After spending three weeks in Tokyo we felt it was the right time to get to know Japanese nature. Our dream holiday must include a mountain and a beach. Not only Chubu Region offers both but it is quite close to Tokyo. A Peruvian Japanese friend of ours (thanks Junya!), recommended us the Five Lakes area around Fuji Mountain. Kawaguchiko is the one best connected to Tokyo (and the coast) so we headed there. The place can be reached by both the scenic Fujikyu Osuki train line and by bus.
After getting to our charming Hotel Koryu we immediately noticed one of Japan’s most pressing issues: its aging population. We were greeted by an older receptionist and a charming older woman dressed up in a Japanese kimono who served us delicious tea. Drinking tea and watching the lake from our window made us so happy. What made us ecstatic with joy was our hotel’s Onsen, an open air hot spring where we could see the moon and breathe the forest.
Fuji and the Five Lakes
We spent a day just wondering around this quiet town and two days exploring the other lakes. Our main goal was to contemplate the views over mountain Fuji and to hike around the lakes. We walked through a forest in the middle of the lakes and then took a long hike from Lake Shoji to Lake Motosu through Mt. Eboshi. That’s when we finally surrendered, and Japan conquered us completely. I mean the cities are nice, but nature is truly special. On our way back we had coffee and cake at a small local café overlooking Lake Siako, and again we were alone enjoying the silence. If you are planning on visiting the mountain itself check these tips for Mount Fuji.
After 3 days in Kawaguchiko we took a bus to Atami, in the famous Izu Peninsula. It’s a nice ride along Lake Yamanaka and Mt. Hakone. In Atami we took a local train to Shimoda, the last station on the peninsula. Our Shimoda Prince Hotel offered superb comfort, a beautiful private beach and a fabulous Onsen with views to the sea. We spent three very happy days there enjoying an almost empty beach and watching the sunset from our balcony.
The nearby larger beautiful Shirahama beach is visited by alternative Japanese men and women. Everybody is relaxed and tanned, something you don’t see in other parts of Japan. Occasionally small lakes or rivers form in the middle of the wide beach and cute ducks enjoying their time swimming happily can be seen. Next to the beach there is a small Shinto Shrine, a couple of restaurants and supermarkets. The whole place exudes happiness.
Chubu region and the crowds
One of our major complaints (if I may call it that) about Japan is the amount of people you find literally everywhere. But visiting Lake Kawaguchiko and Shimoda in Chubu Province proved to be a fantastic choice. We felt we got to know a genuine softer Japan plus we were able to enjoy nature on our own. Truth be told, high season begins on June 15th, the day we left, and supposedly it can get very crowded. In recent years, tourism has exploded in Japan and in the rest of the world so the only way to escape the crowds is by carefully planning your holiday. We had the privilege of doing so!