We visited Japan for 5 weeks last year (3 weeks in February, 2 weeks in October) and one of our most peaceful adventures was our spontaneous day trip around Fuji, on 13/10/2017.
We hired a rental car for ~¥6600 for 24 hours, split between 4 people (~$22AUD/person).
Here is a map of our journey, ticking off 4/5 lakes and two shrines surrounding Mt. Fuji.
11:00: Left our hotel MYSTAYS FUJI Onsen Resort (via walking)
11:30: Arrived at Mt Fuji Station. We realised the bus tours would take 3 hours for us to see the Ice cave / lakes and that didn't factor in lunch, so we walked to a nearby rental car service (15 mins away).
12:00: Picked up a car. Despite the language barrier, the paperwork took 15 mins. We all had our International drivers' license too because we were planning to do Mario Go-Karting. Lucky for us, Japan drives on the same side as Australia 😄.
12:30: Drove back to our hotel to grab last-min belongings.
12:45: Left our hotel, again (via driving).
13:15: Snapshots of Lake Kawaguchiko. This is the easiest-accessible and most beautiful lake of the five lakes, with onsen resorts, rope-way and restaurants nearby. We met an elderly couple and had a cute broken-Japanese conversation. Next time, we will come back and attempt the hike up Mt. Fuji (one of the starting points is at this lake).
14:00: We GPS'ed "soba/udon" restaurants nearby and found this quaint restaurant along the way. Michael is a huge fan of traditional soba so he was very happy his cravings were satisfied. I ordered udon but I was too hangry, I didn't take a photo.
14:45: Next up is Lake Saiko. The grass was more dry and yellow. There were more dirt tracks along this lake. The best part, and highlight of my day, was meeting Kai, a 3 year old Shiba! The owner was so nice to let us hug and take photos of him.
15:00 We drove to the Ice Caves, only to find out it was closed for the month. Here is a snap of a butterfly while we stocked up on snacks at the vending machine and merchandise store.
15:30: We visited the Narusawa Wind Caves instead, costing ¥350/person. They give you helmets to protect your head. At the entrance, the gust of wind was so strong, it felt like nature was preventing us from walking down the steps. It's about 30 steps down, and you're greeted with a freezing, wet view. The caves are about 10mins long, with silk worms greeting us at the end. We backtracked along the same way we came.
16:15: We kept travelling west to Lake Shojiko. As you can see, there was more gravel and trees, and the clouds were gathering. I really enjoyed the serenity I felt here.
Behind me is a part of Aokigahara, translates to "Sea of Forest" or infamously known as the "Suicide Forest". This place had an eerily vibe, even when we walked along the outskirts. I wouldn't have minded a little hike but we were short on sunlight so I will have to come back for that.
17:00: Lake Motosuko is famous for the reverse view of Mt Fuji on the ¥1000 bill. We found the photograph spot and, yup, Fuji was still hidden. Since we were running out of sunlight, we climbed down the hill, off-track, to reach this stone base of the lake. I think if we kept driving around, we would have reached the sandy area where most tourists visit.
19:00: We drove back east to reach Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-Jinja Shrine, located 10 mins away from our hotel. Without the glam of tourists, this shrine was peaceful and quiet. There were a few locals paying their respect. We explored the shrine until darkness set in.
(Disclaimer: Photo above is not ours. Click on it and be redirected to the rightful owner)
20:00: We stopped by the famous Chureito Pagoda as our last stop. Unfortunately my camera and gopro ran out of batteries so we have no virtual evidence. This shrine closes at 7:30pm and is located 400 steps up the mountainside. The road was one lane, like a narrow zigzag, and we were quite scared driving up/down as the lamp posts were dimly lit. Trust me, overgrown trees, minimal lighting, winds and a shrine... it felt ominous being there so late. When we reached the top, we paid our respects and briefly enjoyed the view of Fuji (no, Fuji-san was still hidden), but after seeing a sign "beware of bears", we legged it and drove back the way we came.
20:30: Returned to MYSTAYS FUJI Onsen Resort for the buffet, ~¥3000/person, mediocre.
21:30: Ended our day with a stop by Fujiyama Ryokan (link), located at Fuji Q Highland (the tent on the map). It costed ~¥1000 (we were non-customers of the hotel). It has 6 different bath waters and the ryokan closes at 11PM.
I did see Fuji-san at 5:00AM from the MYSTAYS FUJI Onsen Resort onsen view that day. If you are travelling in Autumn, you need to wake up really earlier to see it. Alas, Mt Fuji teased us all day so I guess I need to plan another trip back there. If we had started our journey earlier, we could have done more but we still managed to squeeze in a lot for a 'relaxing' day 😂.
I hope you enjoyed the read.