Where: Mt. Fuji - Tokyo
Who: Mr & Mrs Wanderlust
When: March 2018
What: Ski around slopes with view of Mt. Fuji + exploring Tokyo
Our itinerary was all planned out, bookings already done for another province, but because of a snowstorm, all flights heading to Hokkaido are cancelled. Still a bit hopeful, we tried to know if there is a way we can get from Tokyo to Hokkaido by train, and it turns out it is not gonna be worth the effort and time. Bummed out, we just cancelled all our bookings in Hokkaido for refund processing, and planned out a new itinerary on the spot.
We figured that the reason we want to go to Hokkaido was to experience the cold weather, and try out skiing in the thick snow, so we planned to get to the nearby town to Mt. Fuji where we can experience snow and skiing with a bonus view of the scenic and most popular mountain in Japan. And it turned out perfect. Things fell into place, and gave us more time to experience Fuji and more time to go around and get lost in the streets of Tokyo.
How To Get There:
Our flight was in Narita Airport Terminal 2 in Tokyo, their airport is very accessible as long as you know where you are going, and how to go around using their trains/subway. (Be sure about your terminal, as Terminal 1 is a few minutes and another train station away from Terminals 2 & 3)
Airport has an easy access to the city via Narita express which will connect you directly to a handful of stations like Tokyo Station, Yokohama, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku (our stop) and Ikebukuro.
You can buy tickets on the information/counter seen in different parts of the airport.
And depending on where you plan to go, the information people would be nice enough to assist you on which type of Rail pass you should buy to reach your destination. Buying a 3 day pass would be cheaper compared to buying a tickets at the station per trip.
Protip: Taxis are also available widely, but a bit expensive compared to taking the Train or buying a pass. Interestingly enough, taxis have credit card terminals to pay by cc.
Protip: Google maps offline is your best friend / Bonus points if you can download english to japanese translator with voice
Going from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji:
There are many towns that surround Mt. Fuji and offer different views of the majestic mountain, Hakone, Kamakura, Enoshima, Gotemba, Kawaguchiko and probably a few more than what we mentioned.
Rode the train coming from Shinjuku - Otsuki then change train line to Mt. Fuji train lines, then 5th station is a shrine to the base of the mountain if planning to hike Mt. Fuji, but our final stop was at our destination, the final station of the train line, Fuji - Kawaguchiko.
Going Around Fuji - Kawaguchiko
Taxis are widely available but very expensive. Sight seeing bus is another option, price depends on where you want to stop, but most tourist sights have bus stops, and every bus stop has a bus that shows up every 30 minutes, and every bus stop most likely have retail shops for souvenirs, foods, toilets, or at the very least a vending machine, always very convenient.
(for list of bus stops, click here)
Where To Stay:
We stayed at 3 different hotels, 2 in Fuji area as we decided to extend our stay for another day after being stoked to see Mt. Fuji and skiing, sadly, the hotel we stayed on the first night is fully booked for the next day so again we did a quick search on accommodations within the area, and found another place to stay on such a short notice. Below are our reviews of our 2 hotels in Fuji, and our hotel in Tokyo Shinjuku area.
Royal Kawaguchiko Hotel
+ Lobby was nice and cozy, staff was helpful and welcoming
+ Has a mini shop and bought a couple of nice souvenirs from them
+ Traditional Japanese room was spacious and most importantly has nice view of Mt. Fuji
+ Has reliable WiFi connection
+ Breakfast and Dinner included was really good and was done traditionally
+ All their restaurant staff was very friendly and helpful
+ Has available vending machines in lobby just in case you need something.
+ Location is nice as it is near bus stop, and just a street crossing away from park and lake.
- Their beds were traditional, so not sure if it is really not that soft so sleep quality was average
- old design toilet but still serves their purpose
Price: $$ 4K - 8K ($80 - $160 USD) per night for 2
Service: 5 star - Service & staff were all helpful and nice.
Facilities & Amenities: 4.9 star- Traditional Japanese room w/ nice view of Mt. Fuji, but bed too thin
Restaurant (foods): 4.9 star - Traditional dinner and breakfast included (can't choose though)
Bar: 4.9 star - The restaurant also serves Sake or Beer, perfect for cool weather
Overall: 4.93 /5 .
Due to the weekends, we werent able to secure the 2nd night in the first hotel, so we quickly looked up hotels in the area and booked the nearest but still decent rooms to stay, and we found Kawaguchiko Hotel just 5 minute walk from the last one. Read our review below:
+ Hotel is easy to find and very near bus stop.
+ Hotel's lobby looks like an old mansion converted then extended with another building for rooms
+ The staff was really helpful and good at english
+ It may look a bit dated but still has its own cozy vibe and charm
+ Has a big lobby and waiting area with a small library and nice facilities
+ They also have onsen with view of Fuji
+ Very quiet place to stay
+ Traditional room was also spacious, though without view of Fuji still has nice view of the lake.
+ WiFi was good and reliable
+ Has heater and access to control it.
+ Sleep quality was nice & quiet, beds were traditional on the floor yet still comfy.
+ Offers shuttle service to Kawaguchiko Station
- As mentioned above, the hotel is dated and looks like an old house converted to lobby
- No shop for souvenir and stuff.
- Carpets feel a little dusty, and so does other parts of the room
Price: $$ 4K - 5k ($80 - $120 USD) per night for 2
Service: 5 star - Good english speaking receptionist and very helpful about how we go around town
Facilities & Amenities: 4.9 star - Nice rooms, good facilities but old looking lobby still classy
Restaurant (foods): 4.9 star - Old style restaurant, but still delicious food served breakfast
Bar: 4 star - There were no bars but have to buy beer maybe outside on some resto
APA Hotel Kabukicho
+ Very accessible, 3-5 minute walk from subway station of Shinjuku.
+ Terrific location in Kabukicho (red light district ;) surrounded by shops, entertainment, restos etc.
+ Very easy check-in
+ Compact size room, clean, and bathroom is also small yet clean and functional, no leaks
+ Breakfast was modern japanese/american, few options but still good/yummy/oishi
+ Staff were nice and helpful
+ Outside was a cinema, vr place, arcades, karaoke, konbini, restaurants,shops, & so much more!
- Has free WiFi but was terrible 10kbps, I expected more from Japan as, we are from Philippines which has the worst internet in Asia, but this still made us impatient, even pictures takes time to load.
- Cramped room about (11sqm) though common in Tokyo, can't open 2 luggages same time.
- Either we don't know how to operate the A/C properly (we set to 16°C) but still felt 31°C in room.
- Not even a toilet on their lobby, which was a minor inconvenience
Price: $$ 4K - 5k ($80 - $120 USD) per night for 2
Service: 3 star - Good service, staff, quick checkin and out
Facilities & Amenities: 1.5 star -small rooms but is complete and nice location near trains
Restaurant (foods): 4 star - Few choice for breakfast, but still delicious, has japanese/american
Bar: 2 star - Has restaurant but not sure if they serve drinks
What To Do:
1. See the picturesque and ever so famous Mt. Fuji.
Actually a volcano, one way or another, if you have heard about Japan, you would also hear Mt. Fuji. The most popular icon of the country, this spectacular and majestic snow capped mountain can be accessed through different provinces, but we chose Kawaguchiko. We never intended to climb the mountain (for now...) as our original itinerary going to Hokkaido was scrapped due to a snow storm, we still consider everything to be put in place as planning our short notice plan to Fuji made our trip more special. Truly a must see spectacle of mother nature. And most of all, a country as developed as Japan, you bet that everything would be convenient as long as you do some research and planning.
2. Ski / Snowboard on the slopes with the view of Mt. Fuji
We just wanted to experience snow, and upon a little checking (with the help of''Guguru' - Google in their lingo), there was a ski resort within the area. The Ski resort has slopes for beginner to advanced, complete facilities for rentals of ski/snowboard, coin locker rentals, food stalls, vending machines, restaurant, souvenir shop, and even shop for snow/cold gear. In other words, they have everything you need to enjoy the ski resort.
Be warned though, there are no bus or train service going to the ski resort is either you have advance arrangements on a hired private car, or a taxi which would usually run $50USD per way coming from your hotel / train station.
There are coin lockers 300JPY for small locker and big lockers at 600 JPY which can fit your backpack and shoes, while you rent (either half or full day) the snowboard or ski gear.
ProTip: When planning what to wear, layering is key, just a nice warm thermal underwear, any shirt, then a waterproof jacket at it will get soaked in snow. Don't forget waterproof gloves and shoes.
3. Wander around the quiet town of Fuji - Kawaguchiko
There are a lot more attractions around this peaceful and beautiful town. First on the list is the best viewing town for Mt. Fuji. The town has a sight seeing bus that goes around on all the tourist stops which are well maintained and almost always near a shop/toilet/souvenir/food and vending machines, which means you won't get hungry or scrambling looking for a toilet.
Some of the sightseeing tour bus stops: (for comprehensive list, click here)
Caves like Ice Cave and Wind Cave and Lava Cave.
Museums like an Art Museum, Muse Museum.
Different beautiful viewing spots for Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko
A Theme Park with crazy roller coaster rides with view of Mt. Fuji - Highland Resort
A Bird Forest, Music Forest, Herb Hall, Aokigahara Forest, and a whole lot more attractions and tourist stops which makes everything really convenient.
4. Experience Sakura
Really not in our planned itinerary, but as we said, the timing was right and we were lucky enough to see a few couple of trees on their first bloom of the spring. In this trip we are lucky to experience a winter snow, and also the start of spring. Also known as Cherry Blossom, Sakura is Japanese term for the trees of different types (mostly Japanese Cherry) blooming pink, as nature's way of saying that winter is over, and spring is here.
In the huge capital region of Tokyo, you may be lucky to find one on the streets, or parks. Our luck was when strolling Yoyogi Park near our area, checking out the vibes of the different groups of people hanging out in the park, we saw the pinkish hue from a distance and upon further inspection, it is indeed the famous 'Sakura', and famous as it is, many people both locals and tourists alike are hanging out under the tree, taking photos/ videos and pretty much enjoying the scenery.
5. Wander around Shinjuku
Shinjuku is one of the busiest railway station in Japan and probably even the world, and is also a major transportation hub where there is a terminal of bus going to different parts of the country (we actually stopped at Shinjuku bus terminal coming from Mt. Fuji).
First time looking for our hotel, we got lost and we liked it. The area has its own charm, as you will never run out of things to do here. From shopping, to food tripping, bars, entertainment, clubs, restaurants, retail shops, arcades and a whole lot more can be found and are still waiting to be discovered, just keep an open mind and never forget to be respectful like them, and you will surely have a good time.
Protip: Japan may be the safest and crime less cities, but when in Kabukicho (red light district) unless you know a local or insider, be careful of street peddlers reeling you in a bar with pictures of beautiful scantily clad ladies, because most likely they will charge you with ridiculous amount of money for just coming in, and having a drink. Stay safe and do some research before heading on some of these girl bars.
6. Feel electrified while exploring Akihabara
Akihabara also known as electric town of Tokyo is famous for its many many electronic shops, from home and appliance spare parts and electronics, to entertainment and gaming consoles and now is also being popular for the countless shops devoted for anime and manga for the Otaku (die hard fans).
You can browse and check out the latest electronic gadgets and even the vintage gadgets can still be found and are still sold in different shops. And for the big boys and girls, there are also stores of multiple floors dedicated for adult games, toys, dvds and media.
And if you got tired from all the electronic shopping and browsing, there are a lot of themed cafes in the area from the popular Maid Cafes / Princess restaurants which cosplay themed restaurants have guests served by waitresses that are typically dressed as French maids or whatever their theme is.
7. Spot different subcultures and fashion trends at Harajuku
Harajuku is the area around Harajuku station which is between Shinjuku and Shibuya. Harajuku is probably the best place to do street fashion photography as different fashion styles and sub cultures are found on the park and in the streets. Aside from the extreme teen fashion galore, the area also offers lots of retail shopping for different fashion, streetwear, and some historic attraction.
Meiji Jingu one of Tokyo's major shrines is just a walk away from the place, and is shared with Yoyogi Park where some groups of the trendy fashioned people can be seen.
8. Get included with the hustle and bustle of Shibuya + Ginza
Next to Shinjuku, another one of Japan's busiest railway stations, it is also popular for its crossing as so many people tend to go to the crossing and go about their daily lives. Just outside of its station, you will also see the famous Hachiko statue.
Shibuya is one of Tokyo's most colorful districts that is packed with shopping, dining, nightclubs and lots more businesses.
Ginza on the other hand, a bit further at Shimbashi station (Yamanote Line), features upscale department stores and shopping, art stores, restaurants, and corporate buldings of the big conglomerates in Japan (Yamaha, Yakult, Nissan, etc.)
9. Get the best panoramic view of Tokyo from its iconic tower
At the heart of the city of Tokyo and of course with the help of the nice people from the subway information, we were directed to the easiest route to Tokyo Tower from the Yamanote Line was through Hamamatsucho station, then coming out from an exit near Wolrd Trade Bldg, we just followed the direction towards the high tower that you cannot miss. Around 15-20 minute walk from the station should get you to the tower, but before getting there you would also see Zojoji temple which is a Japanese Buddhist temple that has also a picturesque view sharing with the tower.
Going further walking from the temple, you should reach the tower's ticket booth where you will be given option for the main deck (which is the deck you see in the middle of the tower 150m) for 900JPYen ~ $10 USD and the top deck which is the highest part of the building (250m) a bit more for the ticket as it costs 2800 JPYen ~ $27 USD. There are couple more attactions like one piece museum, coffe shops, and more souvenir and retail shops downstairs. We opted to just go to the main deck as we had to hurry for a flight home in the afternoon. But still, the main deck gave us a very nice panoramic view of the city, and even a slight peek from Mt. Fuji which was 3 hours away from us.
10. Enjoy food & drinks Japan has to offer!
Anyone would definitely agree with us when we say that the foods in Japan deserve its own special place on our To Do list. Why?
Because their foods are Oishi (delicious), and not only that, their preparation shows some dedication and craftmanship ranging from sushi, desserts and many other foods.
Not only the food, but there are also a lot of fun themed restaurants that deserve a spot in our list as well. just see below:
There are many themed cafes, bars and restaurants in Tokyo, you can probably find one that interests you, some have Anime themed cafes, while some have maid cafes, hospital/mental themed cafe, prison themed, and also robot restaurant.
But never miss checking out Golden Gai which has very small restaurants can serve maybe less than 10 customers at a time but offers personalized service, nice and good food and drinks and atmosphere.
They have Free WiFi on some of their vending machines
Their toilet seat technology, more than bidet, they have seat warmer, need to cover the noise while doing #2? "Privacy" button got it covered where it just sounds as a water flowing sound effect.
* $100 USD = 10,500+ JPYen (as of March 2018)
Accommodation - High End - $1,000 USD+++
Accommodation - Mid - $120 USD ++
Accommodation - Budget - $50
Transport - Taxi Nearby - $10 - $50 +++ depending on how far/long travel time
Transport - Japan (tokyo wide) Rail Pass - $15 for 3 day pass
Transport - Sightseeing Tour Bus - Less than $20 depending on bus stop
Food - Snacks -$5 - $10
Food - Restaurant (set meal for 2) - $40 - $50 per head
Food - Fastfood Meal - $10 - $15
Drinks - Hotel Beer $10 - $15
Drinks - Bottled Water - $1 - $5
Souvenir - T-Shirt -$20 - $30
Souvenir - Magnets / Keychain = $5 - $10
Souvenir - Premium items, Chocolates etc, - $20 - $50
Tips - They generally do not accept tips. If you do however really wish to tip, try to put in an envelope and give to the lobby, but don't be offended if they don't accept.
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