Mount Fuji Adventures and a Fish on a Stick - Mr. Daps Goes to Japan

Mount Fuji Adventures and a Fish on a Stick – Mr. Daps Goes to Japan

There are a few iconic scenes that come to mind when I think of Japan. Obviously, Mount Fuji is one of those icons. Another is the Chureito Pagoda, which overlooks Mount Fuji. The Chureito Pagoda has been seen in countless photos, postcards, books, and many other media forms showing off Japan. Many guides say that this it has the best view of Mount Fuji. This can be left to be debated by others (including me). I will say this, it has a very nice view of Mount Fuji. It also is one of those places that simply has to be visited in Japan. With that in mind, we decided to make the multi-hour trek to get closer to Mount Fuji and hope for some incredible views and photo opportunities.

The real trick with this plan was twofold. First off, quite often the weather likes to obscure Mount Fuji. During the course of my five-week trip, I apparently was very lucky with how often I was able to see Mount Fuji. There were multiple days where this beautiful mountain could be seen in the distance. Sometimes this was easier than others but I definitely did get to see it a lot. I also got to see it disappear a lot. Quite often a cloud cover would come in and the mountain would disappear. As this would happen, I would often find myself wandering to The Hobbit and find myself thinking how Mount Fuji really was a lot like what I imagined the Lonely Mountain to be like. It really is an impressive mountain that can be seen from many different areas in the region. It seemed like everywhere we would drive, there was the possibility for a glimpse of Mount Fuji. The second trick with visiting Mount Fuji really is just the distance from where we were staying. It was several hours to drive to Chureito Pagoda and then more to go to the ancient village Saikyo Iyanashi-sato Nenba. If the clouds and fog came in, this would be a day spent in the car simply to see nothing. At the end of the day, both parts of this plan were really related to the weather around the mountain.

With that in mind, we picked a day that we hoped would be a good day to visit the area around Mount Fuji. We all piled into the car and made the trek into the mountains toward the main Mountain we hoped to see. The weather looked pretty good as we left the cities and headed into the hills and mountains. Along the way, we of course made a stop at 7-11 for food and the necessary coffee. The drive really was beautiful as we wound our way closer and closer to Mount Fuji. There were some clouds off in the distance that provided some cause for concern. However, we hoped for the best and continued higher and higher as we got closer and closer to our destination.

Chureito Pagoda

Finally, we exited the freeway and made our way to the neighborhood around the Chureito Pagoda. Interestingly enough, this pagoda was right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. In fact, we ended up paying a gentleman to park in his driveway (much to the dismay of many others who hoped to do the same). After a short walk, we arrived at the base of the hill where the Chureito Pagoda was at. The Chureito Pagoda is a part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built in 1963 as a peace memorial. It is at the top of a hill… with at least 400 steps. It was quite the climb. However, there were plenty of beautiful photo opportunities as we made the climb.

Fall had arrived and as we continued to climb up the stairs to the pagoda, we were surrounded by brilliant autumn colors. This gave me the opportunity to take some lovely pictures. Some of these were just beautiful because of the colors of the foliage around us. Others coupled this beautiful time of year with beautiful views of Mount Fuji and parts of the shrine. The sun was a bit harsh at that point, which made taking pictures a bit challenging.

As we continued to climb, although it wasn’t the warmest day, we definitely were feeling the heat. We had prepared for an autumn day in the way we dressed and by the time we were nearing the top of the climb, this seemed a bit ridiculous. We’d be thankful for it later but in the moment, it felt very warm.

Finally we reached the top and the Chureito Pagoda. There were a lot of people who had already made the climb and were taking pictures of, and with, the pagoda with Mount Fuji in the background. This included a couple who were dressed in their wedding outfits, including a train for the new bride. We had seen them take pictures as they climbed the hill. This continued at the top and I marveled at how the new husband was in a full tuxedo and not sweating like crazy. The view of Mount Fuji from the Chureito Pagoda really was impressive. Was it the best view of Mount Fuji in Japan? I’m not entirely sure. I’ll let others decide that. However, it was an incredible experience to see the valley with the mountain in the distance from this vantage point.

Having taken a few photos, we made our way back down the hill. Along the way, we took more pictures and also got my goshuincho book stamped before returning to the car. As we descended, it became increasingly clear that our decision to leave early from home and arrive early at the pagoda was a really good idea. People seemed to be flooding into the area in cars and buses and then making their way up the hill. As we pulled out of the driveway, there were other cars with drivers waiting and hoping to be the ones who would get our spot.

A Beautiful Drive

The next destination on this day trip was Saikyo Iyanashi-sato Nenba. If we had simply driven straight there, it would have been under an hour to get to this ancient Japanese village. However, along the way, we found ourselves driving around a couple of absolutely beautiful lakes with some stunning views of Mount Fuji. This led to us pulling over on the side of the road a couple of times so I could hop out and take photos of Mount Fuji. Some of these views were some of the most beautiful that I saw while in Japan. As I took photos, I would stop and just absorb the view before snapping another one. I believe the lakes we circled were Lake Kawaguchi and Saiko Lake.

Of the two lakes, Saiko Lake was the smaller. I think it also had the most stunning view of Mount Fuji. We pulled over at one end of the lake where there was a small beach and a boat pulled up and out of the water. This may have been my favorite view from the trip. There were a lot of views, however, so this could change at any moment! Having taken quite a few pictures, I hopped back into the car (to the relief of my niece) and we made our way to Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba.

Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba

Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba is behind a more modern village. It is nestled up in the hills and I found myself thinking again about J.R.R. Tolkien even more as I saw this ancient village with its thatched roofs that had grown up around a creek. This is a traditional Japanese village that gives people a glimpse of what life was like in Japan in days gone by. The village of Nenba once had 40 thatched-roof houses and is said to date back to the time of the Takeda clan (12th to 16th centuries). Unfortunately, the village was destroyed in 1966 when record-breaking rainfall followed by a mud-flow virtually destroyed the village. Of the 41 buildings that made up the village at the time, 37 were partially or totally destroyed.

Fast-forward to 2006 and Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba was rebuilt with 20 buildings. The kabuto-zukuri thatched-roof houses were reconstructed using old lumber and charcoal-making hut and sericulture (silkworm-raising) rooms were also rebuilt. While this isn’t a completely original ancient Japanese village, it still is quite impressive and seems to be quite authentic. Today it is a tourist destination that is very much worth visiting. There, guests can experience Japanese history and also get some beautiful views of Mount Fuji.

We arrived at Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba and discovered several buses in the parking lot, along with some other cars. As we made our way to the restroom, we saw some stands selling some snacks and gifts. We slowly made our way up a trail to the village where we purchased tickets to enter. Near the entrance was a traditional field and farm with a gorgeous view of Mount Fuji. There was also a Koi Pond by the entrance where food could be purchased and then fed to the fish. My niece and nephews had a blast with this before we started to walk up into the village and explore.

The village today really is a collection of museums that show the way of life for the Japanese back in the day. There are also some shops with some traditional pottery and other gifts of different kinds to be found (i.e. socks, scarves, postcards, trinkets, etc). While we didn’t spend a ton of time inside the buildings, we had a blast wandering around the village and experiencing it. The whole area was peaceful and serene and offered gorgeous views in every direction. Obviously, the most magnificent views involved Mount Fuji in them but there were still some other beautiful scenes to be enjoyed.

As we continued to walk around the village, it was wonderful to just stop and absorb the surroundings and let your imagination wander. As I did this, I noticed that clouds were starting to fill in along the edges of the mountains. Thankfully, they weren’t blocking Mount Fuji but I did decide to keep my eye on them as they were fairly dark and looked like they could potentially drench us. After taking quite a few more pictures, we made our way back out toward the car.

This is the point where my sister decided to again point out that one of the stands near the parking lot was selling a fish… on a stick. It looked like a fish had been caught, a stick shoved through it lengthwise, and then it was roasted. Since it isn’t every day you are in an ancient Japanese village, I decided to go for it and try this fish on a stick. Minutes later, I was holding a fish on a stick and filming myself eating it (video coming soon). The experience was… interesting. It was quite literally a fish that had been roasted on a stick. It had not been deboned or anything. I ate the first third of this fish and then my nephews helped me with the rest of it. One of them was quite excited that they got to eat the head (I had started at the tail) and shouted “I get to eat the head!” He enjoyed it. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. However, it was an interesting experience and I’m glad I tried it. I liked the octopus chip thing better, though.

The End of a Wonderful Day

Having finished our fish, it was time to start the drive back home. This was going to be a multi-hour trip so we kept our eyes open for 7-11 (of course). Finally, we found one. It also had a lovely view of Mount Fuji from its parking lot. I think everything had a good view of Mount Fuji in this area, to be honest. As we refilled on coffee and snacks (I believe I had another steamed curry bun, yum!), the clouds started to fill the sky. Thankfully, they had waited for us to get all our pictures and experiences before they descended upon the mountain.

As we drove back towards the Tokyo metropolitan area, the sky darkened and I couldn’t help but think that this was a day that would be hard to top. It was a fun day spent with family and seeing one of the most impressive views in the world. If you get the chance, I highly suggest making the trek out to see Mount Fuji from all of these different locations. While the Saiko Lake might have been my favorite view, I wouldn’t have given up any of the other experiences of the day either. It was really an incredible day with some phenomenal views. The real trick for anyone wanting to recreate this trek is the weather. However, it is worth trying to make it happen, even if that means being extra flexible with travel plans to adjust for the weather.

Mount Fuji really is one of those things in Japan that really is magical. People talk about it and it is hard to put into words how awe-inspiring it is. You just have to see it for yourself! I hope that it is a place I get to see again and that I get to find even more beautiful views of it. It was one of my favorite destinations in Japan.

Have you ever seen Mount Fuji or been to any of these locations? If so, what do you think? If not, do you hope to? What did you think of my adventures and views that I was able to experience? Which one was your favorite? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!


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