December 25, 2017

Kawaguchiko, Japan – Itinerary and planning (2 days) – part 2 of 3

This is part 2 of my Japan trip (which I am breaking up into 3 parts, like below)
– 3 days itinerary for Kyoto (link)
– 2 days (0.5 + 1 + 0.5) itinerary for Kawaguchiko (one of the Fuji Five lakes, for Mt. Fuji appreciation)
– 3.5 days itinerary for Tokyo (sans Disney Resort), 2 days itinerary for Disney Resort (Disneyland and DisneySea) (link)

Initially, I wanted to do a longer Kawaguchiko excursion – like maybe, a 4-day visit instead of just 2. I felt that there’s so much to explore in the area (and also to partly increase the odds of seeing Mt Fuji. The elusive view of Mt Fuji is infamous for getting obscured by clouds/fogs or inclement weather). But because my daughter and wife wanted to do Disney at Tokyo, I had to plan for a 2-day excursion instead. The actual plan was a bit different for us, instead of a clean 2 days, it’s more like 0.5 day, followed by a full day, and then the final day another 0.5. That’s because on Day 4, I had to take the bullet train (Tokaido Shinkansen) from Kyoto to Mishima, and then a bus to Kawaguchiko area. That takes up the whole morning and left me the 0.5 day. The final 0.5 day was for the afternoon travel to Tokyo by bus. So, you see, that made it hard for me to use the 2 day unlimited bus pass for Kawaguchiko lake area. That was why I planned for a location that’s out of the unlimited pass coverage area to myself feel better about not losing out too much (psychological).

To make things easier, I’m going to simplify the itinerary into flat 2 days instead.

Anyway, here’s a disclaimer (copy/pasted from the Part 1):

– Since I’d traveled all the locations above in the same trip, my actual itinerary took longer than just 10 days. It was close to like, 13 days (1 day for Bangkok, 1 day for traveling between areas in Japan, 1 day for inbound/outbound flight and misc time loss). If you’d like to follow the exact itinerary listed above for all the areas, you might want to account an extra 2 – 3 days to the 10 days.
– In December, Japan has a relatively short daylight (like Taiwan). It starts to get dark at about 4pm, so naturally, I shifted the daylight loss by starting earlier in the morning.
– It’s also getting very cold in December (although not the coldest yet). If you have a fear of cold, you might want to just go to somewhere hotter instead.
– This is an itinerary post, I’ll do a separate post for what I think about the places I’ve visited.
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my 11-yo daughter, and myself. I managed to hit > 95% of what I’ve planned, with almost perfect timing accuracy. If you’re planning for a group of more than 4, this probably won’t work as well for you.
– The main objective is sightseeing and to experience Japan (with the final 2 days in Disney Resort). The itineraries involve a lot of walking, averaging about 20,000 steps each day. That’s roughly about 16km of walking per day. If you’re not into walking or has a fat ass, this is probably not your kind of shit. (Go find one of those gay tours)
– The itinerary hinges on the assumption that you’d do your own planning/research on the public transportation. You can choose to splurge on taxi or go smart by subway/bus. Doesn’t matter. Just Google around for info.
– If your religion prohibits you from visiting buildings or monuments of other religious faith, this won’t work for you too. (Japan has a lot of temples, shrines and pig related obsession from its culture to food).
– The day to day planning can be shuffled around, depending on your dates of travel, as some of the places might be closed on certain day of the week. So, check your schedule vs the places of interests during your planning.
– This is just my own planning. It may not be as good as others’. If you think there are flaws with my planning, that’s probably because I’m an amateur.

Prep (general)
Winter clothing – It’s about 5 – 10 degrees in December. You might want to get something that is able to warm you up. Innerwear, winter jacket, beanie hats, gloves. Personally for me, 5 – 10 deg C is just like my lab on an average day – so I survived with just a waterproof windbreaker with a pair of gloves on standby. On days that dipped to near zero, I had my gloves on.

Lodging – Kawaguchiko is a tourist town, therefore, some of the hotel rates are pretty mind bogglingly high, especially those close to the Kawaguchiko Station. Some run down hotel (motel) could set you back for about MYR 400 – 500. Your best bet is to stay a little bit further from the station for better and more comfortable lodging options.

2 day bus pass – Bus fare around Kawaguchiko is very expensive. It’s about the rate of a fucking taxi in Malaysia. So it is good to get the unlimited ride bus pass to get around Kawaguchiko (even that would set you back for about JPY1200 per pax). Check it out here. You can buy this pass at the Kawaguchiko train station. And oh, IC payment is not accepted on the sightseeing loop bus here (it’s fucking crazy I know).

Meal budget: Japan is an expensive place for food. Expect to budget around MYR150 on average per person per day for lunch+dinner. This is a very economic figure with expectations on occasional bread-on-the-go kind of meal. If you’re into 100% dine-in restaurants, you’d need to double the amount.

Offline map – While Google Maps is very dependable for figuring out public transportation needs, it sucks for navigating streets or off road footpath on foot. For this need, get yourself an offline map app like OsmAnd, which uses Openstreetmap and allows you to navigate without having an active internet/data connection, just plain old GPS. I use this app 80% of the time, including navigating Disneyland and Disneysea. Make sure you tag the places you want to visit prior the trip.

Google translate – It has this little camera icon under the text translation page that allows you to translate Japanese characters in real time. This will come in handy figuring out if it’s beef or chicken you’re trying to buy…

Moisturizers – You need something strong that allows you to hydrate your skin. Get something like petroleum jelly or anything that sticks to you like an industrial grade grease… otherwise, you risk of getting winter itch or eczema which can inverse your holiday with woes and suffering from the dry winter weather. Oh, don’t forget the lip balm too.

Umbrella – It’s not likely to rain in December (weather check) at Japan, but get yourself a couple of travel umbrellas for fuck’s sake.

Day 1: Mt Kachi Ropeway and Hike + Kawaguchiko North Coast walking trail

0800 – 0900: Breakfast. Energy to last you for the day.

0900: Head over to Kawaguchiko Station (location). If you’re staying near, you can do this on foot. But if you’re staying further away, you’d need to take a train to Kawaguchiko Station. Fare is anywhere between JPY170 to JPY300 depending on how far you are.
With the 2 day unlimited bus pass, board the red line bus for Mt Kachi Ropeway (Kachi Kachi Yama) カチカチ山ロープウェイ (Stop #11).

0930: Mt Kachi Ropeway (Kachi Kachi Yama) カチカチ山ロープウェイ (location). Admission JPY 450 per pax (cheaper for kids) for 1 way up. You get cheaper rates for round trip. But we aren’t going for the round trip. Spend some time at the observatory deck at the upper station of the cable car, it’s quite a view up there (see cover pic for Day 1). (wiki link)

1030: Hike down from Kachi Kachi Yama observatory (location). Treat it like a morning walk, all the way down to the base station. Hike should be easy to tackle, takes about an hour or longer if you decided to explore a bit. There’s also a path leading up to the Mt Tenjo peak, that’ll obviously take longer for you to hike up and descend back to the base.

1130: Lunch at one of the many spots around the lake area near Kachi Kachi Yama base station.
Once done, take the same red line bus from bus stop #11 to Kozantei Ubuya (Stop #15 – location).

1230: Ubuyagasaki Shrine & viewpoint 産屋ヶ崎神社(location). Walk here from the Stop #15 to enjoy the viewpoint of Mt Fuji and its surrounding scenery. Spend as much time as you like here. 30 mins should be ideal. Then walk towards the Kawaguchiko North Coast walking trail 河口湖北岸ウォーキングトレイル.

1300: Kawaguchiko North Coast walking trail 河口湖北岸ウォーキングトレイル (location). Scenic trail along the lake, while enjoying the view of Mount Fuji. Walk towards the Maple Corridor もみじ回廊. Allow yourself an hour to complete this walk at a leisurely pace.

1400: Maple Corridor もみじ回廊 (location). Place is at its peak during the falls, which you’ll see the fall colors of the maple leaves. Once done, head over to the nearest red line bus stop, and head towards Kawaguchiko Natural Living Museum (Stop #22 – location).
Walk towards Oishi Park 大石公園 from Stop #22.

1500: Oishi Park 大石公園 (location). Another scenic location to enjoy the view of Mt Fuji. Note that the place gets lit up at night too, so if you’re able to stay over 4pm, you’ll get to enjoy the view. Head back with the red line bus to Kawaguchiko Station for dinner.

~1730/1800: Dinner. Go to this restaurant –> Houtou Fudou restaurant 名物ほうとう不動河口湖駅前店 (location). Order the Houtou Fudou noodle (quite a big bowl – big enough for 2). It’s going to make you cum in your pants. It’s a type of flat chewy noodles on a fragrant vegetable based soup stock that is native to the Yamanashi prefecture. I’ve never had this kind of noodles before anywhere else in the world.

1900: Back to your hotel. If your hotel has an onsen (public bath with hot tub), you can go try it out. (usually opens till way past midnight).

Day 2: Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine, Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba, Chureito Pagoda

0800 – 0900: Breakfast. Start your morning late. Hail one of the Fujikyuko Route bus (Gotemba bound) at Fujikyu Highland Station (location) to Sengen Jinja Mae (Fuji Sengen Shrine – location). Note that the stupid 2 day pass does not cover your fare for this bus, you’ll have to pay cash. The walk towards Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine 北口本宮冨士浅間神社.

0915: Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine 北口本宮冨士浅間神社 (location). This shrine used to be the starting point for people who wants to scale Mt Fuji from the north side of the mountain back in the old days, praying for blessing and protection at the shrine. Spend about 1 – 1.5hrs here exploring around its compound, then take a bus back to the Fujikyu Highland Station. From the station, take a train to Kawaguchiko Station and you’re back to your 2 day bus pass deal again. Take a green line bus to Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba いやしの里 (Stop #68). Note: this place is at the far end of the bus coverage, and is located at Lake Saiko.

1030: Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba いやしの里 (location). Admission JPY 350 per pax (cheaper for kids). Traditionally preserved Japanese village with thatched roofing and also shops selling traditional items like handicrafts etc. Also allows traditional clothes rental for your picture taking fetishes against the rural backdrop with Mt Fuji in view. Take your lunch here. I originally had this planned in my itinerary, but had to drop due to its distance and lack of time. If you have 2 full days, it’s doable.

1130: (Optional) Cave hopping (reference). Since you’re at Saiko Lake, there’s an opportunity to spelunk its 3 caves in vicinity – Fugaku Fuketsu (Wind Cave, Stop #71), Narusawa Hyoketsu (Ice Cave, Stop #116) and Ryugu Doketsu (Lave Cave, Stop #72). Doing all 3 would take up most of your afternoon, left you with enough time to head back to Kawaguchiko Station, and take a train to Shimoyoshida Station (location) to scale a hill up to Chureito Pagoda 忠霊塔.

~1600: Chureito Pagoda 忠霊塔 (location). There’s a few flights of stairs up to the pagoda viewpoint, totaling about 400 steps. In December, the sun starts to set at around 4.30pm, and gets completely dark at around 5pm. So, don’t take too long to climb up those stairs to enjoy the sunset view. (see the cover pic for Day 2).

1730: Take a train back to either Fujisan Station / Fujikyu Highland Station / Kawaguchiko for dinner, and call it a day. (there’s not much going on around the lake at night so…)

In my real itinerary, the day after the full day, I was supposed to do Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine 北口本宮冨士浅間神社 in the morning, before taking a noon bus to Tokyo. But my daughter felt ill that morning so, I had to eighty six the plan. At the end of the full day, I already had to make preparations to go to Tokyo. And the 0.5 day on the following morning were spent resting at the hotel.

I’ll be writing separate itinerary for Tokyo as part 3.

michaelooi  | places  | 

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