Fuji-go-ko ( Fuji Five Lakes)
A Ryokan for a beautiful overnight break from Tokyo!
Fuji-go-ko or Fuji Five Lakes, is nestled into the lee of Japan's famous Mount Fuji.It was our son who suggested we, my husband and I, stay at Fuji-go-ko, (Fuji Five Lakes), en route to Kyoto.
KAWAGUCHI-KO STATION - Mt Fuji climbers arrive here.
This is a popular area for Japanese to holiday, being only 100 kilometres from Tokyo. Kawaguchi-ko is the favoured place for Fuji climbers to use as a base.
We had no intentions of getting that active, but it was to Lake Kawaguchi that we headed with no idea of what we were likely to find there. As we were to discover, you do not need to aspire to adding Mt Fuji to your list of
to fill your time in Fuji-go-ko.
Fuiji-go-ko Ryokan at Kawaguchi-cho
Arriving on a wet and misty day, Mount Fuji was shrouded in a thick blanket of fog that showed no signs of giving us even the smallest glimpse of her snow capped peak.
This was to be our opportunity to experience a ryokan,- a traditional Japanese guest house.
Arriving at Fuji-go-ko's lakeside Yamagishi ryokan, we were thrilled to find our room had stunning, wide lake views, the mist adding to the mystery and fairytale ambiance.
Many Japanese apartment dwellers would have been envious of the room. Being very spacious, with a polished dark wood floor in the entry and traditional tatami mats covering the main floor area.
Centre stage was a low dark stained wooden dining table, with legless armchairs either side.
Thank goodness for the arms to help push your self to your feet. A coffee table, with more low armchairs was placed by the windows. Traditional Japanese décor is simple. Minimalism at its best.
Japanese Toilets - You need a license to drive them!
I find Japanese toilets intriguing. This was the model you needed a license to drive!
It had a water saving device, in the form of a tap on top of the cistern.
Having flushed, you washed your hands, before the water is recycled into the cistern. One drawback is the prospect of soap frothing out of the cistern!
The toilet seat was beautifully warm, with adjustable temperatures, and a button to bring on the artificial flushing noises to drown out any real tinkles.
After, you can enjoy a wash, or a bidet. I didn’t manage to locate a warm air dry, but wouldn’t be at all surprised if there is one! Having tested all the buttons and knobs, it was time to take in Fuji-go-ko's spectacular scenery outside our window.
Ryokan Views of Fuji-go-ko
We sat in our comfortable armchairs, sipping green tea and soaking up the panoramic views of all that this beautiful area of Fuji-go-ko had to show. With scenery reminiscent of a European mountain resort....... the tatami mats, and traditional Japanese room, reminded us where we were.
An old French style sightseeing boat departed from the picturesque wharf just below heading toward the mountains in the distance, where European style buildings lined the shore.
Rows of pink and white swan pedal boats were lined up on the lake edge........ waiting for someone to brave the weather and take them out.
Kawaguchi is Fuji-go-ko's most popular town for overnight trips from Tokyo.
Being the first week of May we had missed most of the spring cherry blossoms which must be spectacular in full bloom.
The Kawaguchi-ko cable car came into view as it rose from the trees, on its way up to the Fuji viewing platform.
All the shops were open, with a wide range of tourist souvenirs geared for the locals.This Fuji-go-ko area is a popular Japanese holiday makers destination.
The Japanese tradition of omiyagi – where even a brief day trip means buying gifts for your work colleagues, ensures the locals will be buying. I wondered if this has been a tradition kept alive to help keep the economy and employment statistics healthy!
Reminiscent of Europe!
We wandered along the lakefront, past a Tudor style hotel, with its white walls and black battens. Shocking pink kirin azaleas trimmed into perfect balls, created a bright splash on the lawn in front.
Past Teddy’s Garden – a teddy museum, to The Herb Hall, another Tudor style stucco building.
HERB HALL and CAFE
Gardens massed with brightly coloured tulips, orange, yellow, red, or pink, stretched across the front. Calling in on our way back, we enjoyed a lavender flavoured icecream in the Herb Hall café. It really was delicious. To be highly recommended!
Next door we went through an open air restaurant area where two men were hammering large poles, in syncopated rhythm, into a dough mixture,contained in wooden barrels. Emanating loud grunts and yells to go with the energy they were expending, it was clearly a ritual....... to go with the specialty!
THATCHED ROOF BUILDINGS
Across the road the thatched cottage had us thinking we were in Stratford-on-Avon in England! These thatched homes are traditional to the area, we were to discover. We saw quite a few on our way to Mishima.
In the Gem Museum, most of the huge range came from Brazil, but it was interesting viewing.
Inden leather handbags were tempting. Another old traditional Japanese craft, dating back to the Nara Era, these bags are made from deer hide. Delicate and detailed patterns and pictures are applied to the leather with smoke dying, and lacquer, before being made into bags, and other leather articles. The end result is beautifully crafted and quite unique.
This area around Fuji-go-ko has been developed to attract a cross section of interests.
You can do a range of glass and ceramic craft workshops. Visit any or all of several Art Museums .
NATURAL LIVING CENTER
Experience picking and making blueberry jam at the natural living center.
For those with serious relaxation in mind there is a
- Hot Spring village
- Healing Village
- Saiko Iyashi-no-sato
- Visiting Bat Cave at Saiko if you prefer to get into nature
- Wild Birds Park for a spot of birdwatching.
If none of those activities appeal, you can just enjoy this picturesque Fuji-go-ko village nestled into the side of the lake, while experiencing the ryokan and traditional Japanese life.
An Onsen in the Hotel
Returning to the hotel, we gathered up our yukatas, simple cotton wrap around summer dressing gowns, and headed down to the hotel onsen -traditional Japanese hot baths.
Sitting on my little stool, I sprayed myself with the hand held shower head, using the soaps provided to wash from head to toe, before slipping into one of the hot pools. My companion, a Taiwanese nurse enjoying her third holiday in Japan, joined me in the cooler outside pool, where we relaxed and chatted.
Shriveled to a prune, and ready to get dressed, I spent another half hour trying all the extras provided. Sitting in a comfortable chair in front of my own personal mirror, I could try razors, combs, and a range of facial lotions and potions.
Finally I could face the world, clean and refreshed. The Japanese certainly know how to soak their cares and stresses away in style.
A Japanese Meal to Remember!
Back to our room, and dinner arrived on a pile of black lacquer trays.
The kimono robed lady knelt at the dining table, carefully arranging the different dishes. After she explained what to do, with sign language we understood, and Japanese we didn’t, she departed and left us to work out what we are eating.
- Miso soup with a shitake mushroom in the bottom
- A range of sashimi
- Little morsels of soy beans
- Chutneys and preserved plums
- Pickled vegetables
- Steak cooked on a stand heated by a candle
We recognized these, but mostly we will never know
what we ate.
Mysterious as it all was, the selection and variety made for a veritable feast.
Breakfast next morning in the dining room was similarly mysterious. Was that a raw or cooked egg I ate? Maybe I was supposed to cook it over the candle, with the fish. I really don’t know.
The Futons Appear
Dinner finished and cleared, an elderly man arrived to make up the beds.
He pulled a pile of futons, and bedding from the cupboards and laid two futons together, on the tatami mats. Carefully tucking in the crisp white cotton bottom sheet, he then laid two equally crisp white duvets on top.
It is certainly not the softest bed I have ever slept on. Although having slept on futons for the last week at our son and daughter-in-law’s apartment, we were well prepared.
But this certainly was a night to remember in Fuji-go-ko! We had all the tradition to put in the memory bank. This was a very real Japanese experience!
Bus from Fuji-go-ko-to Mishima
and the Shinkansen
Next morning, bags packed, we were taken back to Fuji-go-ko-'s Kawaguchi Station,the main stop for those planning to climb Mt Fuji.
Hotel staff who had been very attentive and helpful whenever we appeared, drove us right to the station door! With a cheery wave they left us as we boarded the bus to Gotemba.
Choosing the bus rather than the train, the drive round the mountain, through the towns, villages of thatched roofed houses and countryside, was a fascinating close view of Japanese life at work in this whole Fuji-ko-go area. Rice paddies and rows of neatly manicured tea bushes were juxtaposed with large vegetable gardens, and the traditional topiary conifers.
After skirting the edge of Lake Yamanakako,another of Fuji-go-cho's five lakes, we arrived at Gotemba.
Changing from Number 3 to Number 2 bus, we arrived at Mishima Station an hour later.A few minutes later we boarded the shinkansen, and were soon on our way to Kyoto.
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