say it is the best place to stay to see Mt. Fuji). If you are looking for a hotel near Kawaguchiko Lake with character and traditional amenities, we recommend Kawaguchiko Hotel – read other traveler reviews!
Hotels near Kawaguchiko Station
Visitors seeking a hotel near Kawaguchiko train station also have an abundance of choices. Hostels, hotels, vacation rentals and resorts are all within the vicinity of the station and lake.
We recommend searching for properties near the station on Booking.com – like we do!
Before You Go to Japan
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable travel shoes for your trip to the lake. I (Sarah) have always packed these shoes by Columbia and Skechers. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture Mt. Fuji, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight).
- Be sure to get (and stay) organized for your vacation to Japan by using our Trip Planning Printables!
- Whether you travel with a backpack or a suitcase, you will also want a great day bag to organize and store all your everyday travel essentials!
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip to Japan, travel protected with World Nomads.
Start planning your trip to Japan! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing! Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!
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