Maybe the Best Road Trip from Tokyo: Fujiyoshida

On our last day in Japan, we went to Fuji-yoshida, which is a town at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The image of Mt. Fuji with Chureito Pagoda in the foreground is one of the most iconic images of Japan. Go figure, I decided to go get the image for myself even if it involved driving through Tokyo and finally getting the picture in the midday light.

Getting to the Chureito Pagoda using public transportation is a 2.5 hour affair (at minimum) from the Conrad Tokyo and then connections and the ride back could take hours. Furthermore, it was the Saturday in Tokyo making traffic quite manageable. All these factors made it seem to me like a no brainer to rent a car and drive the 1.5 hours to Mt. Fuji.

I rented a compact car from Toyota Car Rental near Shimbashi station for around $70 all in. Finding the rental car office was the hardest part of the adventure because the location was inside a tiny hidden parking garage in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in Tokyo. Luckily, Japanese people are extremely helpful and someone I met on the street found out where it was and walked me right to the rental car center. I did eventually see a sign outside pointing me in the right direction:

 

I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to navigate the labyrinth of concrete on my first try without too many detours. After getting out of the city driving was fairly easy (if you have driven on the left before) and about an hour into the drive we were rewarded with fantastic views of Mt Fuji from the highway:

The Pagoda is actually located on top of a hill so the hike up is not exactly for the feint of heart or the physically unfit. Somehow my adrenaline got me up the steps fairly quickly with very little exhaustion. I had the entire place to myself for a good 15 minutes before the other visitors made it up the hill. The downside to the image I took was the mid morning light and lack of Cherry Blossoms.

After coming halfway down the hill, we decided to relax on the park bench and take in the views of Mt. Fuji before the sun was high enough to burn us (it was quite hot on that day in Tokyo).

Farther down the hill next to the bench are a couple of fantastic shrines, which include the photogenic Arakura Fuji Sengen Jinja, and some other named ones, which are a mouthful to say. Views of Fuji from these shrines are just as fantastic as up the hill, though you won’t get the pagoda in the foreground.

Sweaty from our little hike, we decided to get a drink and a bite to eat at a nearby 7-Eleven. There weren’t that many restaurants in the area serving vegetarian food outside some desserts and snacks so we decided to wait until we got back to Tokyo for dinner.

We drove around the area for a good bit, until we came upon Lake Gawaguchi, which is best seen during the morning when Mt Fuji is reflected on its waters.

I was planning on sticking around until sunset, but the clouds suddenly swept over Mt. Fuji as I was driving to a photography spot. This alongside the rest of the family being tired from the trip as a whole made me turn around and drive back to Tokyo. Exploring more of this region will have to wait until next time.


Bottom Line:

Visiting Chureito Pagoda in Fujiyoshida was certainly at the top of my bucket list of things to do in Japan and I’m glad I got to mark it off with a pencil. If I were to return to Japan, this would be where I would spend most of time because it really is where Japan shines as a destination for landscape photographers. Now that I have driving in Japan under my belt, it will also make things easier the second time around. Anyway if you are in Tokyo, go ahead and try to get out to Fujiyoshida for some of the best views of Mt. Fuji. If you are renting a car from the city, I highly recommend Toyota Car Rental, which appears to be the best the city has to offer.


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