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January 11, 2017

Mt. Fuji by Air, Land & Sea

Mt. Fuji by Air, Land & Sea
January 11, 2017
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Yet another post on Tokyo? I know, I know. It sure feels like Dan and I are just Tokyo bloggers lately, but there was just so much to recap in our long 4.5 days there that we had to share all of these unique experiences to pass on to our readers to bookmark for your future trip to Japan!

We booked our third day in Tokyo just a few days in advance through Viator.com, which is a division of TripAdvisor (our go-to travel app). We found a tour via a quick Google search on the 'best way to see Mt. Fuji' which lead us to the 4.5/5 star rated 'Mt Fuji, Lake Ashi and Bullet Train Day Trip from Tokyo' from JTB Sunrise Tours. Now, we usually aren't ones for guided group tours as we like to explore and travel about on our own terms as the locals do, but seeing Mt. Fuji is quite a haul from Tokyo, which would've required a ton of advanced planning - which we are terrible at as you may catch in this blog. This tour turned out to be perfect for us, as you will find out below.

View of mt fuji from the Ninja restaurant in Oshino Ninja Village

The day started by us waking up late, as usual. We chose for pickup at the somewhat nearby Keio Plaza Hotel at 8am, which was roughly a 20min walk from our Airbnb in Shin-Okubo. By the time we were rushing out the door at 7:45am, we realized our only chance of getting there by 8am was by quickly hopping on the subway. What we didn't take into account was rush hour on the trains....thousands of men and women filled the subway all dressed in what seemed like matching well-pressed black business suits. We slid our way into a crevice of shoulder-to-shoulder contact, creating a very uncomfortable situation for both us and the riders, but hey we had to make that train somehow. If you remember the airport chaos scene from Home Alone, that was us. We slithered through thousands of business people with our large backpacks and breakfast in-hand, what a disaster. Tourists...we are the worst.

As we arrive into the fancy hotel lobby at 8:05 sweating and out-of-breath from sprinting up from the subway tunnels, we hear in the distance 'are you the Coxes?' They spotted us from a mile away. Apparently when the ticket says meet there at 8, that is the departure time, not a general buffer meeting time like we thought. They escort us embarrassingly to a bus packed full of people staring quietly right at us as we catch our breath. At least we made it!

After a very rocky start from our late awakening, the bus departs with our very friendly and helpful bilingual tour guide. He lets us know we are in for a 1.5-2hr bus ride to Mt. Fuji. Plenty of time for us to cool down and power through our breakfast that consisted of pancakes out of a plastic bag. We earned this delicious, artificial pancake filled with butter & syrup.

The bus ride was quite scenic, with our tour guide even reacting to the distant views of Mt. Fuji in awe. According to the guide, 9 times out of 10 you just can't place Fujisan visually from the highway we were driving on, even on fairly clear days. He told us to take photos then, as they just can't predict the visibility of Mt. Fuji, as our bus gets closer. We learned that Mt. Fuji only has ~30% visibility, so we were lucky on the views early on, as the bus drove us past a theme park known as Fuji-Q Highland (which looks amazing btw if you are into roller coasters), with Mt. Fuji looking down on the park.

Our First View of Mt Fuji from the Bus Ride
Our First View of Mt Fuji from the Bus Ride
The first stop on the bus was actually ON Mt. Fuji at 2,020M of elevation at an overlook and small town, referred to as the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. The views were breathtaking. On one side you can see the peak of Mt. Fuji piercing through the trees. On the other end, you have the view right above the clouds with the snow-capped mountain range and towering trees just peaking out over the white abyss. This was one of the most surreal views we have ever experienced.

Posing at the sign at Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, 2020m up

Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station - View from above the clouds on Mt. Fuji

Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station - View from above the clouds on Mt. Fuji

Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station - View from above the clouds on Mt. Fuji - Through sunglasses from Sonix
Sunglasses from Sonix
To warm up after taking 200 photos in the frigid breeze, we found a vending machine (these are on every block around Japan) that dispenses the most amazing hot-to-the-touch coffee out of a can, already mixed in with a little cream + sugar. Of course we needed coffee with Mt. Fuji on the Can!

Of course we needed coffee with Mt. Fuji on the Can! - Emerald Mountain Coffee, delicious!
Emerald Mountain Blend
The next stop would take us to lunch at the Oshino Ninja Village! Watch this video link, as it was never explained to us how unique this place would be. We weren't expecting a great lunch for the all-inclusive price, but man were we wrong. Amazing buffet-style spread of traditional Japanese lunch - including soba, tempura veggies, rice, curry, miso soup, yakisoba, egg salad, salted fish, and various green salads with sesame or kalamansi dressing with a view of Mt. Fuji through their ceiling-to-floor glass windows. We stuffed ourselves beyond the comfort level. Oishi!

Oshino Ninja Village - Lunch at the famous Ninja Restaurant

Oshino Ninja Village - Lunch at the famous Ninja Restaurant

Food!!!  Oshino Ninja Village - Lunch at the famous Ninja Restaurant

This was followed by a quick photo op with a real ninja, and lead to a long walk through the traditional Japanese Tea Gardens to work some of this overindulgence off. Neverending beauty throughout the gardens here!

Posing with a real ninja! Oshino Ninja Village - Lunch at the famous Ninja Restaurant
Posing with a real life ninja, we are so cool

Oshino Ninja Village - Views from the traditional japanese tea garden

Oshino Ninja Village - Views from the traditional japanese tea garden

Oshino Ninja Village - Views from the traditional japanese tea garden

Next up, we meet back on the bus, and our guide says "we are heading up the mountain to an air tram that will take us to the hot springs!" Another pleasant surprise. We arrive at the base of Owakudani, Hakone, and take a sky tram through the valley to a village on top of the mountain/volcano range. The first thing that hits you is a STRONG odor of sulfur, of which they warn you about, but can't fully prepare you for. It turns out that Owakudani is an active volcanic valley, and is also known as "Jigokudani" (translation: The Valley of Hell) - which of course they don't tell us tourists - see article for more on this. You are completely surrounded by natural steam piping through the volcanic mountains and natural hot springs, hence the sulfur smell.

Air tram leading to Owakudani

Air tram leading to Owakudani

Air tram leading to Owakudani

Views of the natural hot spring steam piping throughout Owakudani

Views of the natural hot spring steam piping throughout Owakudani

View of Mt. Fuji from Owakudani

View of Mt. Fuji from Owakudani

Owakudani is known for their 'black eggs', which are essentially hard boiled eggs that are buried up in this sulfur-rich town. These eggs are sold in a hot bag of 5 for 500 yen (aka under $5 - worth it). They say if you eat one black egg, that translates to an extra 7 years of life, and eating two eggs will grant you 14 years. Naturally, we played it safe and ate two each for longevity. Although they reek of sulfur on the outside, once you peel the shell off, it tastes and looks like a normal hard-boiled egg inside, so we would recommend trying these out just for the novelty. Just like the last stop, great views of Mt. Fuji from here as well!

Black eggs at Owakudani

Black eggs at Owakudani

Black eggs at Owakudani
How cute are these black egg stools

'Alright this must be it' as we said upon boarding the bus after returning from the sky tram. Our tour guide stands up and says, "Next stop is the Hakone Pirate Ship on Lake Ashi." We feel like we owe them extra $ now, but this was all part of the original fare. The beauty of poorly researching destinations is pleasant surprises such as this. The pirate ship made for one unique boat ride on a still, quiet lake overlooking Fujisan. Once we made it to the other side of the lake, we strolled through the village with an ice cream shop (SJ grabbed a cone), cafes, and gift stores to browse through.

Hakone Pirate Ship on Lake Ashi

Hakone Pirate Ship on Lake Ashi

Hakone Pirate Ship on Lake Ashi

Hakone Pirate Ship on Lake Ashi

Hakone Pirate Ship on Lake Ashi

Hakone Pirate Ship on Lake Ashi

Icecream on the other side of Lake Ashi

From Lake Ashi, our guide rounded us up, and took us on our final adventure via bus to the famous Shinkansen, referred to in English as the bullet train. The first bullet train passing through the station caught us by surprise, as we didn't hear it coming, but it swooshed through the station at what must have been at least 100mph.

Famous japanese bullet train zooming past the station - known as Shinkansen

When our train came, we grabbed our assigned seats, and didn't even feel the bullet train take off. The only way you first realize the train is moving is through looking out the window. So smooth and quiet. We arrived in under 40mins, for what would equate to a 2-3hr bus ride or on a normal train. Bullet trains hit over 200mph in cruising speed, and you don't experience any bumps, turbulence, etc. Our new preferred method of transportation!


THINGS TO KNOW


  • RESERVATIONS: We booked this tour once we were already in Japan, 2 days before the actual tour date. Don't be SJ & Dan - book a month or two in advance if you can as tours can sell out early.
  • COST: Through Viator, the total cost was $140/each all-inclusive of all transportation (bus, sky tram, pirate ship, bullet train), lunch, and the guide, with the initial meeting spot for pickup at Keio Plaza Hotel.
  • TIME: Early December turned out to be the best time of year to visit Mt. Fuji, aka Fujisan, for the cool, crisp weather and clear skies. Research says Nov, Dec, and Jan are your best chances to see Fujisan due to best visibility. Plan for a full day of travel from 8am-6pm for this tour. 
  • TIPS: Arrive earlier than it says on your reservation, and bring warm accessories (gloves, hat, jacket) to layer on, water bottles, a portable charger, and a backpack to store your belongings in.

View of Mt. Fuji

We HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend the Mt Fuji, Lake Ashi and Bullet Train Day Trip from Tokyo tour. We hope you enjoy this trip as much as we did!

Happy Travels,


January 06, 2017

In Search of the Best Sushi

In Search of the Best Sushi
January 06, 2017
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When planning your trip to Tokyo where the best sushi in the world exists, one must splurge on a traditional omakase (chef's choice) sushi experience.




January 04, 2017

Tokyo Travel Tips - What We Wish We Knew

Tokyo Travel Tips - What We Wish We Knew
January 04, 2017
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We hope that this list helps all you fellow adventurers who plan on making a trip out to Tokyo!

View of Tokyo from the Tokyo Tower

This post is also on [Niume] where it's currently featured as a Staff Pick!

January 03, 2017

Off to Toyko - Part II

Off to Toyko - Part II
January 03, 2017
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Let’s continue where we left off last year - with Part II of our Tokyo venture, exploring parks, towers, and the eclectic beauty of Shinjuku.


December 16, 2016

Off to Tokyo - Part I

Off to Tokyo - Part I
December 16, 2016
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Dan and I (mainly me) was itching for another trip abroad before the year ended.  With only a couple months left we looked through our calendars and saw an opportunity the first week in December.  I didn't hesitate and seized the opportunity. We decided to go to Tokyo since we're on the West Coast and they offer direct flights from LAX at a great price.


November 15, 2016

Airbnb - Italian Villa in Sacramento

Airbnb - Italian Villa in Sacramento
November 15, 2016
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While in Sacramento for Dan's work conference, we stayed at another incredible Airbnb where we got to experience the beauty of fall.


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