The small town of Kawaguchiko is the main home base for travelers looking to summit the majestic Mount Fuji, but there’s much more to do than just visit Japan’s tallest peak. Kawaguchiko centers around the lake of the same name, with plenty of hiking and biking trails, and beautiful places to visit. My time here felt like one of those Ghibli films set in small-town Japan. I spent most of it cycling around the quiet village and immersing myself in the serene nature of Japan. It was a much-needed respite from the crowds and ultra-modern cityscapes of Tokyo, and really showed me how much more there was to Japan than its futuristic urban jungles.
I ended up spending four days in Kawaguchiko, despite many travelers staying no more than a day or two. It goes without saying that Mount Fuji is the main highlight of this town, although for non-trekkers, there is plenty to keep you busy. Here’s everything you need to know before taking on Mount Fuji and Kawaguchiko.
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Table of Contents
- How To Get to Mount Fuji and Kawaguchiko
- Where To Stay in Mount Fuji
- Getting Around Kawaguchiko and Mount Fuji
- The Best Things To Do in the Mount Fuji Area
- Things to Know Before Going
- Buy Me A Beer!
How To Get to Mount Fuji / Kawaguchiko
Japan’s transportation system is well-renowned as one of the best in the world. Getting to Kawaguchiko is a breeze. Whether you plan on traveling by bus or by train, there are plenty of options throughout the day. From Tokyo would be the easiest option, although one can get there from Kyoto or Osaka or elsewhere with minimal connections. I didn’t buy one of the rail passes, so I opted for a bus from Shibuya Station to save some money.
Regardless of where you are leaving from, your ending point should be Kawaguchiko Station. The station services both trains and buses. From here, a walk or short taxi ride should get you to your accommodation.
Staying in Kawaguchiko allows you to enjoy a more tranquil and serene environment compared to the bustling cities, but it’s also possible to take a guided tour from Tokyo. I’d only recommend this option if you are strapped on time. Be sure to look at the tour itineraries to make sure you get to visit the places you want to see.
Where To Stay in Kawaguchiko
Despite being a smaller town, Kawaguchiko had no shortage of places to stay. I stayed at K’s House Fuji View, an incredible hostel with a stunning view of Mount Fuji. During the summer, there will be plenty of hostels and hotels open for the crowds of travelers. I visited in early September, just days before the climbing season for Mount Fuji ended. Only a handful of hostels remained open, but I was more than happy with the one I ended up with. The dorms were pod-style, each with lockers, plugs, curtains, and space for my luggage.
The hostels in Japan really are top-notch, and despite them being pricier than other countries, I feel like you get your money’s worth. I paid $25 a night for a dorm bed in K’s House, although the price jumped up to about $40 on Friday night. You’ll find that hostels and hotels tend to jump in price over the weekends when people are more likely to travel. During peak trekking season, be sure to book well in advance to guarantee that you have a place to stay in Kawaguchiko.
If you simply plan on getting in and out to summit Mount Fuji, I’d recommend picking a place near Kawaguchiko Station. K’s House is about a 20-minute walk, which isn’t bad, but it did feel like an eternity walking back from the station after summiting Fuji. Saving the 40-minute round trip can go a long way once your legs feel heavy from hiking. It also puts you closer to the lake and allows you easy access to public transportation if you plan on visiting other towns in the area.
The other hostel I heard great things about was Hostel Michael’s. It is in Shimoyoshida, though, so you’d have to make the journey to do the things you want to do in Kawaguchiko.
Getting Around Kawaguchiko
I’d recommend renting a bike. It costs about $7 a day and is by far my favorite way to get around Kawaguchiko. Many places in town offer bike rentals, and most likely, your accommodation will, too. I rented mine from my hostel and the rate for the entire day was 1000 yen, as long as I brought it back before 8 PM. Not much goes on in town after dark, so this was totally fine.
There is a bus system, but I don’t think Kawaguchiko is that big that you need to figure out the routes. The only time I would recommend it is if you plan on visiting neighboring Shimoyoshida or one of the further villages along the lake. Aside from that, cycling and walking will be just fine. The views are incredible and there are cycling and walking trails all around the lake.
Here are the bus timetables between Kawaguchiko and Mount Fuji’s Fifth Station during the summer trekking season. If you want to visit Mount Fuji outside of trekking season, here are the bus timetables for the offseason.
Things To Do in Kawaguchiko
Although most people visiting Kawaguchiko have the intentions of visiting Mount Fuji, there is much more to do in the area than just that. The best views of Mount Fuji are from off the mountain, and with plenty of lakes, shrines, temples, and parks all with Mount Fuji serving as the stunning backdrop, Kawaguchiko has no shortage of breathtaking scenery to fill your time.
Cycle around Lake Kawaguchiko
Aside from summiting Mount Fuji, this was my favorite thing I did in Kawaguchiko. I rented a bike from my hostel and cycled around the lake, visiting various points of interest along the way. I basically followed the trail around the lake, pulling up Google Maps every now and then to see if I was nearby any points of interest. There were no shortage of places to rest my legs, from gorgeous parks and gardens to woodland shrines and unique museums.
If you’re up for the long bike ride, it’s worth heading over to Saiko Lake for more lakeside views of Mount Fuji. I wouldn’t say this is essential, as you definitely get your fair share of views cycling around Lake Kawaguchiko alone.
Visit the Gardens at Oishi Park
On a clear day, the views of Mount Fuji from Oishi Park are phenomenal. This small lakeside park is filled with bright, colorful flowers. Along with the lake and Mount Fuji in the background, you couldn’t dream up a more beautiful place to snap some photos.
Perhaps the most iconic view of Mount Fuji is the one from Chureito Pagoda. To get here, you’ll have to head to the town of Shimoyoshida and then walk here. It’ll also involve a short hike up, but it is worth it for the views.
Hit up an Onsen
What better way to relax after a day of cycling or hiking? Japan is famous for their hot springs, and this area has no shortage of them. Unwind in one of Kawaguchiko’s soothing hot spring baths, known as onsen, which offer relaxation and rejuvenation while enjoying panoramic views of Mount Fuji and the surrounding landscapes.
I’m not really one to hit up amusement parks on my travels, but as the bus passed Fuji-Q Highland, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. A roller coaster with a view of Mount Fuji? I never did end up going, but it is free to enter. You simply have to pay for the rides, but I’d reckon it’s worth checking out if you have a few hours to spare.
Visit the Museums Along the Lake
As I cycled along the lake, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by some of the unique museums I passed. There ist he Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum, featuring a collection of antique music boxes and instruments. Between that and the gardens, you’ll understand why I said my time in Kawaguchiko was very Ghibli-esque. One can also check out the intricate art of kimono dyeing at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, showcasing the stunning creations of renowned artist Itchiku Kubota.
Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway
For a stunning view of Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko, there is a cable car that takes you up the mountain. It’s right along the lake so I passed it while I was cycling, although the long lines deterred me from actually going up. I’m sure the views are incredible, though.
Summiting Mount Fuji
I summited Mount Fuji as a day trek, starting from Kawaguchiko Station at 6:40 AM. This was when the first batch of buses departed. I got there about 20 minutes early and already, the queue was long enough that they needed two full buses to transport the even-earlier birds.
After hopping on the bus, you’ll arrive at Mount Fuji Fifth Station, leaving you with about 1,400 meters of elevation gain until you reach the summit. The hike up took me about seven hours total, with four hours needed to go up, an hour-long break at the summit, and two hours needed to go down. The hike isn’t particularly challenging, but it does have steep stretches and some volcanic terrain which might prove tricky. For about ninety percent of the hike, you’ll be on switchbacks of soft dirt and some loose gravel. There are stations to buy snacks and drinks every 20-30 minutes as you work your way up to the summit.
If you’re lucky enough to get good weather, which most people aren’t, you’ll be able to see stunning views of the Japanese countryside. Otherwise, you’ll get a blanket of clouds which is also cool to look at. I wanted to do the hike just to say I summited Mount Fuji, so the cloudy day wasn’t a dealbreaker for me. Just keep in mind that you won’t be guaranteed unobstructed views for your efforts.
Once you’ve finished the hike, catch the bus back to Kawaguchiko from 5th Station and treat yourself to a huge meal as soon as you hit town.
Other Things To Know Before You Go
It’s important to note that the town is more rural, and amenities may be limited compared to larger cities. However, for those looking to appreciate the natural beauty and tranquility of the Mount Fuji region, Kawaguchiko can provide a memorable and peaceful stay. Things close early in Kawaguchiko. I’m a night owl, so late dinners are the norm for me. My first night in Kawaguchiko, I went out for dinner at around 9 PM to find that almost everything was closed. I ended up at this cozy izakaya that was among the only places open, and absolutely loved it. Just keep in mind that your options might be limited if you put off dinner until late.
Be respectful when cycling around the area. Most locals are used to tourists so hordes of cyclists are nothing new to them, but still, it’s important to stick to your lanes and respect traffic laws.
Despite being a small town, Kawaguchiko has no shortage of ATMs. If you can’t find one, just look for a bank or one of the convenience stores. Most convenience stores will have an ATM inside that you can use. Credit cards are widely accepted in Kawaguchiko, but some places will charge more if you pay with card, or have a minimum purchase required to pay with card.
For travelers visiting Japan, Kawaguchiko is an essential stop on any itinerary. Along with Nikko, Kawaguchiko was my favorite small town I visited while traveling Japan. The vibes and views are simply immaculate.
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Buy Me A Beer!
If this post helped you out, show some love and support for the blog and help keep my adventures going by buying me a beer! My adventures are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated, and allows me to keep writing helpful travel guides and creating travel content to help you all travel the world on a budget.