Yamanashi’s Fuji Five Lakes
The Fuji Five Lakes region, or Fujigoko as it is known in Japanese, is a set of lakes that formed on the northern foot of Mount Fuji as a result of past eruptions. Being in close proximity of the volcanic mountain, the region is blessed with rich agriculture, plenty of hot springs, and of course uncontested views of Mount Fuji. Understandably so, this is one of the favourite all-season playgrounds for vacationers both from Tokyo and beyond. When traveling from Tokyo, the Fujigoko begins with Lake Yamanakako, the largest of the five lakes, which is then followed by east to west by Lake Kawaguchiko, Lake Saiko, Shoji Lake, and Lake Motosu.
Although all the lakes are suitable for outdoor sports activities, Yamanakako is the preferred sporty spot with young athletes visiting during the summer months to attend one of the several sports camps around the lake. There are two small towns at opposing sides of the lake where visitors can find various styles of accommodation, restaurants, and watersports rental shops. Among Mount Fuji enthusiasts, Lake Yamanakako’s Panorama Dai is one of the best viewing platforms and usually filled from the early hours of the day with amateur and professional photographers.
Kawaguchiko, as it is known to the Japanese, is the most developed lake out of the Fuji Five, and the one with the best access via public transportation from Tokyo. It is the second largest lake in the region and, beyond the outdoor activities and the sight of Fujisan, travelers can find an entertaining list of sightseeing options to keep the whole family busy. Some locations worth visiting around Kawaguchiko include the Mount Fuji World Heritage Centre, Fuji Q Highland amusement park with its record breaking rides, Fuji-themed museums, the Kawaguchiko Natural Living Centre, and the Funatsu lakeside district. Kawaguchiko Station is also the starting point for those wanting to climb Mount Fuji and thus a required stop for most travellers to the area.
To the west of Lake Kawaguchiko is Lake Saiko, which is smaller but just as beautiful. Much less developed than Kawaguchiko, there are no grocery stores and the restaurant offering is very limited. However, when it comes to outdoor activities and sightseeing locations it is full of fun options. There are several campsites and lakeside resorts around Lake Saiko, as well as a few boat rental shops. This is one of the preferred spots for fishing enthusiasts looking for black sea bass. Being surrounded by mountains, this lake does not offer as many Fujisan viewing points as the other lakes, although the volcano can be seen towering over the mountains from the western end of the lake. Lake Saiko is also home to lava caves, the Aokigahara Forest, and the Iyashi no Sato Nenba which are also worth a visit.
This is the smallest lake of the Fujigoko, snuggled between Lake Motosuko and Lake Saiko. Although the lake is small, its lakeside road is home to four hotels and a camping ground. Visitors to Shojiko also get to enjoy the stunning view of Mount Fuji framed by the surrounding mountains in the distance. On clear days, the volcano is reflected on the water creating what is known to locals as the “upside down” Fujisan view. During the first week of August Shojiko hosts its own fireworks and music festival which, coupled with the picturesque scenery on the horizon, is one of the most memorable experiences in the Fujigoko region.
If you’re travelling from east to west, Lake Motosuko, the deepest of the lakes, is the last of the Fuji Five Lakes you’ll come to. As far as tourist infrastructure is concerned, options are relatively limited. What visitors can enjoy at Lake Motosuko is the pristine nature around the lake, a choice of five different camping grounds, the clear waters, and a long list of watersports that included scuba diving. A trip out this far is worth it for the drive or bike ride around the lake, under the a tunnel of trees, and with Fujisan in the background.