22/07/2013

Day 4: Mt Fuji and Matsumoto

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Continues from Day 3: Kawaguchiko

We awoke early to another beautiful sunny day perfect for our planned trip up to the Mt. Fuji's Kawaguchiko fifth station!

Each trail up to 3,776m the summit of Mt Fuji has a total of ten stations located at various heights.

At about half way up, the fifth stations are typically used as a starting point for those wishing to reach the summit during the climbing season.

They are the furthest point up the mountain you can reach without using your feet or a helicopter. 


The Kawaguchiko fifth station is located about sixty percent of the way up Mt Fuji at a height of 2300m (higher than Mount Kosciuszko), and is part of the traditional Yoshida trail that starts all the way down at the Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine at the base of the mountain.

Of the fifth stations Kawaguchiko is the most popular, developed and easiest to access and can be easily  visited during most parts of the year.

Apart from the Yoshida hiking trail, the Kawaguchiko Fifth Station is connected to the rest of Japan via the Subaru Toll Road and can be accessed by car, taxi, bike or bus. The easiest option for us was to get the bus, and the earliest one from Kawaguchiko station left at 09:20.

While we would really like to climb Mt Fuji, it was only early May and the upper part of the mountain was still blanked by a think covering of snow. The official climbing season opens each year a few months later in July and August when an appreciable fraction of the Japanese population make the climb.

Although we couldn’t climb up, we were hoping to at least do the Ochūdo Trail (お中道 = Honourable + Middle + Road ) which we read leads around the mountain and is open off season.

After the fifth station we hoped go visit the wind, ice and bat caves located in the 5-lakes region and then catch an early evening train to our next hotel in Matsumoto.

Once we’d packed our suitcase for tonight’s journey, we caught the elevator down to the ground floor for breakfast.

Our room included breakfast and when we checked in we were given a coupon to exchange for breakfast in the morning. When we went down to the dining room we were expecting the standard sort of buffet or self serve that you get at business hotels, or maybe a hot-dog and a banana according a photo on the hotel's reservation page.

We were surprised then, to find only coffee and tea facilities set up and assumed that perhaps they were still setting up as we had arrived pretty much as soon as breakfast opened. When we approached though, a lady on the other side of a counter asked for our breakfast tickets and told us to make something to drink. We were still not completely sure what was going on but after waiting a few minutes we were called back over to the window and given a tray of food each.

It wasn’t self serve at all!

Everyone got the same standard meal which consisted of a hamburger type thing, sausage soup, cabbage (because Japan) and a potato salad. I think there might have been other items but I can’t recall what they were.

The food was nothing spectacular and I swapped a few things with Kate to avoid onions but we both found it to be both satisfactory and satisfying.

After breakfast it was time to head to Kawaguchiko Train Station to get our bus up Mount Fuji. Since we were moving on to Matsumoto in the evening we had to do something with our luggage for the day. Leaving it at the station was an option but we instead decided to have the hotel hold them for us as we were not sure if lockers of our size would be available.

The same guy as always was at reception and we had a little bit more trouble than usual since he wanted to know when we were coming back and if we wanted to use the shuttle bus. I said we’d be back around 5pm but it could be earlier and he replied that in that case it was completely fine to leave them. I think the main idea behind checking when we were coming back was to check it was going to be today. He didn’t speak English but took great pains to explain the concept of shuttle bus in Japanese and it took a bit of convincing from us that we would be quite all right without it.

There was still a fair amount of time until the first bus left but we nevertheless hurried along to the station so we’d have enough time to buy a ticket. Along the way stopped off at the Family Mart convenience store we visited yesterday, and bought some food for lunch.

Once at the station we went to the ticket counter inside and asked for a return ticket to the Kawaguchiko fifth station (富士山五合目 = Fujisan GoGōMe), which cost us 2000 yen.

The bus stop. Click to enlarge and you'll see the blood on the seat
The seats for this bus were not reserved or allocated by time so we were bit worried that we might not get on if there were heaps of people. To reduce our chances of this happening and to secure a seat we headed left out of the station to the bus stop and waited. Half of our concern is probably because of our experience yesterday with the full train and not wanting to be suck standing (or floor sitting) for a fifty minute bus ride.

I think we had about a fifteen minute wait and as the time drew closer a line started to form out the initial blob of people. At this point we were hoping for a seat at the front but as it was not clear where exactly the bus would stop we ended up somewhere in the middle of the line. As the line grew though it was obvious we were certainly located towards the front.

Another thing of note about the bus stop is that there was a disturbing about of dark red patches on the seats and ground that looked very much like blood. It looked like it was dry but even so we made sure to avoid it. Another lady waiting either didn’t notice or didn’t care and managed to sit right in the middle of the biggest patch.

Ew.

A couple of minutes ahead of schedule a bus arrived and everyone got ready to hop on. It’s a good thing no one did though as it turned out not to be our bus and was instead bound for Shinjuku. Once our bus actually turned the other moved off and ours pulled into the stop. Since we were the second stop there were a few people already aboard but not many and as we got on the driver checked our tickets.

The bus was quite clean and new inside and had plenty of seats available though it was a commuter type bus rather than a highway bus. Happily, no one was left standing and he trip was comfortable. At first we passed a few other stops in the town, on the outskirts we passed the Fuji visitor centre and continued up a road to toll gates marking the entrance Subaru Toll Road which we used to climb the mountain.

On the way up we’d pass by another stop and the ticket information display at the top of the bus would change. All bus stops were announced in Japanese and although there was not always a stop, the bus also announced when we passed by the lower four stations.

The road up weaved through dense forest so we were unable to actually see Mt. Fuji most of the time. We did get a good view of it though before we reached the toll road, also, practically speaking, we could see it all around us out the windows. Something that was curious about the forest was that there were large sections where many of threes were knocked over in the same direction.

As we climbed we passed by a fair number of people riding up on bicycles which was pretty impressive. Some looked to be struggling far more than others. Watching them kind of made you want to exhort “頑張って” (Ganbatte- A cry of encouragement meaning “Keep going!”, or literally “Keep doing your best”).

Towards the top at one of the final stops a group of middled aged people decked out in hiking gear (with a mass of poles) got out. Everyone else continued to the top.

When we arrived at the fifth station the bus did a bit of a loop and dropped everyone off at the stop. While we had caught the first public bus up there was already a large amount of people up here due to private tour buses. There were also a few cars and people celebrating the fact that they’d managed to ride up on a bicycle.

The fifth station was more developed than we expected and contained a fair number of big buildings. It was pretty much located right at the point where the trees disappeared and the terrain turned to rock- though much of it was still covered in snow. It was quite cold outside and once we got off the bus we put on our bigger fleece jumpers.


The shops at the fifth station were tourist oriented and a mix of souvenir shops and restaurants. A particularly popular item for sale was corn, and the smell of it cooking was very tempting.

We had a look in one of the larger buildings and also found that apart from souvenirs a fair amount of hiking gear was for sale, including bottled oxygen for those climbing to the summit. Inside we also found a pamphlet that had a couple of various walking trails listed with a crude mud map.

Aside the products for sale, this building also had an outdoor viewing section that we climbed up to via some external stairs. We had tried the indoor stairs but they just lead to a restaurant.






The viewing area gave us a mostly unobstructed view of the top of Mt. Fuji. It was quite interesting viewing it from this close as we could see individual boulders and rocks with our naked eye. The flanks looked very steep. We could see lots of snow up there as well.

Behind us, in the distance we could see Lake Motosuko, one of the Fuji five Lakes.  

The lake is famous for its appearance on the ¥1000 note.


After taking lots of photos we headed back down to the ground level to investigate the various walking tracks. While we knew the hike to the top was currently closed we thought that we’d instead be able to walk the Ochūdo Trail that followed along the mountain. Unfortunately though, when we managed to track down the trail-head we found a banner across and a big sign stating that it was closed.

Bah!

Out of curiosity we also went over to where the accent climb continues and found that it was also completely closed to access. In fact, there was so much snow that even reaching the trail-head was a bit of a struggle.
 
This seemed to leave us with very little left to do now since we’d already had a good look at the view and shops. Any and all walking trails up and around the mountain were closed off and we still had quite a while until the bus was due to arrive.

There were some ponies you could ride around though neither of us had any particular desire to ride them.

We had another look at the walking map though and noticed that there was also a path leading down all the way to a bus stop at the third station. We thought then, that it might be fun to walk down and then get the bus back to Kawaguchiko as it went past. The map we had was pretty crude and we had a bit of trouble finding the start of the path- it’s located at the back of the lower car park.

We were not sure if we’d actually try and walk the whole distance since we had no idea if we’d be able to make the bus after next or not (the next left in 20minutes). If we didn’t get that following bus there would be no way we’d be able to make it all the way to the caves and back in time to reach Matsumoto. This would also mean we wasted our retro bus pass.

There was some information on the pamphlet and sign at the start of the track that stated that is would take 1.5-2 hours one way. It didn’t specify which way though and it would surely take much longer to climb up than down. At any rate we only had 70 minutes until the bus left the top. So things were already looking a little unlikely.

Since there was still a fair amount of time until the first bus left, instead of deciding what to do, we started walking down the path with the thought that we could decide to turn back or keep going a little later. The problem with this line of reasoning is- do we hurry to get to the bus at the bottom or take it easy since we’d have to climb all the way back up?

The path down was pretty steep and there were big patches of snow every now and again. I should also mention too that there were absolutely no other people anywhere near the start of the trail or at any point on it.

As we walked we got closer and closer to the point of no return, especially since it was going to take much longer to walk back up. Also, due to the incline we were walking at a pretty rapid pace and rapidly losing altitude.

After about ten minutes or so walking I had a look on my phone to see try and see if we could work out how far we had walked and what we had left. There was no internet but thankfully enough of Google Maps was pre-cached and from looking at the location of the Subaru Toll road (and our GPS location) I was able to work out that we hadn’t come very far at all.
From this we decided that there was really no way we'd make the first bus at the third station and even if we could it wouldn't be much fun to rush down anyway. This meant we could either head back up and get the first bus or keep going and get the next bus that came an hour and a half later at 13:20 (at the top).

Either way we had heaps of time and so we sat down on the side of the path to eat some of the snacks we had brought.

As we sat I had a look at the rocks around us. Many of them were very light since they were filled with pockets of air- similar to pumice (though not quite as bubbly).

These rocks are examples of Tephra and the bubbles are caused by gases produced when the volcano eruption. The gas froths up the molten rock and when it hardens (due to ejection into the atmosphere) this texture is preserved.

This tends to happen more in andersitc and rhyolitc volcanoes (which are more gassy) but Mt Fuji is a rare basaltic example.

One of the major distinctions between the types is the chemical compositions of the parent magmas and these differences in chemistry lead to the formation of different minerals and ultimately differences in colour.


Indeed, the rocks around us were quite dark. Almost black, though some of the older ones had weathered to the reddy iron rich soil typical of basaltic parent rocks.

The newer rocks were probably formed during the Hōei eruption of Mt Fuji, 300 years ago.

Alright!

I'll stop with the geology!

Moving on...

While we were eating we had another look at the bus timetables and wondered if we could reach the caves even if we made the first bus.

We also realised that if we did make the buses and got to the caves it would mean we wouldn't get to Matsumoto until at least 9pm and perhaps even later if we stopped somewhere for dinner. Since we were already having fun walking along the path we decided that we'd keep going and instead of getting the next bus we’d get the following one which left the top at 13:20.

I was pretty happy we didn't have to walk back up!

With heaps of time to spare we took it easy and enjoyed the walk.

The path was nice and wide and didn't have too many obstacles to navigate around though there was a large amount of loose volcanic rocks and melting snow that was very slippery if you walked on it. None of the snow completely covered the path though.

As we climbed down we noticed that the environment was changing; the snow gradually disappeared, ground turned from loose rocks into dark thick soil and the type and amount of trees and vegetation changed.

We had noticed on the bus ride up that there were large sections of forest where all the trees were knocked over and could also see this in the woods surrounding the path. What really struck us though was when we came upon a completely destroyed wooden building.

All that was left were bits of timber all knocked over facing the same direction.

I can't say for sure but my guess is that all this destruction is caused by avalanches that occur during winter when the area is covered in snow. Perhaps? I’m not really sure. If this is true it makes me wonder how safe the fifth station is from getting knocked over by snow or whatever other force caused this destruction.

A large flat circular clearing
As at the start we didn’t see or hear any other people on the trail.

There were only a few signs and the only one I remember looked very old.

At some point we had crossed into a region where the snow was well and truly gone and instead we found big patches of moss growing on the volcanic soil.

When we were nearly at the end the trail suddenly opened up into a large flat clearing!

This was a bit of a problem as there were about eight paths leading off in different directions. The clearing was marked on our map though it showed only three other paths.

The trail we exited from had out of had a bar across it and a Japanese road sign that meant something like no entry for vehicles- or perhaps no parking. They look similar and I can’t remember.

The map we had indicated that we should head straight across the clearing but we had a look at the other paths anyway to see if they had any signs. According to our map two of them should be part of the Funatsu route though we were unable to find anything indications on the paths themselves to confirm this.

When we tried going straight across we actually managed to find a similar entrance to the one behind it with that also had a no entry for vehicles (or not parking) sign.

As we approached we spotted a little sign that had said "三合目バス停 ->". It was pointing to the entrance we had found and means "Third station bus stop ->" in Japanese.

So we had found the right track!

The final section was different again to the previous parts and the path cut pretty deeply though the rocky soil at some points. Through the soil we could see tree roots penetrating down into the earth and air.

We were nearing the end of our walk and as we got closer to we could start to hear traffic noises coming from the road.

Suddenly we could see the end in sight and we emerged next to and slightly above the Subaru Toll Road.

We had descended nearly half a kilometre (600m) all the way down to a height of 1700m!

The path continued on from here along the road though we didn't as a nearby sign indicated that it diverged after a short distance and headed down the mountain in a different direction.

Instead, we crossed the road and walked over to the bus stop to check the bus times. Even with our somewhat leisurely pace we made it well before the bus was due and indeed in much less time than what the pamphlet indicated.


The bus we missed had left at 12:08 and we arrived at around 12:30, after 70 minutes walking.

A pretty good time considering that the map we had said it would take between 1.5-2 hours one way. Again, it doesn't specify direction but the map is very much drawn from the perspective of the fifth station so I think it's fair to say that the times are for going downhill.

If we had skipped lunch and really rushed we might have made the earlier bus but 22 minutes is a fairly large amount of time to catch up. It means we would've had to have done it 80% faster, which is a bit unrealistic.

At any rate, the next bus wasn't coming until 13:38 so we had heaps of time to wait.

I'm not sure if it's due an aging population or what but toilets are a very big deal in Japan. Information about any place you go always makes sure to include the number of facilities available and if in a rare circumstance there's none available this fact is stressed and instructions to the nearest are provided. If you go to a museum or garden you’ll them spread out everywhere such that you’ll never be far from relief.

The reason I bring up toilets is that Kate was absolutely busting to go and indeed the walking pamphlet we had indicated (in the Japanese text) that we could find toilets after a fifteen minute walk down the road at  the Jukaidai (樹海台駐車所 = Timber Tree + Sea + Pedestal + Stop-Over + Car + Place) car park. The actual map also had toilets marked in as a “WC” and the universal symbol, at the car park.

There was no real shoulder to shelter in during the walk down along the road but we did our best to stay left and not get hit by any of the cars and buses hurtling down the mountain.

After fifteen minutes we arrived at the car park and found the toilets. Attached to the toilets was a sign saying that the toilet had a fee during certain hours. Which seemed a bit strange.

The place was pretty small with space for maybe 15-20 cars and a few came and went while we were there. This was the first time we’d seen anyone since leaving to find the trail head up at the fifth station. The car park also functioned as a viewing area and we were able to get a good look out over the timber trees and the Kawaguchiko area.

Another thing worth mentioning about the car park is that there was a small building with canteen style roller doors and two large generators hooked up out behind it. I’m not sure what its purpose is but it looked very closed. 

There was still plenty of time until the bus was due to turn up so we decided to stop here and have the rest of the food we had brought as lunch. 

After we had eaten we thought we’d be better off waiting at the bus stop so started walking back up the road. We walked on the left (mountain) side going up and along the way we saw some steep steps and a sign in Japanese saying 富士の聖母像 (Fuji's Holy Mother Statue). I wasn’t too keen on climbing the steep looking stairs but Kate was curious and enthusiastically bounded up them. I was worried it would be a very long walk but as I reluctantly followed, Kate called out that she had reached the end.

What we found was some sort of altar/shrine and statue of Mary holding a baby Jesus. Behind the statue there were a large number of different interesting looking rocks with the name of the country they had come from (presumably) written underneath.

In Christian mythology, Mary (マリア = Maria) is the virgin mother of an incarnated form of the Christian God known as Jesus. In most sects of Christianity Mary herself doesn't have many powers but is worshipped (especially in Catholicism) as she was chosen by angels to carry God's baby. Jesus went on to empathise and de-empathise various aspects of Judaism and ultimately his teaching life and untimely death formed the basis of a new religion known as Christianity.

Now, by most western accounts this all happened in the Middle East. However similar to Mormonism in the USA, some Japanese people who had been converted to Christianity were not content to let some far flung corner of the globe have all the glory.

The story is expanded to account for a missing twelve year gap in the official account (the bible) of Jesus's life. It is said that after landing in Amanohashidate Jesus moves to Mt. Fuji and becomes a follower of a great master who teaches him theology, the Japanese language and eastern culture. Upon reaching the age of 33 Jesus then returned back to his hometown of Nazareth and the story picks up from where in left off in the bible.

I have no idea if this statue is a reference to this. Most likely not, as there's also more mainstream Christian activity going in Japan (about 1% of Japan is Christian), but I found the story interesting enough to share anyway.

In fact, I've just done some more research and discovered that this statue was built in 1963 to enshrine the Nun Sarejian and priest Sarejio (of Salesians of Don Bosco- named after St. Fancis), to give thanks to the 50 children saved during the war by escaping to Mt Fuji, and also to pray for world peace.

Apparently there was a bit of local opposition before construction from other groups and problems with government regulations so the builder appealed for help.

The rocks behind the statue are previous stones sent in from various countries to support the endeavour and the Salesians of Don Bosco (a Catholic Christian institute) donated the marble statue of Mary holding Jesus.

So it looks like I was completely off in my earlier speculation!

Anyway, after having a look at the statue we climbed back down the steep stairs and continued back to the bus stop to wait out the remaining time.

We were not completely sure if the bus would stop as although the times were marked, there were some footnotes that gave date ranges when the bus ran and what it went via. As far as I could tell it seemed alright but the utter lack of other people made us a bit nervous.

Another potential issue was our return ticket. It was to the fifth station and back and there was a note in Japanese stating that you couldn’t get on and off at different stops. I wasn’t completely sure but from what I could understand that you couldn’t, for example, get off at the third station and then get on the next bus to continue up the fifth. So not really the same as what we wanted to do. Also, although everyone had prepaid tickets, we did notice on the way up that the bus had the standard pay-as-you-disembark price display at the front and figured we could do that if the driver didn’t accept our ticket.

The traffic was moving pretty quickly along the road and we as didn’t want the bus to fly past us, we kept a sharp eye on all the buses that were going past. There were quite a lot of them and it looked like it would be hard to tell it apart from the private tour buses; what were looking for was basically just a paper sign saying something like  “行先富士山駅- 経由河口湖駅 (Destination: Fujisan Station via Kawaguchiko Station.

The scheduled time came and went and we started to get a bit nervous.

Would it show? 

Another worry, would there be enough seats? 
An electronic taxi I saw along the way somewhere

To our great relief a couple of minutes later we saw our bus appear and although I’m not sure if it’s the thing to do in Japan we enthusiastically waved it down.

After climbing into the bus we showed our tickets to the driver and he waved us aboard. The bus was fairly full and while we were lucky to find seats they were in separate locations. I sat next to a lady who kept falling asleep on me! The Japanese are expert public transportation sleepers and I'm not surprised that a big day up Mt. Fuji might have knocked a few out.

The bus trip back was relatively uneventful though at one point the “Kawaguchiko Gakkō Mae” (Kawaguchiko School) tripped up some other foreign tourists who pressed the bell after hearing “Kawaguchiko”. No one got off and they had to call to say they were sorry that it got accidentally pressed.

Not long later we arrived at the “Kawaguchiko Eki" stop (河口湖駅 = Kawaguchiko Station).

It was about 14:05 when we arrived and after consulting Hyperdia on my phone we decided to get the 15:16 train which would get us into Matsumoto at 18:34 with a 23 minute transfer in Ōtsuki and a 19 minute transfer in Kōfu (the prefectural capital). This gave us heaps of time to return to our hotel, pick up our luggage and have a last look at the area.

Tomas the tank engine bus won't get out of the way!
One of the sightseeing buses












Our luggage was against the wall where we had left it and the hotel reception desk person saw us off with a bow.

It was a pain dragging our heavy luggage all the way to the station especially since we took the longer way so we could stop in at a 7/11 to top up our monetary supplies.

At the station we used a vending machine to buy a normal ticket to Ōtsuki and once the train arrived we quickly walked to the platform and boarded in order to secure a seat. Unlike the limited express we had caught up yesterday, this train was a standard local commuter style and had long side seats running parallel to the train.

It wasn’t too full when we had got on but by the time we had travelled half way down the line it was quite full and a few people were standing. We took up a bit of room with our big luggage but tried to squish together as much as possible. 

At a certain point along our trip the train driver announced over the loud speaker that we should say goodbye to Mt. Fuji as it was the last time we were going to see him. 

Once we arrived at Ōtsuki we went over to the JR ticket window and used our Japan Rail Pass to reserve seats on the next Limited Express Kaiji train to Kōfu and the Limited Express Super Azusa to Matsumoto. Since we had a 23 minute wait we went and sat in a waiting room where I bought an ice-cream cone from a vending machine and a very strong ginger beer.  

When the time drew near we got up to go wait on the platform and boarded our train. As it was a limited express it had reasonably big seats that were forward facing though it was nothing as fancy as a shinkansen.

A freight train carrying petroleum spotted at Yamanashi-Shi Station
The name Kaiji has a few meanings in Japanese but since it was written in Hiragana I have to guess at the meaning. My Guess is "Pleasure, Delight". I think it's mainly just a name though.

Nope, I've just looked it up and it comes from 甲斐路 (Kaiji) which are a local big red grape produced in the Yamanashi Prefecture.

The name also means something like road to Kai (effort), if you look at it literally.

Just over half an hour later we arrived at Kōfu and  Kate said she wanted to go have a look at a convenience store for a drink. Once we arrived on the platform I offered to move our luggage to the right spot so she could go and have a look.

For some reason our seats were reserved in car one and I had to walk all the way down to the end of the platform. Unfortunately this was the smoking area and not long after Kate arrived back we had to  move away again as people had arrived and started to smoke.

I photo'd someone filming the train. I wonder if anyone photo'd me?
We were a bit troubled since a train was sitting at the platform the whole time we were waiting but wasn’t long enough to reach all the way down to the area marked as car one. I double checked the signs many times and it definitely matched our ticket.

Sure enough though, with only a minute or two to go, the train at the platform moved off and another bigger E351 series Super Azusa train replaced it. The name comes from the Azusa river (梓川 = Catalpa Tree + River) located in Matsumoto. The interior was not quite as nice as the Kaiji.

The trip was quite peaceful and followed along the valley of farmland and development that leads towards Matsumoto. There was a strange lady. Kate was concerned that our rail pass cord might separate from the plastic sleeve and used the trip to attach a backup piece of cotton. I did my cards as usual during long trips.

After our 66 minute tip and three hour and eighteen minute journey we arrived at Matsumoto in the early evening twilight.

The area in front of the station was quite clean and nice looking and after consulting the skyline and my phone we were able to track down the Matsumoto Richmond hotel and arrived after a 500m walk.

This hotel was much nicer than our previous two and we went up some elevators to the second floor to check in.


After having our passports scanned and filling in a form we were given a paper key and told what level our room was on. Since we were headed to Kamikōchi tomorrow and then to Matsumoto the next day, we had emailed a couple of hotels and asked if they were able to hold our big luggage while we were away.

All of the hotels we asked said we could but we decided on the Richmond since they had got back to us first and were the friendliest (the others were the Toko City Hotel Matsumoto and Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu). We were not sure if reception would be open early in the morning though so I asked during check-in and was told that it’s open 24 hours. Excellent!

Once we had our key we took our luggage up to our room and went out to find something for dinner.

We wandered around the street for a while having a bit of trouble finding something that wouldn’t have onions. There was one shop that looked pretty good and we saw some other westerns there cooking their own meat but we passed it up as it looked a little scary.

Kate remembered that there was a sign with some nice looking restaurants on it at the station and after heading over we managed to decide on a restaurant on an upper floor that had some nice looking food. Kate ordered some Udon and I got a Katsu and rice meal. The food was delicious and while we were eating the lady came around and asked us if we had any last orders since they were going to close in half an hour. We didn’t and were glad we managed to find the place before it closed.

Once we’d finished eating we took our docket up to the register and paid – I think it came to about 1000 yen each. Upon exiting we walked back through the station and saw that almost all the other restaurants in the station were also shut.

There was a Starbucks that was still open and I had a quick look inside to see if they had the cherry muffin I had enjoyed during the last trip. They didn’t, which was probably just as well since I was really pretty full from dinner.

After dinner we returned back to our hotel and sorted out a day pack for tomorrow’s trip to Kamikōchi. In addition to what I normally have in my little backpack, I put in the larger one a change of clothes, pyjamas, thongs, my laptop and some other personal effects. I also brought along my fleece jumper and my big thick goose down jacket- if I was ever going to need them I suspected that it would be during the next two days. The jumpers and laptop took up a fair bit of room but I managed to get everything to fit alright inside my backpack. Kate also brought along her version of pretty much the same stuff.

Before calling it a day, I’ll give a quick review of our hotel room. 

The hotel was nice, certainly a class or two up from our previous hotels. Not high class though. The room was reasonably sized with  new and modern amenities (excepting an old swivel chair). The bathroom and toilet were the standard unit type you find in most Japanese business hotels. Everything was clean and fresh and the front desk staff were friendly (in a business like way).

Here's some photos!


And that’s a day!


Bus timetable (reverse- map) From Fujisan Station and Kawaguchiko Station to Lake Saiko Inn (西子湖民宿 = Saiko-ko Minshuku), Shimobe Onsen town (下部温泉= Shimobe Onsenkyou) and New Fuji Station (新富士駅 = Shin Fuji Eki).

Tomorrow we’ll be catching some buses up to the famous double decked Shin-Hotaka ropeway before catching another couple of buses into the picturesque Kamikōchi valley.

The report should be out Monday, 29 July 2013 at 19:07

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