It’s said that no one man can traverse the whole of Japan, even in a lifetime. It has 20 properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List that span the whole country, and still has much more that make this one of the most culturally infused countries in the world with heaps of history. With many of these places easily accessible by train or Shinkansen (bullet train) on a day trip from Tokyo, we decided to visit a few with the hopes of catching a glimpse of the illusive Fuji-san (Mount Fuji). Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s ‘Three Holy Mountains’ along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku and is regarded as the highest mountain and active stratovolcano in Japan. There are tons of places you can go to get a great view of Fuji-san, but like most good things, it’s not an easy task. Beautiful coastal cities like Hakone, Kamakura and Enoshima are all great spots to experience different facets of traditional Japanese culture.
We started our journey taking the Odakyu Railway train to Hakone-Yumoto at the base of Mount Hakone. This town is very well known for it’s mountain-transcending transport system which help people get up and down with ease. We took the Hakone Tozan bus up the mountain’s spiralling narrow roads that are actually said to be the birthplace of Tokyo drift racing towards Lake Ashi. Thus starts our Fuji-san adventure. One of the most beautiful places to see Mount Fuji is from one of the many sightseeing pirate ships on the lake that ferry people to Togendai ropeway station. But with it being a randomly cloudy day, Fuji-san was lost to the fog behind Hakone. It was a great shame as thousands of people visit Hakone everyday for this occasion and is very regularly missed due to unforeseen weather conditions. Damn that Fog! Second best spot is actually on the ropeway on the way up to Owakudani; an area around a crater, an active volcano in fact that is filled with sulphurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers. It’s most famous attraction however is in the form of the Kuro-Tamago or Black Egg made by cooking in naturally hot water blackened by the sulphur. Although tasting just like any ordinary boiled egg, eating one of these is said to prolong your life by seven years. Realising that day one was an unsuccessful mission we headed back down on the Sounzan Cable Car and vertical Hakone Tozan mountain train that zigzag back and forth all the way down saving our search for another day.
Day two consisted of heading to the small island of Enoshima then taking another train towards Kamakura. Enoshima is believed to have been risen up from the sea by Benzaiten, a Goddess of good fortune, weatlh, music and knowledge after subduing a mystical five-headed dragon that had been terrorising the area. Couples around the world visit Enoshima to ring the Dragon Love Bell at one of it’s peaks in hopes of longlasting love. The island is connected by bridge to mainland and offers great views of Mount Fuji on summer months but is quite a hike up by stairs. Also situated on the island are jagged cliffs, long winding streets up to Enoshima Shrine and Away Caves dedicated to the legendary dragon. We only came here briefly for the view but alas, we we’re met by the same foe, clouds. So we headed over to grab some street food at Kokusai-dori in Kamakura whose roads lead up to the many Shrines and temples scattered around the area. You’ll need more than a day to visit them all. My favourite was the bamboo garden in Hokokuji Temple. It was very dark in amongst the trees but very intimate where you’re able to walk in between the trees. If anyone knows about Arashiyama in Kyoto; you’re not able to do this in their Bamboo grove. Kamakura’s beaches are amongst the best places to see Fuji-san but we didn’t even bother to walk over since rain and clouds overshadowed the whole area. Instead we wandered about aimlessly in the rain searching for it’s beauty, and there was a lot of it in it’s many historic structures.
Leaving Kamakura left me realising why people say that no one man can traverse the whole of japan, even in a lifetime. Of the many extreme seasonal changes in Japan, it’s all down to being in the right place at the right time. Luck of sorts. I sifted through my images of last years Japan trip and came across one photo. Just one, of a mountain in the distance peaking up above the cities along the southern coast of Honshu island as we we’re sitting on a tilted Shinkansen train to Kyoto. It was Fuji-san… and although it isn’t the greatest photo, it’s made me want to revisit Japan in hopes to see him again. and i will!
Never give up,