At the end of July, my friend Dakes came to visit from England. While he was here, we’d taken a couple of days off to visit somewhere out of Tokyo with him. He wasn’t particularly fussed where we went, but wanted it to be somewhere we’d never been before so as not to be too boring for us. Having reeled through several first, second, third, and subsequent choices, we settled on somewhere new to both of us and sufficiently far enough away to warrant a separate trip and headed out to Yamanashi prefecture and Kawaguchi-ko, one of the five famous lakes around Mount Fuji.
A reasonably easy (if a little long) journey from central Tokyo, we made it in about 3 hours to our hostel in Gekko-ji, near the Fuji-Q theme park and about an hour’s bus ride away from one of the fifth stations, in effect the starting points for people who want to climb Fuji. We were joined by Tom’s university housemate Adam, who by sheer coincidence had just arrived to start teaching in Japan at the beginning of July a few weeks before.
Having given the guidebook only a customary cursory glance before heading off, we only had two real plans for our overnight stay; firstly was to visit the lake itself, presuming it to be something worth seeing, and secondly to see one of many caves formed thousands of years ago after a Fuji eruption.
Having dropped our bags off in the hostel, we headed straight for the lake. Served by a single train line, with trains only every 30-40 minutes (not in the city any more!), we got to the station just after a train had left, so thought we’d rather go for a little walk than sit around for half an hour and headed towards the next station down the line. Reaching the station with 4 minutes to spare, but sadly finding no accessible entrance from our direction of approach, we ruefully watched the train roll by and thought it a wiser option to take a taxi straight to the waterside.
The lake certainly had a stunning mountainous border (though we couldn’t see Fuji), and with the misty clouds descending from it made a good backdrop to admire from a pair of swan pedalos we hired. From the middle of the lake, we could see a cable car up one of the mountains from which we would have a commanding view of the lake and hopefully a view of Fuji too.
And indeed we would have had a commanding view of Fuji had that too not been shrouded in cloud! There was a good viewpoint from which frustratingly placed photos showed us the view on a clear day (though if they need the photos I’m sure it can’t be amazing conditions very often); sadly, however, we couldn’t really see anything but the bottom of the mountain and a lot of cloud!
The following day, we headed for the ‘ice cave’, a 25 minute bus ride from Kawaguchi-ko station. Billed as having stunning ice formations in sub-zero temperatures, in reality it was rubbish! It was pretty chilly down there, which was nice on a baking hot day, but having gone down a few steps, there were a few ice blocks like the inside of an igloo and a stalagmite! For an attraction with ‘ice’ in the name, there was a severe want of ice! We were in and out within about five minutes, and that was mostly because of the queue waiting for people to get through the tight sections of the caves.
Back outside again, we noticed a sign saying the ‘wind caves’ were a 20 minute walk away through a forest. Not yet having had our fill of caves, we thought ‘why not?’ and had a pleasant stroll through the wood before reaching the new caves. Inside this one wasn’t much different from inside the ice caves, and not particularly windy either! The wind caves had one thing going for it though, and that was a better ice formation than the ice caves had! Having passed that, we were led along a bit further to see nothing much more than more rock. Bit of a let down, but what can you expect for 300 yen!