On Tuesday, we took a tour to Mt Fuji and to some of the surrounding areas which are about 2 hours south -west of Tokyo (depending on your form of transport).
Our first stop was at Lake Kawaguchi by a tourist town of the same name just to the north of Mt Fuji. It was clearly a tourist town as the restaurant at which we ate lunch had four floors of wall-to-wall seating with every table set in the same way for the million, or so, guests who might suddenly appear in a fleet of buses. The second sign of this town’s tourist status were the fleets of white swan pedal boats that one could hire for a personalised excursion on the lake. It just depended whether you hired the yellow, white or pink one.
Mt Fuji was clouded in but our guide assured us that the Fifth Station at the end of the road, high up the mountain, would probably be above the cloud and we would be able see the peak of this very revered mountain. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan (3,776 metres) and one of the few almost perfectly conical volcanoes in the world. It last erupted in 1707.
The Fifth Station, where the road stopped, was roughly at the same level as Australia’s highest mountain – Mt Kosciusko (2666 metres). As it turned out, it was well and truly fogged in, but we did get a quick glimpse of the northern slopes and peak from along the road as the cloud cleared for a short time. At the end of the road, the fog was so thick it was even difficult to see the large and vulgar looking group of tourist shops built in front of a rather old and elegant Shinto shrine.
The main souvenir shop handed each tourist a tiny bell that was meant to be a symbol of longevity. I accepted mine gratefully as in turning 67 today, I now need every bit of help with longevity that I can get. The air was quite cool and with the fog, there wasn’t really much to do other than take photos of Japanese people posing for photos in many wonderful and weird way as only Japanese people can do and then return to the bus.
We continued for the next part of our day by travelling on a very scenic road across the mountains to the city of Hakone. This city is famous in Japan as a spa resort with its many hot springs. People from all over the country come here to stay in the many Inss and Hotels that have a hot pool, as well as to be close to Mt Fuji .
We had a short and rather nondescript cruise on the lake and then took a cable car to one of the peaks. The most popular cable car in the area is now closed as one of the volcanoes nearby has begun to erupt and it is too dangerous to be near. We still had a good view from the top station of an alternative cable way and we could finally see the peak of Mt Fuji poking up through the clouds.
Our return to Tokyo was by Shinkansen (bullet train). This took only 35 minutes compared to the 2 1/2 hours that it had taken us by bus in the morning. Just as we arrived on the platform an express train roared through on the central tracks at round 250 kph. It certainly startled those of us who were not expecting it. These trains al have the same configuration of 16 cars and run every 30 minutes or so between the major cities of Japan.
Our JR local train from Central Tokyo Station to Shinjuku was a lot slower and a lot more crowded. We arrived back into Tokyo in the middle of peak time. It was just like those stories that we have all read about Tokyo’s crowded peak hour trains. W only needed to travel four stops but at every one another ten or twelve people crowded in through the doors even though we we assumed that it was impossible for anyone else to get on at all. Fortunately, our stop at Shinjuku is one of the main stations in Tokyo and many people got off the train there. Even though we had been pushed further to the centre of the carriage at every stop, it was relatively easy to go with the flow of those getting off to get out onto the platform.
We shared dinner with a couple from Perth (Barry and Geraldine) in one of the little restaurants in the alley way by the station that I had photographed a few nights ago., They were also on our day tour and we had enjoyed their company. It was a fun meal – eating and chatting with them as well as other people from different parts of the world who were sitting on adjoining tables.
Overall, I had a very good day for my birthday. Thanks to everyone who sent me a birthday greeting in different ways.