For multiple reasons, but mostly because in case you haven’t noticed, we travel for our birthdays.
That’s just how we roll. I’m not sure if we ever actually decided that was what we would do, but our conversations tend to be ‘where are we going for your/my birthday this year?’. I don’t know when that started. But I do know that it’s just something that we’ve always done, whether it was planned or not.
Anyway, we went to Kawaguchiko, which is located at the base of Mt Fuji in the Fuji 5-lakes region of Japan, just outside of Tokyo.
Initially, we’d planned to go to Nara. But we’re trying to save money, and getting to Nara would have been pretty expensive. It’s a 2-hour bullet train ride (not cheap) each way, and since my birthday is during ‘Red Leaves’ viewing each year, the hotels like to jack up the prices.
So the hotel in each place cost about the same, but getting to Kawaguchiko (an hour and a half on a bus or express train) was a whole lot cheaper, for the same amount of travel time.
I really wanted to see some red leaves, so either of them worked for me. I do plan to visit Nara someday, just so I can see all of the wild deer that hang out around the shrines.
We booked a hotel that was right on the lake and in the middle of just about everything. That worked out well for us, as did rolling in on a Monday. It was definitely not as crowded as it is on the weekends, so we felt like we had a lot of the place to ourselves.
It was raining when we arrived, so we unpacked our stuff and had a quick walk around, and then hung out in the hotel for the night. Oh, and there was a great little Indian restaurant just across the street from the hotel, so we had an excellent curry lunch before the rain really got going.
There’s not really so much to do in a lot of these Japanese tourist towns after dark. It’s not like Ocean City or Vegas, where you intend to go out at night and dance or drink, or whatever. Shit shuts down. So we took a quick walk to see how far we could get towards the north side of the lake before it got dark, and then made it back to the room in time to miss most of the rain. It was cloudy that day anyway, so there were no ‘amazing view of Mt Fuji’ to be had.
We used the onsen, drank beer, and went to sleep early.
We took the cable car up to the top of the closest mountain, where you’re supposed to get a good view of Fuji. Except clouds rolled in as we were on our way up, so we saw a whole lot of nothing. Which is equally cool. Kind of like that time we climbed Mt Takao on a rainy day. It was still nice up there, even if we were in the clouds.
We went back down and walked west along the lake. There’s a nature trail that goes all the way around. In hindsight I’m glad we didn’t try to walk all the way around, as it would have taken much longer than 24 hours. We’d discussed it briefly the night before. Glad we didn’t.
We’d been told to visit a park and a museum on the southwest side, so they were what we were walking towards. We made it to both places and they were lovely. We stopped in the museum and had some tea before we headed to the park.
The mountains around the lake were in and out of fog all morning, but then it all cleared up around mid-afternoon, after we started to make our way back towards the hotel. We weren’t planning to stay in, but were going to catch a bus to take us to our destination that evening: The Fujikawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival, which was being held on the north side of the lake, across the bridge.
We weren’t sure exactly where to get off the bus, but we started seeing the food stalls along the side of the road, so decided to jump off and walk the rest of the way. We’d read that we should go to the art museum for the best views, but we didn’t really know WHY that was the place to go. As it turned out, there’s a river lined with illuminated maple trees up there. It was a photographer’s dream.
I took so many photos. Maybe way too many. I didn’t have the Mamiya with me so it was all with the J5, but they turned out well enough. I’m happy with what I was able to capture, even if it was completely flooded with people. I guess we can’t blame anyone for wanting to take pictures. It was so beautiful. It really was.
Japan really knows how to light up and show off its trees. I’ll give them that. And it seems like they plant some places specifically with this kind of thing in mind. It was gorgeous.
Mark wanted to walk back to the hotel, even though I kept telling him I thought it was really far. He insisted, so we did it. The walk was over 5k. It felt like it took forever. But I can’t complain about it, because I managed to get this awesome shot of Mt Fuji at night.
Lemons –> Lemonade? Maybe?
When we got back to the hotel, I jumped back in the onsen and luckily got it to myself for a while. I had a nice space to realx and contemplate turning 35, which was nice. There was also a super moon the night before, so I had a great view of the full moon from the outdoor onsen, as well. Perfect for some ‘deep contemplation’, or whatever.
Mark was feverish when we got back to the hotel that evening, so he went to bed early and didn’t have breakfast the next morning. We’d had a bit of a debacle the day before: the hotel staff seemed to forget that we requested vegetarian breakfasts on 3 separate occasions. So they were really proud of themselves the next morning when I went down on my own, and they had a nice vegetarian meal waiting for… us. Well done, guys. You got it right. It really was a great breakfast, all bullshit aside.
We didn’t stay too long that day, but we did go out and tour a bat cave just on the edge of Aokigahara forest, which you might know better as ‘the suicide forest’. It was a pretty fitting place to be on the day I turned 35. Not because 35 is bad, but because a cave in the suicide forest for a Scorpio on their birthday sounds about right.
After walking through the cave, we got our stuff from the hotel and made our way back down to the train station in time to catch a bus going back to Tokyo. It wasn’t a long trip, but just long enough to get out of Tokyo mentally and enjoy turning 35.
Oh, and I ate 2 pieces of cheesecake at a small shop before we got on the bus. Because it was my birthday and I do what I want.
Here are the rest of our photos from the trip: