Lake Kawaguchi: A Relaxing Escape to Nature

Tired of temples? Need to escape Tokyo and reconnect with nature? Or maybe you just want something active to offset all the hours of riding in trains and buses. If so, Lake Kawaguchi (Kawaguchi-ko in Japanese) and the surrounding area is for you.

Most visitors only know Kawaguchi-ko as the main approach to Fuji. Actually, the lake is the gateway to the Fuji Five Lakes district, an area rich with possibilities. The forested hills, serene lakes, and (if you’re lucky) views of Mt. Fuji make Kawaguchi-ko and neighboring Sai-ko excellent destinations for outdoor activities.

You can canoe around the lake or explore the forest on an ATV. You can hike. You can enjoy some cycling or even go caving. Kawaguchi-ko has it all.

Lake Kawaguchi Fuji Background

Enjoy some rest after your busy day in one of the many excellent onsen in the area. Don’t miss the collection of unusual museums.

Kawaguchi-ko is such a perfect escape it’s hard to believe it’s only a few hours away from Tokyo.

 

 

What You Can Do in Kawaguchi-KoLake Kawaguchi Night

Lake Kawaguchi is the most popular of Fuji’s Five Lakes. It has the most tourist facilities, with lots of hotels and ryokan on the eastern shore.

The western half of the lake is relatively untouched. The beautiful forest comes all the way down to the road and encircles the lake.

You can see Mt. Fuji from any side of the lake. Unfortunately, the frequent clouds make it difficult to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of the mountain.

 

ActivitiesLake Kawaguchi Activities

Don’t hang around and wait for the clouds to clear. Kawaguchi-ko has lots of options for travelers who want to have some outdoor fun.

 

BikingLake Kawaguchi Bicycles

Several bike rental shops operate near Kawaguchi-ko Station.

My recommendation: Ebisuya offers bikes for 500 yen an hour or 1500 yen for a day.

Rent an electric bike if you want to cycle Kawaguchi-ko and Saiko-ko. You can get them for 2,600 yen for the day.

It takes roughly two hours to cycle around Kawaguchi-ko. It takes three to four hours to cycle Kawaguchi-ko and Saiko-ko.

There’s no dedicated bike path; you have to bike on the road. Depending on the season, the road will be either deserted or very busy.

For More Information on Bike Rentals

Mt. Fuji Bicycle Rentals Page

 

BoatingLake Kawaguchi Canoes

If you want to take full advantage of Kawaguchi-ko, get out on the water.

Country Lake Systems rents what it calls “Canadian canoes”(open canoes). They start at 5,400 yen per adult for a two-hour rental.

Country Lake Systems provides boats, life jackets, and basic instruction. No one at the shop speaks much English, but we found it easy to communicate.

 

For More Information on Canoe Rentals

Country Lake Systems Canoe Rentals Page

 

Cormorant Island (Unoshima Island)Lake Kawaguchi Unoshima Island

Don’t miss a visit to Cormorant Island when the weather allows it. It’s the only island within the Five Lakes. The experience is worth the price.

We arrived on a misty spring day. Rowing across Kawaguchi-ko energized us after our long trip to the Five Lakes area. We floated along on the surface of the lake, surrounded by majestic hills. Mt. Fuji loomed in a distant cloud.

The experience was the perfect antidote to Tokyo’s rush. My companions agreed it was the highlight of their Five Lakes trip.

 

For More Information

Unoshima Island Page

 

Other Adventure Type of Activities

There are lots of other activities you can try.  Most companies only operate during the summer; Country Lake Systems stays open year round. They offer ATV rental and caving trips in addition to canoes.

 

For More Information

Country Lake Systems Activities Page

 

HikingLake Kawaguchi Hiking

You have many hiking options around Kawaguchi-ko.

If you like fall colors, you’ll love the easy walking tracks around the lake. The tracks get popular when the leaves change in autumn.

You also have Nordic walking, trekking, and running options.

 

For More Information

Fuji Kawaguchi-ko Outdoor Activities Page

 

Lake Sai: Lava CavesLake Sai

Lake Sai (Sai-ko in Japanese) is smaller and has less of a view of Fuji than its neighbor, Kawaguchi-ko. The lake is easy to reach on the bus serving Kawaguchi-ko.

It’s less developed, making it a great destination for fishing, windsurfing, and hiking. There are several decent campsites around the lake.

 

Lava Tunnels

Sai-ko’s main attractions are the lava tunnels. The tunnels formed from lava emitted by Mt. Fuji. As the lava cooled, the outside solidified while the molten insides kept moving.

 

The Three Caves

Three caves are open to the public.

 

The Bat CaveLake Kawaguchi Bat Cave

The biggest and best-known cave is the Lake Sai Bat Cave.

The 350m long cave is cool in summer and warm in winter, making it the perfect roost for a colony of bats. As the five lakes area developed, the bats were threatened with extinction. The bat cave now includes a preservation area, and part of the cave’s profits are used to protect the population.

You won’t be able to see where the bats sleep during the day. You will get to climb through the lava cave wearing a helmet.Lake Kawaguchi Bat Caves

Visit the cave if you have even a passing interest in Batman. You can tell your friends you visited the Batcave! The cafe has a cool collection of Batman memorabilia.

Check out the video walk-through to experience it for yourself:

 

Hours

  • 9:00am – 5:00pm (last entry 4:30pm)
  • Closed: December 1st – March 19th

 

Admission

  • Adults (High School Students and Older): 300 yen
  • Children (Elementary and Middle School Students): 150 yen

 

For More Information

Lake Sai Bat Cave Page

 

The Ice CaveLake Kawaguchi Ice Cave

The Ice Cave, Narusawa-hyoketsu, is well named. The temperature in the cave drops below freezing even in the summertime.

The cave has been used as a natural refrigerator since the 1900s. Some of the ice preserves tree remains from 1,100 years ago.

The path through the cave is slippery but very atmospheric. It’s a short walk from the Wind Cave.

Check out the video below:

Hours

  • November 1st – November 15th: 9:00am – 4:45pm
  • November 16th – March 15th: 9:00am – 4:15pm
  • March 16th – March 31st: 9:00am – 4:45pm
  • April 1st – April 28th: 9:00am – 5:15pm
  • April 29th – May 8th: 8:30am – 5:45pm
  • May 9th – July 31st: 9:00am – 5:15pm
  • August 1st – August 10th: 9:00am – 5:45pm
  • August 11th – August 16th: 8:30am – 5:45pm
  • August 17th – August 28th: 9:00am – 5:45pm
  • August 29th – October 16th: 9:00am – 5:15pm
  • October 17th – October 31st: 9:00am – 5:00pm

 

Admission

  • Adult: 350 yen
  • Children: 200 yen

 

For More Information

Fuji Ice Cave Page

 

The Wind CaveLake Kawaguchi Wind Cave

The Wind Cave maintains a consistently cool temperature throughout the year. Its main claim to fame is its use as a storage facility for silkworm eggs.

It’s not as exciting as the Bat or Ice caves, but the Wind Cave is safer. It’s a better choice if you have young children.

Take a look at this video to see what the wind cave is all about:

 

Hours

  • November 1st – November 15th: 9:00am – 4:45pm
  • November 16th – March 15th: 9:00am – 4:15pm
  • March 16th – March 31st: 9:00am – 4:45pm
  • April 1st – April 28th: 9:00am – 5:15pm
  • April 29th – May 8th: 8:30am – 5:45pm
  • May 9th – July 31st: 9:00am – 5:15pm
  • August 1st – August 10th: 9:00am – 5:45pm
  • August 11th – August 16th: 8:30am – 5:45pm
  • August 17th – August 28th: 9:00am – 5:45pm
  • August 29th – October 16th: 9:00am – 5:15pm
  • October 17th – October 31st: 9:00am – 5:00pm

 

Admission

  • Adult: 350 yen
  • Children: 200 yen

 

For More Information

Fuji Wind Cave Page

 

Aokigahara ForestAokigahara Forest

The forest extending from Lake Sai to the base of Mt. Fuji has a grim reputation at odds with its natural beauty. Aokigahara is known as the Suicide Forest because people come here to kill themselves. Often.

Seicho Matsumoto’s novel Kuroi Jukai cemented Aokigahara’s reputation as a suicide destination in the 1960s. About 75 to 100 people kill themselves here each year… officially, anyway. Nobody really knows how many bodies never get found.

A body sweep takes place every year. Officials go through the forest and remove dead bodies before the start of the holiday season. I’m not joking.

Spooky…

The forest is one of the world’s most haunted places… according to the rumors. It’s hard to shake off Aokigahara’s ghoulish reputation.

Aokigahara Forest Tunnel Trail

Aokigahara Forest Tunnel Trail

The denseness of the forest really creeps you out. The lava rock beneath the ground muffles sounds as you walk along. As you enter the forest, you see signs urging suicidal visitors to seek help. The signs are not always clear or accurate. Spider webs and branches crisscross over the paths.

Very few people visit the forest as tourists. Normally, peace and quiet is something you’d welcome in most other places, wears on your nerves… and even gets a bit frightening!

 

Take Precautions

  • Bring a friend if you go hiking in Aokigahara — and a bear bell.
  • The forest’s reputation is a sensitive subject for the locals. Watch what you say.

 

Kimono and Music Boxes: Museums with a Difference

Lake Kawaguchi-ko is home to a unique collection of interesting museums.

 

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Lake Kawaguchi Itchiku Kubota Museum

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

My favorite museum in the area is the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. You’ll love the spectacular kimono display.

Itchiku Kubota revived and perfected the tsujigahana method of dying kimono. This method started in the Muromachi period. The museum exhibits many of his colorful kimono.

 

The Unfinished Masterpiece

Visitors love the unfinished Symphony of Light. This piece consists of 80 kimono arranged to form a picture of Mt. Fuji.

The building is as unique as Kubota himself. The gardens include tea rooms and artwork from Asia and Africa.

 

Hours

  • April – November: 9:30am – 5:30pm (last entry 5:00pm)
  • December – March: 10:00am – 4:30pm (last entry 4:00pm)
  • Closed Tuesdays (December – September) and December 26th – 28 th

 

Admission

1,300 yen

 

For More Information

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum Page

 

Kawaguchi-Ko Music Forest

Lake Kawaguchi Music Forest

Omjai Chalard / Shutterstock.com

The Music Forest focuses on automatic musical instruments. The unusual building is as much of an attraction as the collection of instruments.

The collection is in the main hall. It includes music boxes, mechanical organs, and other instruments. The highlight is a massive French fairground organ. It performs every half hour.

The grounds feature a European style garden. The garden hosts the Music Forest’s restaurant, shop, and chapel.  Lake Kawaguchi Music Forest Inside

 

Hours

9:00am – 5:30pm (last entry 5:00pm)

Special Hours

  • December 1st, 2017 – January 14th, 2018: 9:30am – 6:00pm (last entry 5:30pm)
  • January 15th, 2018 – February 28th: 9:30am – 5:30pm (last entry 5:00pm)
  • Closed: January 15th – 19th and February 28th

 

Regular Admission

  • Adults: 1,500 yen
  • Students (University or High School): 1,100 yen
  • Elementary/Junior High School Students: 800 yen

 

Evening Admission (after 4:00pm)

All Ages: 500yen

*Discounts for disabled guests with handicaped identification card

 

For More Information

Kawaguchi-ko Music Forest English Homepage

 

Iyashi no SatoLake Kawaguchi Iyashi no Sato

This open-air museum sits on the banks of Lake Sai. The traditional thatched buildings recreate a village that once stood on the site.

Today it’s a traditional craft village. The houses became museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops, and workshops.Lake Kawaguchi Iyashi no Sato Night

You can try your hand at making a variety of cool things. They include traditional washi paper, charcoal, and soba (buckwheat noodles).

Don’t miss the chance to try on samurai armor and get your picture taken! Traditional kimonos are also available for photo opportunities if you’re not feeling the samurai spirit.

 

Hours

  • March – November: 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • December – February: 9:30am – 4:30pm

 

Admission

350 yen

 

For More Information

Iyashi no Sato Homepage (Japanese Only)

 

The Yamanashi Gem MuseumLake Kawaguchi Yamanashi Gem Museum

This museum boasts of being Japan’s only specialty gem museum. The collection of 3,000 items includes raw gems, crystals, and finished jewelry.

Yamanashi’s crystals have been mined since 145 BC. Sophisticated cutting techniques came to the area in the late Edo-period. They’re still used to this day, despite the decrease in mining.

The museum is half museum, half store. Prepare yourself for the commercial aspects of this museum – they try to sell jewelry as much as they display it.

 

Hours

  • March – October: 9:00am – 5:30pm (last entry 5:00pm)
  • November – February: 9:30am – 5:00pm (last entry 4:30pm)

 

Admission

  • Adults (16 years and older): 600 yen
  • Elementary/Junior High School Students: 300 yen
  • Children under 6: Free

 

For More Information

Yamanashi Gem Museum Homepage

 

Is Kawaguchi-ko Worth Visiting?Lake Kawaguchi Green

Yes — but only certain times of year.

My first trip was during the summer.

The forest was a rich green, and the temperatures were pleasant rather than hot. The lakes sparkled. The towns buzzed with the energy of the summer visitors and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

My second visit in early spring was much different.

The forest was bare, and the hills were shrouded in mist. The friends I traveled with enjoyed the atmospheric nature, and I appreciated the tranquility as well.

Even so, I couldn’t help comparing it with Kawaguchi-ko in summer. I’d recommend visiting in summer or fall and avoiding winter and early spring.

 

How to Get There

By Bus

Lake Kawaguchi Shinjuku Express Bus Terminal

Shinjuku Express Bus Terminal – Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com

Buses link Kawaguchi-ko and Tokyo directly. This makes Kawaguchi-ko a natural entry point to the Five Lakes district.

Buses leave Tokyo from the Shinjuku Express Bus Terminal. The trip takes about one hour and forty minutes and costs 1,750 yen (children 880 yen). The buses leave from 6:45am to 4:45pm. There are extra buses on weekends, over the Obon season (early to mid-August), and during the Mt. Fuji climbing season (from mid-July to late August).

Buses also leave from the Shibuya Express Bus Terminal and reach Kawaguchi-ko in two and a half hours. Tickets are 1800 yen (children 900 yen). The bus departs from 6:45am until 4:15pm.

There are also buses available from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Exit. Tickets are 1,800 yen (children 900 yen), and the bus departs from 6:20am until 9:20pm. If you take a bus from Tokyo Station, make sure you find your bus stop ahead of time. From 11:20am onwards, the buses leave from the Tekko building, a short walk from the Yaesu Exit.

 

For More Information

Highway Busses Lake Kawaguchi Page

 

By Train

Lake Kawaguchi Kawaguchiko Station

Kawaguchiko Station- Guitar photographer / Shutterstock.com

Kawaguchi-ko is accessible by a combination of JR and private lines.

 

From Tokyo Station

The easiest route is to take the Chuo line to Takao. At Takao switch to the Chuo line for Kobuchizawa. Get off at Otsuki and change to the private Fuji-kyu railway for Kawaguchi-ko. The trip takes 3 hours and costs 2,630 yen.

A speedier alternative is to take the Chuo Line to Shinjuku. Transfer to the Limited Express Kaiji Train . Get off at Otsuki and transfer to the Fuji-kyu line. This reduces the journey by half an hour but costs around 3,880 yen.

 

Getting Around Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Saiko

Lake Kawaguchi Retro Bus

Lake Kawaguchi Retro Bus – Kittichai / Shutterstock.com

Getting around is easy once you’re in the area.

The major attractions are served by Fuji-kyuko Buses. The Retro bus and Omni bus routes circle Kawaguchi-ko and Sai-ko.

Lake Kawaguchi Omni Bus

Omni Bus – Piti Sirisriro / Shutterstock.com

You can pay a single fare to the bus driver or buy a multi-use ticket. These cost 1,200 yen for one day or 1,500 yen for a 2-day pass (children 600 and 750 yen).

 

For More Information on The Passes

Fuji Kyuko Bus Homepage

 

What Do You Think?

Would you like to visit the area around Kawaguchi-ko? Has anything in this article made your must-visit list? The Batcave, or maybe the chance to wear samurai armor?

Have you heard any stories about the haunted Aokigahara Forest? Does it sound like a place you’d want to go hiking? Let us know in the comments.

Don’t forget to share this article with any friends who could use a bit of relaxation. You might help them find a new place to unwind. Just make sure they do the rowing when you guys go out on the lake!

 

Image Credits:

Sean Pavone /123rf.com

blanscape/123rf.com

Ponsulak Kunsub/123rf.com

tkaiworks/123rf.com

TPG Images/123rf.com

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