So as I may have previously mentioned, Jake and I had purchased Japan Rail Passes which enabled us to travel around the country at ease for the remaining two weeks of our stay. Because we had so much time and flexibility, we decided to hop from town to town through Honshu (Japan’s main island) seeing as much as we could. We didn’t want to just go Tokyo > Kyoto > Tokyo like all those other basic travellers, nuh-uh.
I was keen to see Mt Fuji, undoubtedly Japan’s most famous landmark. While researching the best way to do this, I came across info on the Shibasakura festival, which was a flower festival north of the mountain that promised views such as this one;
So we decided to brave the trip there, which was a little off the beaten track. After many trains through increasingly obscure country towns, we arrived in Kawaguchiko. After that we set off to visit the festival. Unfortunately… this is what we actually saw;
Clearly the flowers had died, the weather was awful, and we didn’t even get a glimpse of Mt Fuji at all. I was actually furious at this point and in a super bad mood which I’m sure Jake fondly remembers. We left the festival after 20 minutes (it had taken us about 4 hours to get there) and spent the night in Kawaguchiko. We actually stayed in an adorable little B&B with paper doors and futons. We even felt an earthquake while we were there – very authentic Japan! That night we found ourselves in a restaurant where we were completely unable to understand a word anyone said (there wasn’t a word of English in the place)… this didn’t stop every person in the room trying to help us understand that it was a Korean restaurant (we think). It was all very embarrassing and amusing, except I wasn’t in the mood to be embarrassed or amused, and I made Jake leave and take me to another restaurant where we had ramen. Ah. Good times.
The next day we headed to the nearby city of Matsumoto. I was in a better mood, and things went smoothly while here. The main attraction of the place was the stunning Matsumoto-jo (that’s a castle to you and me). I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
For the next portion of our trip, I was desperate to do some kind of hiking. I had heard about the Nakasendo highway, an old post route through rural Japan from the 17th century, where most of the architecture had been painstakingly preserved. It sounded like an absolute dream come true, so we got the train to Nakatsugawa to start our day hike. The walk took us about four hours, from Magome to Nagiso, via Tsumago. It took us past gorgeous traditional architecture, amongst beautiful forests and valleys, and past waterfalls and farms. The weather was perfect… it was (without exaggerating) one of the best days of the trip if not my life. I freaking loved it.
After the Nakasendo highway we headed west to Kyoto, Osaka and so on. I have lots to write about those destinations so I’ll leave them for later posts. But after we finished with all those amazing western cities, we headed back to Tokyo through Honshu again. By this point of our trip we were pretty exhausted and the places we stopped in turned out to be quite featureless anyway. However I should mention that we did manage to see Mt. Fuji in the end. We stayed overnight in a town that I think was actually called ‘Fuji’, although I can’t quite remember. Just before we headed to the train station to take us to Tokyo, we were lucky enough to have some clear weather and see Mt Fuji! Yay!! Our photo inevitably sucked, but whatever, it was a magical sight.
So pleased you enjoyed Japan, unfortunately Fuji is notoriously shy during the summer months and the weather can be extremely changeable as you probably now realise ! The Fuji photo’s fine by the way, better than the first one I took which was also in summer, wasn’t until about October that I cold get anything decent. Looking at the angle of Fuji I wonder if the town you stayed in was Fujinomiya ?
You’re right, Fuji is shy – but that little glimpse I got will definitely be enough to lure me back to Japan so I can try again! But perhaps I will try and get there in autumn next time. I honestly cannot remember, although that name rings a bell… but to an Englishman, it’s hard to remember Japanese town names – they’re all kinda similar 😛
Look forward to the rest of your visit.