In a departure from our usual practice of independent travel, we booked a tour to take us to Mount Fuji and then on to beautiful Hakone National Park. I ended up feeling that I really benefited from all the information the tour guide told us, and not having to worry about directions and logistics made the trip extra relaxing. (If we had driven, I'm sure the conversation would have gone something along the lines of "What did that sign say?" "How would I know? I don't read Japanese!") Sunrise Tours was a model of Japanese efficiency. One bus picked up several people from our hotel plus other nearby hotels and brought us to Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal. From there, folks split up into whatever tour they selected.
The two hour drive out to Mount Fuji sped by quickly. After spending days in the crowded, concrete jungle that is Tokyo, I really enjoyed looking out the window as the city melted away and became views of a gorgeous spring countryside. The kids kept busy playing their Nintendo DS games. After all, when in Japan, do as the Japanese do. This one time, I decided that their Nintendos could count as cultural immersion.
Our first stop was the Fuji Visitor Center. But what I found really interesting was the amusement park located just before it. Who knew? I didn't realize you could ride a roller coaster in the shadow of Mount Fuji. They even have a Thomas the Tank Engine Land. Alas, this park was not part of the tour, so we drove right by it.
|This sign at a Tokyo subway station should have been a clue.|
We ended up having about 20 minutes at the Fuji Visitor Center. Hubby pointed out that if we were doing this ourselves, we could have spent over an hour perusing the exhibits. As it was, we had just enough time to snap a few photos, find our kids who had wandered off, and get back on the bus.
The official tour itinerary had us driving up to the Mount Fuji 5th Station (6,900 foot elevation) where climbers usually start their trek up the mountain. Alas, the typhoon-like winds that had hit while we were at DisneySea also blew down a few trees that blocked the road up. The 1st Station (3,873 foot elevation) was the highest were were able to go. At least we were blessed with clear blue skies and an amazing view of Mount Fuji's summit. I could tell that the wind gusts at the top were quite strong, causing the snow to billow away and obscure the peak. Meanwhile, the kids were fascinated by the 3x3 foot patch of snow by the parking lot. After months on a tropical island, I can't really blame them.
|How do you say "Snowball Fight!" in Japanese?|
We continued on with our tour, going to a traditional Japanese lunch on the shores of charming Lake Kawaguchiko followed by more fun in Hakone.
A Lost Tooth, Black Eggs & Japan's Hakone National Park
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