I’m back to being make-up-less and taking ten minutes to get ready in the morning! But luckily I can actually wear underwear again now that I’ve caught up on my washing. Another morning began with my bag being neatly repacked, rucksack being stuffed to the brim and hair being thrown up into a messy bun, ready to get on the move again.
Our next adventure- Kawaguchiko- to spend a few days in awe of the stunning Mount Fuji. I thought I might cry when seeing her in the flesh for the first time. I don’t know why I have the urge to speak about her as if she’s a woman, it just feels incorrect calling Fuji ‘it’ and being a girl suits her. Maybe it’s the pretty white top?
No tears were shed but I literally jumped when I finally spotted her, after minutes of popping my head up and down out of the bus window, as if looking a bit more to the left or right would magically move the mountains and trees out of the way to reveal her.
Mount Fuji is so overpowering. Just like this massive, strong warrior in the sky, the people and cars and houses around her like worshippers. Clouds surrounded her like a white, woolly scarf and there was still a bit of snow on top.
Just when I thought the view from the bus was incredible enough, we then climbed up a wooden ladder to the observatory in our hostel and I jumped again. I had no idea we’d be staying that close. Mount Fuji was literally in our face. Sooo overwhelming. No camera (somehow) could pick up just how huge she looked, it was like being at arm’s length.
We stayed in ‘K- House mnt. Fuji’ and I don’t have a single negative point to make about this hostel. On top of having the perfect view of Fuji, it is a short walk away from shops, restaurants, a post office and shopping centre. The staff are friendly, every room is spotless, the showers are hot and powerful and they supply you with shampoo, body wash and conditioner.
Everyone has their own basket to put their food in and there’s also space in the fridge. They give you labels to mark what’s yours. It only costs 300yen to do laundry (including drying) and you can rent cheap bikes out with them, which they charge for 150yen an hour or 1000yen for the day. It’s really chilled here too, there are a lot of older people so it’s not really a party/ youth hostel, which I can imagine would be the worst kind of place to stay when you’re trying to have a mountain break.
We met another British man on our first night, who is partly from Indonesia, and we we’re discussing how nice it is to be out of the UK with all the horrible stuff going on there at the moment (the Manchester attack, the upcoming election etc.). Then the discussion on politics and ethics began. I’ve been trying not to have these conversations whilst away, but it’s really nice to meet like-minded people and talk it out. It gives you a bit more reassurance that there are good people out there too.
We had some fun plans for the following two days, consisting of bike riding to different lakes, shrines and temples and taking a walk up the nature trails to as far as we’re allowed to go up Fuji. Unfortunately they didn’t start off too great.
On our first day I planned on getting up early-ish, to make a black coffee and lounge out on one of the hammocks on the observatory, so I could just stare at Fuji for a while. That fell through when I saw it had been raining and the clouds were completely blocking the view. “At least it’s not raining now,” I thought, thinking that was probably it for the day. I was so wrong.
After making a healthy breakfast (I’m so happy now because we had a communal kitchen which means we can make our own food and I’m finally eating more fruit and veg again) we started our cycle ride to the Kitaguchi Hongu Sengen Jinja shrine.
What was meant to be a twenty minute cycle ride, turned into two hours of getting lost and asking random people who didn’t speak English for directions. It was so exciting and I was saying how nice it was not having internet on our phone; we could have used Google maps and been there straight away which would have ruined half the adventure. Not knowing where we were going and cycling down random streets and taking to random people was all part of the fun. And we’d feel ten times more accomplished when we finally found the shrine.
Mother nature started spitting at us and then she must have got annoyed that we weren’t paying any notice to her, so she started pissing on us. Really heavily. By the time we got to the shrine we were drenched and cold and there was no way of getting warm or dry. I looked at the different signs for nature trails and felt soo gutted that we couldn’t go and explore them. The shrine was easily the most impressive and beautiful one I had seen so far, but we couldn’t even enjoy that properly because rain kept getting in our eyes. We decided we could always come back after checking out on Saturday if the weather was better, or even stay another night.
The path and stairs leading up to the shrine had statues and huge trees either side, a ginormous torii gate stood over us, guarding the shrine. There were more well-type boxes where you could throw in some money and pray, as well as another fountain with ladles to cleanse yourself. I realised it was a bad idea after pouring cold water onto my already freezing and wet hands.
Luckily for us, there was a closed café on the site, which had free wifi. The rain showed no evidence of stopping any time soon, so we put Google maps on and got the route back to our hostel (the fast way not the two hour detour we initially took). I put my bright pink not-so-waterproof raincoat back on (it stuck to my skin and froze me even more) and our hilarious ride back began.
We were laughing so much at the situation we were in that I actually had to get off my bike at one point. In the middle of Japan, soaking wet in the rain, hands so cold they were twitching, trying to ride bikes up massive hills straining our faces, the complete opposite of what we had imagined our cute little bike ride and picnic to be.
A hot shower was heaven to go back to. The rest of the afternoon was spent scrapbooking, writing letters, cooking and drinking wine. We made a decision there and then that if the next day was going to be the same, we would have to stay another night to make the most of our time here.
And the next day was the same, actually was worse. I was gutted when I saw the sky was nothing but white clouds, still no Fuji in sight. The rain didn’t stop all day. When I asked about staying another night, our only option would have been getting a private room which was way too pricy. The next day was meant to be sunny, so we decided we would have to check out and leave our bags here and hopefully still get the chance to go and cycle round the lakes.
It was quite nice having a day of doing nothing in the end. I caught up with pretty little liars and watched a space documentary and had unlimited hot drinks. The hostel was so homely it felt like it was my house.
I had another bad sleep but the next morning felt like Christmas morning but better, so I wasn’t at all bothered about how tired I was. I was up at 7:30 and leaped out of bed to go and see if the weather was better. It was SOOO clear and sunny and Fuji was once again up in my face confronting me. I made my usual morningly black coffee and went up to the observatory to take it all in.
We checked out and got straight on two bikes to lake Kawaguchiko. The difference it made cycling in the sun and warmth was ridiculous. We managed to find the lake okay and the views were incredible. In the weeks leading up to leaving, I did a lot of Googleing (mainly on Japan because I’ve been most excited about coming here) and seeing Fuji from across lake Kawaguchiko was literally as if I’d got up one of the photos from Google and stepped right in.
Everything was so overwhelming and beautiful. I pictured the view in front of me- Fuji, the lake, the hills and trees- and imagined all of the houses and boats and people not being there. It really put in to perspective what an amazing place it is. So natural and stunning. As we cycled all the way around the lake I tried being as mindful as I could, appreciating the breeze on my skin and the loud crickets in the trees. Some points were really peaceful, others a bit busier. Some paths smooth, some rocky. At one point we went through these flower gardens and not only did they look vibrant and colourful, but they smelt amazing too. We saw an eagle gliding above us at one point also! It was a very different and perfect Saturday morning compared to the usual.
I’m currently writing this whilst sitting on the Shinkansen bullet train on the way down to Kyoto. It was such an expensive ticket (£91 = approx. £13,200yen) but we have lots of space and it’s going to save us so much time and effort and it’s SOOO FUN! It runs so smoothly and it’s bloody quick it feels like we’re levitating.
The next few days will consist of temple and shrine searching, street food, green tea ice-cream and the Bamboo forest. Exciting!