“He who climbs Mount Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool“
OK so this applies to “climbing” and not “watching”, this mystic and sometimes frustrating mountain has its own charm. Year after year I discover new locations around the Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures but there in one spot which comes live in the cherry blossom season. This location is Chureito Pagoda, probably the most popular location featured on the tourism marketing material from Japan.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT : 1-2 weeks after the cherry blossoms in Tokyo are gone. Usually the mid of April to the 20th of the month and the end of October or early November in the Autumn color season.Let’s start with a few directions to the Chureito Pagoda from Tokyo :
- Hassle Free Option 1 : The simplest way is to get on the Narita Express or NEX from the Tokyo Station direct to the Fujisan-eki (Fujisan Station), one stop before Lake Kawaguchi. Costs around 40-45 dollars. From the Fujisan-eki take the local train to Shimo-Yoshida. Hassle and trouble free.
- Economical Option 2 : You can take the Chuo-Line from Tokyo Station to Hachioji then again a train to Otsuki Station and then onwards to Shimo-Yoshida Station. Note that you should not expect the flexibility of 3-4 minutes to next train if you miss one like in Tokyo. Expect to wait 30-40 minutes for the next one depending on the time of the day in case you miss one..
- The Google Map link is HERE
I took the economical option ensuring I had the reservation to a local train on the last Otsuki to Shimo Yoshida Station figured out. A cute local train, I really enjoyed my ride to the location.The Chureito Pagoda is 15 minute walk from the Shimo-Yoshida Station. Distance wise, just for your reference, this spot will be over 100 km (62 mi) away from Tokyo.
“Although it is only about 15 minutes walk to Arakura Sengen Shrine from the station, but be PREPARED to climb a lot of stairs.“
The Shimo Yoshida Station is a cute small beautiful spot itself. See the white spots on the hill at the back, that is where you need to walk to. They are cherry trees with the blossoms in their peak. Walk, walk walk and from this parking lot, you climb almost 400 steps to reach Chureito Pagoda. No pain no gain, so just get cracking, err, I mean climbing. Beautiful sakura flowers with the beautiful lamps around the walkway.
NOTE : There are no vending machines on the top (atleast that I could find and the security guard himself said “none”. There is a public water tap, but do not depend on it, just carry your own water bottle before you start climbing. Keep looking back : Symbol of Japan as well as Japanese beauty, the Mount Fuji was visible just a few steps of climbing and it was a pretty sight. The Torii (red gate) and the mountain right there in between…. Keep looking back after every few steps, different sights and views of the mountain until you reach the top. There is also a winding way around the hill if straight steps tire you down. Bit longer, but less taxing.Reflect : Chureito Pagoda is a peace memorial : Climb, climb and finally after the 400 steps you are at the Chureito Pagoda finally!!!! Beautiful weather and awesome sakura trees in full bloom. The pagoda built in 1963 as a peace memorial looks really beautiful and striking red colors add to the overall oriental feel….. Built by the mayor of Fujiyoshida as a memorial for over 960 citizens from Fujiyoshida who died in all of the wars (the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, World War I, and World War II). Reflecting on this I proceeded to go to the observation deck behind the pagoda.
You can go around both the sides of the pagoda to reach the observation deck. I sat down at this spot on a bench, opened the lunch box which my wife had packed for me (she could not join me on this wonderful trip). I realized that the spot was beautiful, but the home food (Indian lunch : Warm beans curry, roti, salad and also a few dry fruits almonds and cashews) made the experience complete. Sakura petals flew all around a mystic setup….Done with the lunch, I went on to the observation deck and saw the brilliant mountain in the backdrop with the pagoda and the cherry blossoms….. For all the visitors, to ensure that you make the best of the trip, choose a clear day, early in the morning to make it worth your while.Around the mountain I located a spot for a natural border with the trees and the sakura blossoms. It is almost surreal, this spot is most easily one of my favorite spot and I have visited over and over and over.Take in the view, satisfaction guaranteed. Breathless climb for a breathless view of the mystic mountain. Note that in the end the nature will win. Depending on the day, the weather, luck and cloud movement, Mount Fuji may play a prank and ruin your happiness. So you have been warned. My first visit was a disappointment. I have learnt to read the weather report, the live webcam feeds and all that before I head over.It is a big innovation that smartphones take some amazing photographs these days. With an iPhone 6S Plus shot, this snap is my wallpaper on my smartphone.Around the hills there are many other spots and do not get stuck at the pagoda spot alone. Go around the gardens and see the various cherry blossom spots in the area. A long day, I started to go back and stopped at this sign to take a shot of myself in that Ninja spot and the date recorded as April 16, 2016.Waiting for train on the platform…..On the side, there was one more train the Thomas & Friends train, ohhhh wish my 5 year old nephew would have been around. He is a BIG Thomas fan…..