What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Japan? You’re thinking about sushi right? Sorry to disappoint you but I’m not about to talk about sushi – I can’t stand it (cue gasp)! For me, the first thought is always “too many people in such a small country”, followed closely by the iconic volcano, Mount Fuji.


When my parents came to Tokyo for a week last month I took the opportunity to finally visit Mount Fuji with them. We combined Mount Fuji and Hakone by doing the Grayline tours day trip. The tour starts at 9:00 at the Dai-ichi Hotel Tokyo in Shimbashi, though it does a number of hotel pickups beforehand, and from here it’s a 2 hour drive to the volcano. I’m a firm believer that cities should not been seen from a tour bus, but I also believe one of the best ways to see Tokyo is on the road. With many highways being above ground level, whizzing between skyscrapers is an experience you won’t get in a city like New York, plus the view is wonderful, day or night.




The first stop is the Mount Fuji tourist office. It’s only a brief stop but it’s the best place for photos of the mountain if you’re lucky enough to have a clear day. Back on the bus 30 minutes later and it’s time to finally ascend it. Which station the bus goes to depends on the weather and snow. The highest vehicle station is the fifth (the highest on foot is the tenth), though we could only go to the fourth. Again it’s only a short stop here (the sole reason I don’t like tours) though if I’m honest there’s not a lot to see from the fourth station. Everyone seemed to be more concerned with climbing the mound of snow at the end of the parking lot.




From Mount Fuji it’s another hour and a half drive to Hakone Lake Hotel for lunch. Not the greatest meal, but then I’m pretty picky. After lunch the tour takes a quick boat cruise across lake Ashi. It’s nice, scenic and over far too quickly. The full cruise is much longer and travels further around the lake for views of Mount Fuji but after 15 minutes our group is ushered off the boat and back onto the bus, headed for hell…literally!




Owakudani, commonly referred to as “hell’s valley”, is a 3000 year old crater created when Mount Hakone last erupted. It’s been given the nickname because of the sulfuric gases rising from the earth. It’s not a pleasant smell to say the least! Access to the crater is via a cable car called the Hakone Ropeway. On a clear day this place holds spectacular views of Mount Fuji, though it was hiding behind clouds by the time we arrived. Popular with the tourists is the specialty kuro-tamago, a black egg hard-boiled in the hot springs of Owakudani. Eating a black egg is said to extend your life by seven years but the possibility of increased longevity was not enough to make neither my parents nor I try one.




Owakudani is the final stop of the tour. The bus heads to Odawara where you have the option of staying on the bus or taking the bullet train back to Tokyo. We opted for the train since it’s considerably faster and because my parents hadn’t ridden one yet.


Overall it was a good day, though I do think too much time was spent on the bus. The tour itself was well organised, with a lovely tour guide and bus driver. Next time however, I won’t be using a tour. During the summer, when the snow has melted, the tenth station of Mount Fuji will be open for people to climb to the top. To stand on top of that mountain, 3776 m high, and watch the sun rise over the sleeping world must be magical and it’s something I hope to see. Soon…

13 Responses to “Iconic”
  1. squnches says:

    Japan is a beautiful place, I remember the Karaoke bars, the waterfalls and the temples and shrines :-)

  2. I think Mt. Fuji, it’s my dream to go climb it one day, so beautiful. Nice photos. =)

  3. Karen says:

    No matter how many times I see Fuji-san (actually, not that many considering how long I’ve spent in Tokyo … but I digress), it never fails to take my breath away. I loved your photos.

  4. RDoug says:

    Nice photo-journal of Japan.

  5. Pete Buckley says:

    Nice photos – I would love to see Japan and climb Mt Fuji – looks awesome!

  6. Nessy San says:

    When I think of Japan I think ANIME. ANd of course, there’s Mt. Fuji. ;) Hahaha! My first day to discover your blog, would love to continue reading the following days – as I am in-love with Japanese culture and its landscape. Thank your for sharing your experience!

  7. What a lovely day out!! I regret that during my stay in Japan I never made it up Mt Fuji, I can see from your post that it is a wonderful experience and will have to put it on my to-do-list when I visit Japan again!

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