Mt. Fuji is the iconic image of Japan. Like a child’s drawing of a mountain, it is snow-capped year round and shockingly cone-shaped when you see it in person. While Fuji has been the subject of countless photographs, its so much more than a place to take pretty pictures. Exploring the local area on a roadtrip, you can camp beside a picturesque lake, hike mountain paths, enjoy a hot spring bath, or visit a charming shrine. With tons of places to visit spread out over multiple prefectures, driving is the best way to explore the Fuji Five Lakes area. In fact, some of the most spectacular scenery is only visible from the back roads which circle around Mt. Fuji. (However most sites around Mt. Fuji are accessible via train or bus and you could visit nearly all the sites mentioned below if you plan your schedule wisely.)
Life doesn’t get much better than waking up to the sounds of birds and a view of Mt. Fuji over an idyllic lake. Although the towns around Fuji are known for incredible ryokans*, camping on a lake near Mt. Fuji allows you to immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty. Conveniently, the Fuji Five Lakes area is home to more campsites than you can count. Camping doesn’t offer traditional Japanese food or tatami rooms, but you can still end your day with a luxurious soak in one of the regions many onsens.
- Shojiko Campground – set on the north shore of tiny Lake Shoji which perfectly frames the view of Mt. Fuji
- Koan Campground – on the slightly larger Lake Motosu, also has views of Mt. Fuji
- Jiyu Campground – on the much more developed Saiko Lake, this campsite is located right next to an onsen with outdoor baths
*(traditional Japanese inns, which by the way are an incredible experience you should not miss while visiting Japan!)
Reaching the top of Mt. Fuji is on the bucket list of nearly any foreigner living in Japan, but it’s a famously un-scenic, crowded and exhausting. No thank you. Instead enjoy the much better view of Mt. Fuji from one (better yet several!) of the well-maintained hiking routes in the area. My top recommendation is the Panorama-dai hike near Lake Shoji. (Careful: there are multiple sites named Panorama-dai in the area!) The route takes 50 minutes up to hike up to the viewpoint, 40 minutes down and leaves from a parking lot right next to Shojiko Campground. Google Maps shows a road going almost to the Panorama-dai site, but that’s actually the hiking path. Starting point is here. The path to Panorama-dai connects to several other trails; there is a detailed map at the trailhead and the route is well sign-posted in Japanese throughout. Bring some lunch and spend the day exploring. Additional hikes below.
- Koyodai – Viewpoint is accessible via car or a 1 hour from the nearest bus stop.
- Mt. Tenjo – A cable car (Kachi Kachi Ropeway) leads partway up to the summit, hike from the cable car to the very top or skip the ride and hike the whole way.
Sitting in a stone bath filled with hot spring water watching Mt. Fuji turn pink as the sun sets over it has to be one of the most spectacular sites in Japan (Asia!? the world!?). There are tons of onsens around Mt. Fuji, but outdoor baths tend to be rarer and outdoor baths with actual views of the mountain are very few and far between.
- Yamanaka Onsen Red Fuji – This onsen has two outdoor baths with perfect views of Mt. Fuji. Time your visit for an hour before sunset. The indoor bath has an incredible view as well so don’t spend your whole soak in the outdoors section! Entrance is ¥800 and you can rent towels for an additional fee.
- Fuji Yurari Onsen – Another onsen with views of Mt. Fuji. Entrance is a bit steeper, between ¥1100 and ¥1500 depending on the day and time, includes towel rental.
- Fuji Saiko Izumi Onsen – An outdoor bath next to a lake, but no views 😦 Entrance is ¥900. Towel rental is separate.
Hakone is a charming, albeit touristy city on Lake Ashi. It features multiple ropeways, a developed waterfront area, and tons of restaurants. Visiting during Golden Week, it was packed with about 5000% more tourists than it could handle and parking was a nightmare. For those seeking a bit more solitude, park near the Mori no Fureaikan and follow paths down to the water front. Walk along the shore towards town as far as your feet will carry you. If you can, make it to Hakone Shrine, a beautiful red torii gate constructed in Lake Ashi. Stop for a meal or soft cream along the way!
Boats and ropeways abound in the Fuji Five Lakes area. Hop in a cable car for a different way to see Mt. Fuji (and the surrounding nature!).
- Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway – Has any rope way ever had a better name? This rope way goes up from Lake Kawaguchi and has an opportunity to hike at the top. 3 minutes, ¥800 round trip.
- Hakone Komagatake Ropeway – Conveniently located in Hakone. 20 minutes, ¥1300 round trip.
- Hakone Ropeway – The real deal. This Ropeway starts at Togendai Station right on Lake Ashi and stops at 3 stations for a 24 minute ride. ¥2410 round trip.
Fuji Shibazakura Festival
Fuji Shibazakura Festival runs from mid-April through the end of May. The self-proclaimed “festival” is actually a well groomed garden bursting with pink and purple blossoms right at the base of Mt. Fuji. Crowds (and traffic!) can be insane; your best bet is to visit at an off-time (think early mornings, weekdays). Entrance is ¥600, plus ¥500 per vehicle. If you go, continue the drive around Mt. Fuji after you leave the festival. The road from the festival site to Hakone is incredibly scenic — lush green fields, pine forests, and a breathtaking view of Fuji towering over the city of Gotenba.
- Akai (赤井) – A tiny neighborhood izakaya. Sit at the four-seat counter and watch the chef in action. This mom and pop restaurant is guaranteed to be full of groups laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Come for the mochi cheese (and delicious fries!) and stay for the good vibes.
- Tsuwano (つわ野) – Another family joint. Ramen! Draft beer! Fried rice! Cozy wooden tables in your own little tatami room. English friendly menu.
Have you visited Mt. Fuji? Planning a trip? Where are your can’t miss sites around Fuji? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments.