Traveling with Kids | Mount Fuji
First of all, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I hope the festive season is full of joy for you all and that 2013 will be a wonderful year full of new and exciting experiences. I wanted to thank you all for reading this little column of mine and making such great comments. I love reading every single one of them. Here’s to another year full of great traveling for us all and lots more Traveling With Kids columns!
As some of you know, I travelled with my family to Japan last spring and it was an absolutely amazing trip. My first Traveling With Kids column was about our travels there. Today, I wanted to write a bit about one of our favourite places that we visited while there, Mount Fuji and the Five Lake District.
Right after we booked our tickets to Tokyo one of the first things we decided was that we had to visit the Mount Fuji area, in the Yamanashi Prefecture. We knew that such an iconic place was a must-see while visiting Japan and luckily this region is really close to Tokyo. It’s usually less than 3 hours by train.
So after 4 days of exploring Tokyo we were ready/needed to see some rural Japanese countryside. We hopped on the train and made our way out of the bustling city and slowly towards the mountains. At a certain point during our train ride, we finally caught site of the majestic Mount Fuji. At first we all sat there in silence and awe at having finally seen this famous and iconic symbol of Japan. We then started frantically taking thousands of photos for fear it would be our only glance at the mountain without clouds. In the end, we were extremely lucky to have had clear skies and perfect views of the majestic mountain for our entire stay. And now we have approximately 1,450 photos of a cloud free Mount Fuji.
Mount Fuji which is 3,776 metres high is really unlike any other mountain with its symmetrical cone shape and snow-capped summit. It’s the highest mountain in Japan and is still considered an active volcano even though it last erupted in 1707-08.
While visiting the five lake area, we were lucky to have had an old family friend who comes from the area spend two days with us. Masako took us around to visit all five lakes, some famous shrines, an old historic village. We also shared some wonderful meals. Her pride and knowledge of everything to do with the region was greatly appreciated by us all.
For accommodations we decided to stay in the award winning K’s House Hostel located in the small town of Fujikawaguchiko. This hostel, which is run by extremely friendly and helpful staff, is amazingly clean and organised and perfect for a family. We booked a Japanese style tatami suite where we had two conjoined rooms and slept on futons on the tatami mats. It was incredibly comfortable and a unique Japanese experience. The hostel offers a common kitchen that can be used by all guests and a living room area with books, television and a kotatsu which is a low table with heater underneath and blanket to wrap over your legs—so wonderful on a chilly evening. Considering we were traveling with five people (and it’s Japan!) the price of this hostel was surprisingly reasonable.
Early one morning, we walked from the hostel to Mount Kachi-Kachi (about 15 minutes) where we took a ropeway to the top. From there we had amazing views of Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko. After visiting the summit (1000m), we did a beautiful hike back down the mountain through the woods.
Since we were in Japan in the spring we couldn’t actually go and hike on Mount Fuji due to snow and various weather conditions. It’s actually only open for trekking in July and August and is apparently packed with enthusiastic hikers. Up to 30,000 hikers visit in the two month period.
One of our favourite places that we visited in the Five Lake District was the ancient village of Iyashi no Sato. We spent an afternoon wandering around the little village that was reconstructed after being devastated by a landslide in 1966.
You can visit the various traditional thatched roof buildings that house museums. The museums feature local culture and history, traditional living houses and workshops where local crafts are made. We also stumbled upon one house that was full of gorgeous kimonos, ninja outfits and samurai outfits that you could try on. It’s one of the cheesiest touristy things you can do and the kids were in heaven. Actually, I was quite amazed at how excited my husband was to try on a real samurai outfit (nerd alert!).
At the end of our long days of visiting the region, we would return to our hostel and get ready to head out to soak in the famous Japanese onsen. Onsen are geothermally heated hot springs and are found all over the country. Luckily for us, there was a very famous onsen next to the hostel where we were staying. We paid our entrance into the springs (males and females are separated) and spent the evening soaking in waters that were as hot as 45C (115F) degrees. Some of the baths are located outside and the kids found it so neat to soak in the tubs under a clear starry sky on a freezing cold evening. This is definitely worth doing while visiting any area of Japan—except if you have trouble being naked in public, of course.
Our friend Masako also took us to visit some local noodle and tofu shops where they offered plate upon plate of all their homemade products to try, for free!. The one that impressed us the most was the family run tofu shop and all the different kinds and flavours they sold. The black sesame tofu was definitely the tastiest (this coming from a girl who is usually not a huge tofu fan).
So for any families out there who are planning, or dreaming of, a trip to Japan this area should definitely be part of your travel itinerary. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and tranquillity after visiting one of the most animated cities in the world (Tokyo obviously). And if you happen to be there in the summer and hike up Mount Fuji I would love to hear about it. It’s on my life-list to reach the summit one of these days.
So tell me, would you ever think of traveling to Japan with children? Or have you travelled there and have some good stories or tips to share? I’d love to hear all about it.