It was another early start today as our plan was to visit Mount Fuji & Lake Kawaguchiko. We also had to change rooms as our plans changed from originally being in Osaka last night to having an extra night here. Although the Hotel could accommodate us for the extra night it was not to be in the same rooms as our original booking. As agreed with Reception they were to move our luggage to our new rooms.
This was after though I had finally tried out all the buttons on the toilet. Well what an experience and worth coming to Japan just for that. It was very intriguing and intimate and I felt very clean afterwards. Likewise with the shower. It had rotating jets for your lower back which really helped me as I had been suffering with my back getting stiffer over the past few days. I want both of these at home.
It was also to be a long day on different local express trains, Metro, Fuji Express Train, local slow train and back again. The first two journeys were fine with no hassle as we made it to Shinjuku to get our tickets for the Fuji Express Train. Here much confusion arose. We found our way to the correct platform, but could not figure out how to either buy tickets or get ones with reserved tickets. For the first time this trip no one we spoke to either spoke English or were able to help us.
Eventually though we worked out how to buy some unreserved seats for the train. The next challenge was that the train was due to split into two half way through the journey and so we had to be in the correct carriages. Now those carriages only contained reserved seats and they had all sold out. We got on the train and found above each seat was a light system. If the seat was reserved then the light was green. If it was amber it meant someone was going to get on at the next station, and if it was red then the seat was free. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised that whoever had designed the system had got the colours the wrong way round and green should have been if it was free and red if it was reserved.
Anyhow as we expected there were no red lights. So we sat down in some amber ones realising we would eventually be turfed out. As we got to the second stop all three of the lights above us turned green and we had to move. There were already people standing in-between the 3 carriages and we still had over 1 hour of the journey to go. We were about to join them when I noticed that there were 2 green lit seats with no one in them, so Karen & I took the risk of sitting in them thinking it someone had tickets for them turned up we would move. We were on edge the whole time but managed to keep the seats for the rest of the journey. Poor Neil had to stand but didn’t seem to mind too much. The train was heaving with people standing everywhere. They need to add more carriages for these excursion trips.
We were now worried about the return trip, so when we arrived we went straight into the ticket office to book our return tickets. It took ages and lots of explaining what we wanted. We opted to take a slow local train to start with where no seat reservations were required and then changed to a faster train where we could reserve seats. It had all been a bit of a palaver but finally we were then able to start exploring Kawaguchiko.
Sadly the first thing we noticed was that Mount Fuji was completely covered in cloud. Apparently it is only visible for 70 days each year and mainly between November & February. So we crossed our fingers and hope that the cloud would break to allow us to glimpse the snowy peak.
Kawaguchiko was not a pretty place. It needs some loving care. It could be made into a lovely lakeside place but was all a bit run down and a tad sad. There were lots of coaches and therefore lots of people but with nowhere really to go. It needed some outside cafes and facilities but just had an ugly looking car park in the part we walked around.
We made our way to Ropeway as they called it, we would say cable car. This took us a fair way up a mountain which gave us supposedly the best vantage point in which to see Mount Fuji. It was a short but pleasant ride up. Neil by now was decidedly grumpy, partly through suffering from lack of sleep from jet lag, but mainly because he wanted to see Mount Fuji. I remarked how snappy he was with me and his response was that he had to take it out on someone.
The clouds hung over the mountain but then we started to get some tantalising glimpses of the snow on the top. We stayed up there for about 2 hours or more and Neil spent the entire time leaning on a rail, willing the clouds to move. We tried blowing them away to no avail. We ate the sandwiches we brought with us sitting on a bench. I also ate the popcorn I had brought which I think was Lettuce flavoured. Well it had a picture of two lettuces on the front and had an interesting twang. Neil’s theory was that the eating the popcorn was the equivalent of eating two lettuces, but we were not really sure.
Also at the top was a small strange shrined dedicated to a rabbit for reasons we didn’t understand and a bell you rang that is supposed to make your wish come true as you overlook Mount Fuji. There was also a chance to throw a Kawara, which was some small clay dish through a rope hole. Karen & I had a go and both missed, but the pots broke anyhow and so should still bring us some luck. Neil didn’t participate as his eyes were fixed on the view in case the clouds lifted for a split second.
Finally we dragged him away and down the Ropeway. We ambled slowly back to the station. Then as we were about to cross the last road to enter the station, the clouds almost lifted and we got the best view we had had all day. At last a smile broke out on Neil’s face. It wasn’t the best view as displayed on the photos but at least we had seen it. I had thought the long trip was worth it without it, but this made it so much better.
On the local slow train back we all had seats and then took our reserved seats on the express train once we changed. Once back at Shinjuku we thought we would explore the area and get some food. Shinjuku Station is officially the busiest train station in the world. It handles 3.5 million passengers per day and has 56 platforms. It was crazy. It was like streaming out of Wembley but constantly and this was 6pm on a Saturday. It was also stupidly big as we found when we bought a ticket to get back to the Hotel and found that it had two Metro stations on the same line at either end of a the station and our ticket was only valid for the other one. It took us nearly 20 minutes to walk to the other end.
At Shinjuku, we walked to find the famous Godzilla monster on top of a cinema. The crowds did not seem to dissipate as we walked further away from the station. We then wandered past the Robot Restaurant. We had decided not to go in as not only was the show performed by people and not actual robots, but the quality of the show had poor reviews. However the building was suitably big and brash. Then we went into a Uniglo store and Neil bought a T shirt. By now we were all very hungry. When we walked past an Iriish pub called The Dubliner we thought that it looked as good a place to eat as any. It was quite crowded but they found us a table. Neil & I had Pizzas whilst Karen went for Pasta. They were very acceptable but again rather expensive.
After the fuss over going to the correct station under the main one we eventually made our way back to the Hotel. We had been out for over 13 hours and were all tired but content that it had been another day of adventure exploring.