Kawaguchiko (河口湖)

Highway Bus from Tokyo Shinjuku to Lake Kawaguchi and Fuji-Q Highland

Highway Buses in Japan are a cheaper alternative to taking trains and if the travelling time to get to your destination is almost similar for both rail and bus, I will choose the latter as you can save quite a fair bit of money.

In this instance, the highway bus ticket from Shinjuku to Fuji-Q Highland or Lake Kawaguchi costs ¥1750 as at the date of this post, but taking the train will cost between ¥2080 to ¥4650 depending on which trains you are taking (i.e. fast/slow, reserved/non-reserved seating) and the number of times you’ll need to change trains. Do note that the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on these highway buses and you’ll need to buy a separate ticket. If you have already purchased a Japan Rail Pass, then it’s a no-brainer to take the JR trains to maximise your pass.

Both the Fujikyu and Keio Buses operate one to two direct buses per hour from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station (Keio Highway Bus Terminal) to Kawaguchiko Station in the Fuji Five Lakes region. The one-way journey takes close to two hours and most buses will stop at Fuji-Q Highland before arriving at Kawaguchiko Station.

Reservations are required for the Highway Buses and this can be done on-site at the bus terminal, by phone or online.

Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway Bus Reservation Center: 0555-73-8181
Keio Highway Bus Reservation Center: 03-5376-2222

For online reservations, click here (in Japanese only).

If you need help to search for the route「新宿~富士五湖線」, click here where I have already entered the search criteria to board from the bus terminal in Shinjuku.

More information:

Locating the Keio Highway Bus Terminal「新宿高速バスターミナル」- it is opposite Yodobashi Camera on this map.

This is how the street looks by day…

…and by night:

Try and collect your tickets at least one day before your date of departure, so that you don’t have to rush on the actual day (in case there is a long queue) and also to familiarise yourself with how to get there. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to get lost navigating the streets to locate the bus terminal on your departure day and miss the bus!

Collection of bus tickets for departures on the next day and beyond can be done at the 2nd floor of the bus terminal building. Look for this door:

When you get to the ticket office, please take a number and wait for your turn.

On the day of your departure, look out for the correct bus bay for your destination. The bus departure times and their destinations will be displayed on the digital signboards.

Lastly, to ensure that you have boarded the correct bus, the destination will also be displayed on the TV screen located at the front of the bus.

For those planning to visit Fuji-Q Highland, you will alight at the Highland Bus Station「富士急ハイランド」. This is located on the left of the parking area at the Highland Resort Hotel & Spa, which is near one of Fuji-Q Highland’s entrances.
[Map]

Those who want to explore the Lake Kawaguchi area should alight at Kawaguchiko Station「河口湖駅」.
[Map]

If the weather is clear, you should be able to see Mount Fuji behind the train station building. Unfortunately if it is a rainy day, the mountain will be totally hidden in the clouds. The picture above was taken in the early afternoon and on a somewhat rainy day. Usually the clouds will start to descend from mid-morning onwards, so the best time to take good pictures of Mount Fuji without much cloud cover would be in the early morning.

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Categories: Fujiyoshida (富士吉田), Japan, Kawaguchiko (河口湖), Tokyo (東京) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Kachikachiyama Ropeway 「カチカチ山ロープウェイ」

Kachikachiyama Ropeway「カチカチ山ロープウェイ」 is located along the lower eastern part of Lake Kawaguchi and this ropeway takes visitors from Kawaguchiko-han station「河口湖畔駅」 (altitude: 856m) to Fujimidai station「富士見台駅」 (altitude: 1075m) on Mount Tenjo (1104m).

The ropeway operates at 5-10 minute intervals and it only takes 3 minutes to get to the top, where visitors can take in the panoramic view of both Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. Some people consider this to be one of the most breathtaking views in Japan!

Autumn foliage can be also seen here along the path of the ropeway from early to mid-November.

Cute cartoon-like statues of a Japanese raccoon dog (tanuki) and rabbit (usagi) can be found almost everywhere – from the entrance of the ropeway, on top of the ropeway cars, as well as at the observation deck at Fujimidai station.

It wasn’t until I was writing this post and did a little research on these characters that I discovered there is a cruel and gruesome story behind them which is definitely not a kids’ fairytale! Mount Tenjo is the setting of a Japanese folktale “Kachikachiyama” (i.e. Mount Kachikachi or click-click mountain), which the ropeway is named after and in this story, a rabbit seeks revenge (on behalf of an old Japanese couple) on a thieving Japanese raccoon dog by setting him on fire and drowning him in a river. Gosh…and I thought they looked so cute and innocent!!

At Kawaguchiko-han station「河口湖畔駅」:

Information Board:

Inside the building:

My round-trip Ticket for the ropeway:

Even the signage here have tanuki and rabbit motifs!

There are 2 ropeway cars plying the route and one has a tanuki atop it and the other has a rabbit.

I didn’t manage to get a good photo of the ropeway car with the rabbit but you can see parts of it in the picture below.

A souvenir ink stamp (free) can be obtained from the arrival/departure platform – all you need is to ensure you have a blank piece of paper with you. Sometimes these tourist spots do provide some paper but it’s good to always carry some in your bag (just in case you want to collect similar ink mementos!).

Ok, let’s go check out the view!

Wow…we can see almost all of Lake Kawaguchi from here!

Information boards on Mt Fuji and the story of Kachikachiyama can be found at the observation deck.

On a clear day, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Mt Fuji.

I just had to take a panoramic shot!

In spring, you can take pictures of Mt Fuji and cherry blossoms in the same shot!

Another shot of Mt Fuji and the Fuji-Q Highland theme park can be seen in the direction of 8 o’clock in the photo below.

This is the scene from the folktale where the tanuki was carrying some firewood on his back and the rabbit used two stones to start a fire with a click-click sound (i.e. kachi kachi) and when the tanuki asked the rabbit what the sound was, he replied that it was kachikachiyama and that they were so close to the mountain that they could hear it.

There is a free photo-taking service at this spot and you can get a complimentary postcard with your picture on it. Of course, a bigger (and nicer!) picture is available for purchase at ¥1000 but there is no obligation on your part to buy it. The postcard/photo can be collected at the counter located outside the teahouse/souvenir shop about 10 min after you’ve had your picture taken.

Here’s a look at the complimentary postcard…

…and the bigger photo which can be bought at ¥1000 – which do you think is nicer?

On the observation deck, you can also find the heart-shaped Bell of Tenjo「天上の鐘」, which is one of the photo spots with Mt Fuji as the backdrop. The Japanese believe that this is a “power spot” for good health, as well as success in love. 本当に? 面白いですね!

Refreshments and some souvenir items can be purchased at Tanuki-Chaya「たぬき茶屋」, which is probably the only refreshment stop on Mt Tenjo.

One of the most popular souvenir items at this shop is the Kachikachiyama Senbei「カチカチ山せんべい」, which is a rice cracker snack.

More antics from this pair…

In addition, bird watchers may like it here as there are quite a number of feathery friends to look out for. I spotted a Japanese White-Eye (Zosterops japonicus), also known as the mejiro「メジロ」…

…and also chanced upon the Brown-Eared Bulbul (Hypsipetes amaurotis), also known as hiyodori「ヒヨドリ」.

Most visitors tend to purchase a round trip ticket for the ropeway but if you can afford to spend more time here, there is a hiking trail from the observation deck down the forested mountain slope, which takes about 45 minutes to get to the bottom. Hydrangeas bloom here from mid-July to early-August so you can see them on the way down.

Several other hiking trails also exist and there is a different trail which takes you from the observation point uphill to a small shrine at the summit of Mount Tenjo (10 min), and from there the trail continues on to Mount Mitsutoge「三つ峠山」 (1785m). This is a popular day hike (about 3½ hours) with good views of Mount Fuji. Ask at the Kawaguchiko Tourist Information Centre for a map if you are keen to go hiking.

I ended my trip here with one last look at Mr Rabbit who looked like he was deep in contemplation…


Address:
1163-1 Azagawa, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minami-tsuru-gun, Yamanashi, Japan.

Operating Hours:

Dates

Open

Close

1st April to 15th April

09:00

17:10

16th April to 15th Oct

09:00

17:20

16th Oct to 30th Nov

09:00

17:10

1st Dec to 28th Feb

09:30

16:40

1st Mar to 31st Mar

09:00

17:10

Website:
In English – http://www.fujikyu.co.jp/en/leisure/leisure13.html
In Japanese – http://www.kachikachiyama-ropeway.com/
I usually prefer to check the Japanese websites as they contain more detailed information than their English pages but I guess it depends whether you can understand Japanese (or perhaps use a web translation software?).

Prices:
Adult: ¥720 Round-trip; ¥410 One-way
Child: ¥360 Round-trip; ¥210 One-way

Discount coupons for the ropeway can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre at Kawaguchiko station or from this link – http://www.kachikachiyama-ropeway.com/contents/common/images/pdf/ticket20140426.pdf

Getting There:
10 minutes on foot or 5 minutes by Fujikyu Bus from Kawaguchiko Station「河口湖駅」.

Retro buses (Kawaguchiko Sightseeing Bus “Red Line”) depart every 20 mins from Kawaguchiko Station and take between 11-16 min to reach the Sightseeing Boat/Ropeway Entrance bus stop (also called the Yuransen Ropeway Iriguchi bus stop 遊 覧 船・ロ ー プ ウ ェ イ 入 口).

A 2-day pass for the Kawaguchiko Line (i.e. Red Line) is available for ¥1030, while a 2-day pass for all Retro buses (both Red and Green Lines) costs ¥1340.

Categories: Japan, Kawaguchiko (河口湖), Travel, Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Houtou Noodles 「ほうとう」 – a Yamanashi specialty

Houtou or Hōtō 「ほうとう」 is a popular noodle hotpot dish (nabemono), which is local to Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan. You can find this local specialty around the Fuji 5 Lakes region at specialized restaurants, hotels, ryokan and other eating establishments.

This dish is often served in an iron pot and its soup is traditionally a miso based broth with pumpkin and other seasonal vegetables added. In addition, the noodles in the soup resemble extra thick udon noodles and they are chewier too!

Apparently, in the early days the locals tried to popularize hōtō as a tourist food by advertising it as the meal consumed by Takeda Shingen, the regional warlord during the era of warring states, and his samurai soldiers before going into battle.

I had previously seen hōtō being featured in one of the Japanese travel programmes on TV and as I had planned a short trip to Lake Kawaguchi, I made it a point to go try this hotpot. There are several restaurants which serve this dish but I was on a tight schedule and couldn’t afford to spend too much time travelling around for food, thus I picked the most convenient restaurant to get to, which is located directly opposite from the train and bus stations.

The exterior of the restaurant is covered with wooden panelling which makes it look like one of those traditional Japanese houses.


Main entrance to the restaurant:

The restaurant was quite full and we had to share a table with two Japanese ladies. We then placed our orders for the Houtou noodles (¥1080 per serving, inclusive of tax) and the table was set as per the picture below.

That squarish metal thingy is similar to a trivet, on which the hot iron pot will be placed on.

Wow…the serving looks quite big and I noticed that the 2 Japanese ladies who were seated next to us were unable to finish them. Most diners had ordered one pot of noodles each and we had followed suit.

Do be careful as the iron pot is hot and from the signs found at each table, you have already been warned!

The next photo will give you an idea of how big the iron pot is – you can either eat directly from the pot or transfer the noodles into the smaller bowl which is provided.

I couldn’t help overhearing the two Japanese ladies’ conversation as we were sharing the same table and they were talking so animatedly and trying to search for pieces of pumpkin in their pots of noodles but only one of them managed to find some and the other said she couldn’t find any, so she concluded it was completely dissolved in her soup! Hmm…upon hearing that, I started looking in mine to see if I could find any pieces of pumpkin in my pot of noodles and managed to find one which wasn’t dissolved! Yay!! It was nice and soft and tasted sweet. ^_^

I must say that the noodles were delicious and the soup was a hearty broth which really warms your heart as well as stomach! The ingredients were very fresh and the pumpkin soup had a nice consistency which was neither too thick nor watery. Believe it or not, I managed to finish everything! Yes, it was THAT good!!

When you are ready to make your payment, bring the bill that was placed faced down on your table, to the cashier counter. The restaurant also sells some local foodstuffs from around the region which you can purchase as souvenirs.


Address:
HOUTOU FUDOU 「ほうとう不動」
山梨県南都留郡富士河口湖町船津3631-2
(opposite Kawaguchiko station)

Phone: 0555-72-5560

Opening Hours: 11am 〜 7pm
If you are planning to dine here in the evenings or after 4pm on a weekday, please phone ahead to confirm the restaurant’s closing time as they will usually close shop when the noodles run out.

Getting There:
It takes half a minute to walk across to the restaurant from the Kawaguchiko train and bus stations.

By Train from Tokyo:
From Shinjuku take the JR Chuo Line「中央線」, change at Otsuki station「大月駅」 to the Fujikyu Railway「富士急行線」 to Kawaguchiko Station「河口湖駅」, which is the final stop.

By Highway Bus from Tokyo:
From Shinjuku’s West Exit Highway Bus terminal, board the Highway Bus headed for Kawaguchiko「河口湖」 or Yamanakako「山中湖」 and alight at Kawaguchiko Station「河口湖駅」.


There are 3 other branches of this restaurant besides the one which I visited.

North Kawaguchiko Head Store – 10 min by taxi from Kawaguchiko station.

South Kawaguchiko Store – 5 min by taxi from Kawaguchiko station.

Higashi Koiji Store – 8 min by taxi from Kawaguchiko station.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can choose to visit this branch of the restaurant as it is housed in a specially designed building which resembles a cloud (I personally think it looks like an igloo!).


Map Image Credit: Houtou Fudou

Categories: Japan, Kawaguchiko (河口湖), Travel, Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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