Mount Fuji is AWESOME.
We were up at 5am to make the earliest bus from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko Station at the base of Mount Fuji. The tour guide from our hostel picked us up and we went on the backpacker’s budget day tour of Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes. It was unbelievably cool!
Fuji-san, as the locals call him, is one of those things you’ve built up in your mind so much that you’re afraid it won’t reach your expectations. Much like The Great Wall, I’d say Fuji met and exceeded our high expectations!
We started off the day by visiting 5th Station. There are several “stations” along the Mt. Fuji trails to the top, and this one is located at the place that was once the very top of Mt. Fuji, before 2 more eruptions made it even taller. It’s about as high as you’re really supposed to go during the off-season. Mount Fuji can be safely climbed from July-September, so this was our highest destination. We were allowed to head along one of the trails a little bit and take in some amazing views. It was crazy to be in the snow!
Fun fact. There’s a Mount Fuji Song, and it plays when your car drives over certain spots on the road. No joke. You know those “bum-bum, bum-bum” noises on highways that are meant to wake drivers up when they are straying into another lane or shoulder? Well, the Japanese decided to enhance that same technology by altering the pitch of those safety bumps to play the Mount Fuji song. The song is most clear in compact cars and sedans, but we heard it perfectly from our 7-seater minivan. Way to go, nihon-jin.
Our guide took us on a little hike to a viewpoint, out to see all of the Fuji Five Lakes, and to two lava caves!The ice cave was formed by lava long ago, and was used as a refrigerator by locals for a long time. Apparently they used to cut out huge chunks of ice to bring to the Shogun in Tokyo (called Edo back then) as a gift. They had to cut the blocks large enough that there would still be some ice left when they arrived a day or two later, despite the melting.
The ice cave was pretty cool, and though they have manmade ice blocks on display, there are also some natural icicles in there as well. Apparently global warming makes some parts of the cave too warm these days so those parts no longer stay frozen.
After the ice cave, we headed over to another lava cave, called a wind cave. It was formed by the lava of Mount Fuji as well, but is called a wind cave because it is connected to several other caves underground and is the only place where you can hear the wind. Or something like that…
For our trip to Mount Fuji, we stayed in K’s House, a famous backpacker’s hostel, and the only cheap accommodations in Fuji/Kawaguchiko area. It was really nice, one of the nicest hotels we’ve stayed in, and a good one to end on. It was probably our most expensive accommodation, but well worth it. We’re heading back to Tokyo for the last 5 days, but we’ll be staying with my sister’s friend (and namesake) Jaime.
I might post another quick update on our last day, but don’t expect to hear from me again until we’re on our way back to California on Tuesday, May 29th. Love you guys!