I love returning to the town of Kawaguchiko by Lake Kawaguchi. It’s so chill out here, the surrounding nature is stunning and easily reached and then there’s so much to enjoy: thermal pools, museums, hikes and a theme park. If you are wondering about all the things to do in Kawaguchiko, here’s my top list.
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How to get around Lake Kawaguchiko
The really make the most of visiting the region, get the two bus ticket at the trains station. I wrote a 2 day itinerary for Fuji Five Lakes with more tips on the bus lines and what to keep in mind. So I won’t go into detail here.
In overview: it’s a great deal, it’s affordable and you have easy access to the main attractions around Kawaguchiko. There are quite a lot, so the map you’re given with your ticket should be your constant companion. It has everything listed, including cool photo spots.
Being located next to one of the lakes of the Fuji Five Lakes region, the lake itself is worthy of exploration. You can take a walk around it. Rent a swan-shaped paddle boat from Ensoleille at the Southeastern part of the Lake. Alternatively, do some fishing or take the bus for a scenic drive around.
There are several places from which you can enjoy stunning views over the lake and with Mt Fuji as the backdrop, such as Omagari Observation Square. This one is particularly great in the mornings when the early light illuminates Fuji. Or you can see Fuji as a black silhouette against a bright red sunset.
If you’re not visiting during Japan’s cherry blossom time, come when the lavender blooms and visit Yagizaki Park. From here you can see Moun Fuji framed by beautiful flowers – the perfect photo opportunity!
A Japanese onsen has very specific rules, such as no swimwear, set cleansing rituals and you really can’t stay in too long or you’ll get dizzy. Some are gender separate, some are mixed. Some are private but ryokans and hotels typically open up their onsen for public day visitors, too.
If you’re lucky, you can enjoy a view over Mount Fuji from your steaming bath as well, such as from the top floor baths I enjoyed at my hotel Kawaguchiko Station Inn.
For a modern public onsen, visit Yurari. It features indoor and outdoor pools that are gender segregated and offer Mt Fuji views. If you’re really uncomfortable with nudity, you can rent a private bath.
Another modern onsen is Fujiyama Onsen, next to Fuji Q. Again, they are gender separate and come with outdoor and indoor pools. There are no mountain views.
There are two times you absolutely should visit Oishi Park when travelling Kawaguchiko. That is for lavender season during The Herb Festival in early summer and the vibrant red bassia scoparia bushes in October.
This doesn’t mean the park isn’t worth a visit during any other time. On the contrary, in spring and then summer, you can marvel at flowers fields made form tulip, narcissus, rape, moss phlox and begonia flowers.
Address: Japan, 〒401-0305 Yamanashi, Minamitsuru District, Fujikawaguchiko, Oishi, 2585-2 地先
The “sakura of the floor”, officially called shibazakura (moss phlox), can be seen in its most stunning gardenscaped form at Shibazakura Festival. There are other such flower festivals in Japan but this one is definitely one of the best.
Visit in very late April and early May to see the peak, when the entire flower beds bloom in pastel purples, pinks and white. (If you come too early, this happens.)
The entrance fee includes a return bus ride from Kawaguchiko. Visit early in the morning to skip the crowds that descend upon the park.
Fuji Fifth Station
There is a direct bus from the train station up to Fifth Station of Mt Fuji. This is perfect for when the upper stations of Mt Fuji aren’t opened yet, which is most of the year. Only when the snow is entirely gone in late August or early September, are people allowed to climb Fuji all the way. This typically lasts two weeks.
It’s good idea to organise a guide for a hike of Mount Fuji. They can prepare you for such an undertaking and know the trail well. Plus, there will be lots of crowds and queues at certain times and they know how to handle or prevent those. You can reserve your tour here.
So if you come during any other time, then you can still hike up to Fifth Station or catch the bus and walk down (or get driven back). The tickets can be bought in the trains station and cost 1540 yen one way and 2300 yen for a round trip. A ride takes about 50 minutes.
Bus leave hourly if the weather permits going up there. During July and August, it can be twice an hour. Always check at the train station early on the day for updates.
Up at Fifth Station is a house with a restaurant, souvenir shop and toilets. It’s a very touristy thing but they sell cakes in the shape of Mount Fuji with powdered sugar on top. They really did taste nice and are worth a try.
Fujisan World Heritage Center
Of course, Mount Fuji (in Japanese: Fuji-yama, 富士山; also referred to as Fuji-san) is the main highlight of Kawaguchiko. But it’s not just stunning, there is so much you can learn about it.
To really dig deep, plan a trip to the Fujisan World Heritage Center. It is an information centre with two halls that will eduate you on seismology and what role the mountain has played in Japanese culture.
Especially impressive is the washi paper Mount Fuji model hanging from the ceiling. Admission is free.
Address: 5-12 Miyacho, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka 418-0067, Japan
There are several caves around the lakes. Each of them is slightly different but they are all rather small and pretty cold. You can see a couple of them in a day by using your 2 day bus ticket and getting off at the respective stops.
With all of the seismic activities and the layers of cooled down lava, the area around Mount Fuji is ver fertile and partially porose, which lead to the formation of special caves.
The served various purposes, including ice storae and silk worm pupe siloing. Three of those narrow caves near Kawaguchiko can be visited by the public, though not their entire lengths. These are Bat Cave, Ice Cave and Wind Cave.
Iyashi no Sato
One of the most interesting things to do in Kawaguchiko for history and culture nerds is Iyashi no Sato. It’s a restored historic village that allows you to see what life in the olden days was like.
The huts are in atypical architectural style and you can enter them to look over the shoulder of local craftsmen. You can buy items such as pottery, washi paper or wood carvings as well as uniquely flavoured soft ice cream, soba noodles and Japanese dumplings.
Admission is 350 yen and it’s part of the green bus line. It’s about an hour away by bus, so plan your visit accordingly.
Address: Japan, 〒401-0332 Yamanashi, Minamitsuru District, Fujikawaguchiko, Saiko, 根場 ２７１０
Another traditional village is Oshino Hakkai (忍野八海) . It is right by eight small and partially rather deep ponds that are fed by springs coming from Mount Fuji. The location is said to be auspicious and you can learn more about that onsite.
The village itself is rather touristy, however. You can dine in the cafes or shop souvenirs, such as printed handkerchiefs, silk hangers and more. I had some trouble with the bus picking me up after my visit, so make sure to return to the bus stop you got off at and stand in plain sight.
Address: Shibokusa, Oshino, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0511, Japan
Tenjō-Yama Park Mt. Kachi Kachi Ropeway
Like I mentioned, there are nice hiking tails around Lake Kawaguchi. Some lead along the shores, others into the forest and you can get up mountains, of course. If you’re not too keen on uphill climbs, sit back in the Kachi Kachi ropeway (天上山公園カチカチ山ロープウェイs) and let yourself be transported up. A one way trip is 500 yen and with return it’s 900 yen.
In total there are two cabins with a height of 219m above ground, a gradient of 34° and a length of 460 metres. Kawaguchiko’s ropeway opened in 1959 on Mount Tenjō. The name refers to the gruesome local folktale “The Farmer and the Badger”.
There is an observatory on the top to enjoy the views over the Lake and up to the Aokighara forest below Mount Fuji. If you want to go on a hike after all, make your way from Tenjo to Mount Mitsutoge on foot, which is a 6 hour return hike.
To get a sweet deal on the ropeway ticket as well as a visit to the Narusawa ice cave and Fugaku wind cave, join a guided tour. Such a tour that I found tkaes 10 hours and you’ll be picked up from your hotel by an English speaking guide.
A traditional Houtou lunch is included in the price and you also get to tour a Sake brewery. Of course, you can also taste some sake. Reserve your spot in the tour here.
Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum
The name is a bit odd and it’s not entirely what you might expect. Rather than a real museum or forest, it’s a smaller theme park near Kawaguchi Lake.
The design of Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum (河口湖オルゴールの森 ) is basically a Japanese interpretation of the vibe you get from the Sound of Music. Set to an Alps like mountain backdrop with European-style houses, automatic musical instruments start serenading you.
The largest of these is a a French organ from 1905 for which an entire hall has been built to really allow for the best sound experience.
Depending on what season you visit, the theme will be adapted and it’s therefore a cool place to visit in Kawaguchiko no matter the time of year. Admission is 1500 yen.
Address: 3077-20 Kawaguchi, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0304, Japan
Yamanashi Gem Museum
It’s no surprise that the prefecture of Yamanashi exhibits precious stones and metals, has it been the most important industry for both in all of Japan. On display are 3,000 precious stones and gems both from domestic and international sourcings.
The Gem Museum reveals the process from the raw stone to the polished product and you buy some in the museum shop as well. The main highlight, however, is the giant crystal group with one stone weighing 1270 kg.
The entry is 600yen for adults. The museum is open daily in summer and closes Wednesdays and on special holidays the rest of the year.
Address: 6713 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0301, Japan
Kawaguchiko Herb Hall
A little bit of a different museum in Kawaguchiko, you will find a unique introduction into the world of herbs and fragrant/healthy plants at the Herb Hall. Everything here is herb themed and there is a shop selling herbs too.
You can take part in craft classes, creating dry flower wreaths, flower paperweighs or scented aromas. For a special treat, have a taste of the lavender soft ice cream.
Address: 6713-18 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0301, Japan
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center
Right in the middle at the northern ridge of Lake Kawaguchiko lies Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center. It’s ideal for stocking up on regional fare and produce. Japan is really proud of its food, so this is a definite must for foodies.
They stock handmade marmalades and you can even attend courses and workshops learning how to turn blueberries into jam. You need to reserve your spot in advance and it’s for at least two persons. Sessions are seven times a day, last 50 minutes and cost 850 yen per person.
Another cool thing you can do here is to pick your own fruit. If you really want to get the full experience, taste the blueberry soft ice cream that’s sold in the café.
Address: 2585 Ōishi, 富士河口湖町 Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi 401-0305, Japan
Kawaguchiko Konohana Museum
Upon first glance you might feel like in Europe. Inside, you’ll feel like in a cat lovers dreamland. This cat art museum is quite eccentric indeed. The artist Ikeda Akiko sought to create a mysterious land with the main protagonist being the cat Dayan.
A special feature of the museum is its elegant café serving dishes made from homegrown strawberries and tea time specialties. If you time your visit right, you can attend a live music concert too.
The museum is daily all year round with varying opening times depending on the season. Entrance is 500 yen.
Address: 3026-1 Kawaguchi, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi 401-0304, Japan
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
For more traditional Japanese art in yet another rather unique setting, try the Kubota Itchiku Art Museum. The museum halls are made from Okinawan coral and limestone with one hall constructed from massive timber.
This is all to provide a grand canvas to the excellent kimono art by Kubota Itchiku (1917-2003). The kimonos are hung from the walls of the hall in a semi circle and their colours really come to life in the natural lighting from the ceiling.
The art of silk dyeing has sadly been basically lost and was used mostly during the Muromachi Period (1333-1573). When he learnt about it, Kubota Itchiku dedicated the rest of his life to mastering and preserving it.
Address: Japan, 〒401-0304 Yamanashi, Minamitsuru District, Fujikawaguchiko, Kawaguchi, 2255
Gotemba Premium Outlets
If you are totally into fashion and really want to go on a shopping spree, Kawaguchiko isn’t the place to be. BUT… you can join a tour from Tokyo to Fuji with a stop at the popular Gotemba Premium Outlets (御殿場プレミアム・アウトレット).
Note that it’s mostly premium brands and not typical and mor affordable high street, such as you can get in big cities like Tokyo. Prices can be slightly highe than in North American and Europe.
For more quirky fashion shopping in Japan, this isn’t neccessarily the place. But on the other hand, you can enjoy some sweet outlet discounts on big brands.
Address: 1312 Fukasawa, Gotemba, Shizuoka 412-0023, Japan
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