About two and a half weeks ago during the middle of November at the peak of Autumn in central Japan, I took at day trip to Lake Kawaguchiko to see Mt Fuji up close and to photograph kouyou at its most beautiful. We are fortunate to have an immaculate view of Mt Fuji from our 27th floor balcony and the sunsets and sunrises are extraordinary. But, I’ve never actually seen this monstrous volcano up close and personal.
This particular area of Japan is part of the Fuji Five Lakes, but Lake Kawaguchiko has a reputation for being the most beautiful during kouyou, or autumn season. So I woke up super early one morning, grabbed my tripod and my gear and then hopped trains a few times over the three hour commute to arrive at Kawaguchiko station. It was generally a flawless ride up there, but traveling Japan is always a little challenge. I really didn’t do any trip research at all either, other than look up specifically where the reddest kouyou was located along the Lake. Time was limited, so that would do.
I arrived and looked around 360 degrees, with no sign of Fujisan through the clouds. That was disappointing, but I knew she’d come out sooner or later. For all I knew, this monstrous mountain was standing a short distance in front of me. That felt kinda creepy.
But I decided to just hire a more expensive cab rather than to wait for the bus to take me around the lake since time was of the essence. This is usually a great idea I’ve come to learn. As usual in Japan, the cab drivers are always kinder older men with a fetching curiosity about what this white girl is doing in their country. As usual, I’m asked where I’m from, how long I’ve lived here, why am I here, and then comment on the weather before saying “nihongo jouzudesu,” for which I always reply “arigato gozaimasu demo nihongowa mama desu demo chotto benkyoushimasu.” Thank you, but my Japanese really isn’t that good I study a little.
He dropped me off after a 15 minute ride around an area very well lit with beautiful vibrant red and yellow trees – precisely what I was up there for to photograph. Unfortunately that day, Fujisan was partially covered all day until around sunset when the clouds parted and I was finally able to get a few decent shots. However, I really wanted the classic shot of kouyou in front of Fujisan, but that just wasn’t meant to be. But I grabbed lunch at an adorable cafe in a garden facing the lake and Mt Fuji, and I spent a good four hours walking around the small village, which really reminded me of an adorable little village in the Swiss Alps. It did feel like Europe. Around sunset, I had no idea where I was going, but I just decided to wing it and walk back using simply intuition to make my way back to the train station. When it comes to traveling, I’ve learned that Daniel and I are polar opposites. He needs to know on the GPS precisely where we are and what direction we are heading. That’s the submariner in him I suppose. But I’m a more intuitive type and don’t really care for GPS unless I’m lost. I’ll just wander in a certain direction that peaks my interest and then hop into a taxi if I get lost. I almost never fret about directions unless I see bars on the windows, which doesn’t happen in Japan. But it was a good 40 minute walk but I caught Fuji around sunset which was spectacular and I ended up meeting another super nice expat on the way back who was also here in Japan, which made the experience of the day all the more interesting as we chatted the entire way back to Tokyo. All in all, a successful and memorable day of travel.