Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fuji Five Lakes: Lake Kawaguchi, Japan

Sunday, February 19, 2017


We left Tokyo early in the morning and made our way to a small town called Kawaguchiko in Fuji Five Lakes. From our AirBnB in the Daikan-yama neighborhood of Tokyo, we took three trains to Kawaguchiko station. The last train was a Fuji-san express, where some of the compartments give you a view of Mt. Fuji as you approach the destination. It was a cloudy day, so our view was of the mountains, which were brushed with reds, oranges, and greens, the town starting to change to fall. Kindly, our ryokan (a traditional Japanese hotel) sent a shuttle to pick us up, so that we didn't have to roll our suitcases across town. 


We weren't able to check-in until later in the afternoon, so we rented bikes from a small shop and decided to ride around Lake Kawaguchi. It was a bit chilly since the sun was behind the clouds, but it was a pleasant ride. 








On the other side of the lake, we visited a Maple Leaf Tunnel, It looked like it was an old canal that was lined with maple trees on both sides. You could walk on either side, taking in the momiji (maple leaves). 



Nearby, there was an Autumn Festival with craft and food vendors. I kept an eye out for some ceramics, but didn't see anything that I wanted to purchase. Instead, we ate! We snacked on grilled corn on the cob, some grilled oysters, had a few beers, and we even tried these delicious bread rolls that were unlike anything I've ever had! They were quite dense, and only 50 yen so we had to go back for another! We tried using our Google translate app to translate her sign that was in Japanese, but unfortunately, we still had no idea what kind of tasty bread the woman made. 



Making our way back to the Japanese hotel so that we could check-in, we came upon a hill with a nice view of the lake. Up the hill were small, concrete stairs and at the top was a tiny shrine, hidden behind the trees.


We went back to the ryokan to check-in. When we arrived, there was a line of women dressed to the nines in their traditional kimonos. The woman that was assigned to our room led us to our floor. Once we went inside our room, she removed her sandals, and we removed our shoes, switching into the slippers since the entire room was covered in tatami mats.  She showed us around the room, and then made us matcha green tea before leaving. In the room, there were shoji screens over the sliding glass doors. Behind it should have been Mt. Fuji in the distance, but Fuji-san was shy that day, hiding behind the clouds. 

In the closets were the shiki futons for later in the night, as well as yukata (robes) and obi (sashes), so we changed into them before dinner. One block away from the ryokan was a Lawson convenience store (which we loved throughout Japan for their tamago sandos [egg salad sandwiches]) so before dinner, Steven picked up some shochu, a distilled alcohol beverage. Before dinner, we enjoyed the onsen (hot spring) on our balcony while drinking the shochu. 

We signed up for the kaiseki dinner, which is a traditional, multi-course dinner with seasonal small plates. Our ryokan host (I believe her name was Fukima) would bring the trays of food in one by one. They were so heavy that they would bend in the middle. I don't know how Fukima carried them from the hallway all on her own! Most of everything we ate were new flavors and textures for us. Some familiar items were raw meat cooked over a small, hot grill, as well as a miso soup heated over coals. There was a lot of seafood on the menu, which we both love, as well as chestnut and mochi/rice confections. It was all beautifully displayed, and a lovely experience - certainly a highlight of our trip. 

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