This trip almost didn't happen due to my indecision about whether it was something I really wanted to do. What I wanted in a nutshell was to get out of Tokyo, someplace where I could commune with nature, someplace where the number of humans besides myself was either nil or countable on one hand, someplace I could go and come back from in one day, without spending a lot of money, during golden week.... Basically I wanted the impossible. However it certainly seemed better than the alternative of spending another whole day indoors on my own during that very brief period of the year when Tokyo's weather is actually decent (the period sometimes referred to as spring).
Anyway the destination of choice was the Fuji five lakes region in Yamanashi prefecture, famous for nature, camping, hiking, etc, all of which can be done in the shadow of Mt. Fuji.
Poor Kumi didn't have the extra golden week holidays that I had, so this was going to be a solo trip.
I left the house at 7:30 am and geared myself up for a 3+ hour train trip with multiple transfers. This ended up being a big mistake, because unbeknownst to me, there is a bus that goes there in both half the time, and half the price, (which I was smart enough to use on the way home). Live and learn. Anyway I finally made it to kawaguchiko station. Lake Kawaguchi is the largest, and most built up of the five lakes, so I gave it a wide berth and headed directly to the area around Lake Sai (the three other lakes are much more inaccessible unless you have your own vehicle). A city bus dropped me off near the entrance of a hiking trail, and the start of my little adventure.
The first stop was a little lookout called koyodai, which I got to in a matter of minues. Happily I was the only one there, and got out the D80 for a few Fuji pics.
My second stop of the day was another viewpoint called sankodai (three lakes view), which was probably the best of the three viewpoints I visited as the viewing area was very large and gave you perhaps a good 180 degree unrestricted vantage of the surrounding countryside, which was beautiful indeed. The area was large enough for a whole high school of kids to have a picnic on, and when I arrived I was dismayed to find exactly that. I wasn't at all taken aback though, Japan has ceased to surprise me in matters of crowdedness.
The shot may look peaceful, but there were a hundred or so kids behind me, running around, screaming, fighting, saying 'how are you' to me while giggling, so I only stayed long enough to eat a sandwich, and take a few photos.
Here you can see the tip of West lake, called 'Saiko' in Japanese (pronounced 'psycho') and beyond it 'Aokigahara' also known as the 'sea of trees', infamous for being haunted, and THE favourite suicide spot among the Japanese. How it goes is people wander in here, get lost (both intentionally and otherwise), and never find their way back out (roughly 70 people/yr). Kumi asked me not to go in here, even though there is a hiking trail that goes through it. Of course I had to see it for myself, and hiked through near the end of the day. I have to admit, there was a slightly chill feeling in the air, perhaps only psycological, but any amusement I had felt before vanished when I discovered a brand new bicycle standing alone on one part of the trail (it was just barely cycleable) with no one around. I looked around expecting to see some guy perhaps taking a leak behind a nearby tree, but there was nobody, and the forest was totally silent.
The slight upcurve of the land on the left is not a bad camera angle, it is sloping up to meet Mt. Fuji.
I looked at my map, and decided the best way to escape the mayhem was to hike up to the highest point in the hopes that most people would pass it up in favour of easier spots, and I was right, well briefly that is. After a fairly grueling hike (for me) of about one hour, I reached the top of Mr. Ashiwada and for about 5 minutes I had it to myself. The area was also called 'five lakes view', but all the lakes were hidden by trees. Only Mt. Fuji was visible above the treetops.
Solitude was not to last though and 2 pairs of couples soon arrived and unbelieveably, started smoking....
The same view from the top of Mt. Ashiwada using my 80-200mm lens. I actually have climbed Mt. Fuji once, but it was years previous to this website's creation.
After waiting out the 2 couples, I spent a bit more time in solitude before heading back the way I'd come. I thought I'd head back to the previous lookout and see if all the high school kids were gone, and then after that I wanted to go down for a look at Saiko lake.
The trails were wide and very hiker friendly.
A token bokeh shot taken on the hiking path with my 50mm prime lens.
And they were gone! I spent a few happy minutes in peace before I was once again interrupted by the smoking couple again. Somehow I'd gotten ahead of them on the trail.
It was about 5pm now and I still wanted to get to the bottom of the lake for some photos before the sun went down, so I headed through the sea of trees trail (story above) but it ended up being much longer than I anticipated, so instead of heading for the town on the left corner of lake Saiko (see map) I instead made a beeline to a closer town. It ended up being a wise move. When I got to the main road and checked a bus timetable, I discovered that the last bus for Kawaguchiko station would be arriving in a couple of minutes. Had I missed it I might've had to spend the night in this tiny, empty and almost unnervingly quiet town with only a bit of trail mix for dinner.
So no lake photos, which was a bit disapointing, but overall it had been a good day, quiet and peacful (most of the time), with lots of scenery and fresh air. I headed home satisfied and relaxed.
At least until I got back to the madness of Tokyo that is....
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