Golden Week Getaway: Part One

What looks almost like blue sky in the background are actually clouds covering Mt. Fuji from top to bottom.

Well, we did not go to Hakone-Izu National Park for our getaway as I thought when I heard “Mt. Fuji” and “ropeway.” That, I was informed, would have been madness because of the expected crowds that would be visiting this week. Instead, we headed for the Mt. Fuji Five Lakes district, just outside of the city of Kawaguchiko. Because of traffic issues that were expected on Golden Week’s opening day, we spent Friday night at our son’s home, and were all up at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday and on the road by 4:30, arriving at our first stop, the Oshino Hakkai Springs, shortly before 9:00 a.m.

Streams as well as underground tunnels connect the eight springs at Oshino Hakkai.
In the past, the streams were used to power mills in the area.

The Fuji Five Lakes, which wrap around the northern side of Mt. Fuji, were formed following several eruptions of the volcano as were the Oshino Hakkai Springs, which was originally a sixth lake that dried up. The air at the springs was crisp and quite cool when we arrived, but Mt. Fuji was covered in clouds – if you didn’t know better you’d never have known there was a very big volcano sitting just off to the side.

Pure, clean water bubbles up from the bottom of one of the springs. The water is filtered through deep layers of porous lava.

The eight Oshino Hakkai springs are an asset of the Mt. Fuji World Heritage Site, and are lovely, deep pools of extremely clear, pure water. The water said to be the best in Japan, and is revered by locals for its purity – “water of the gods.” When the snow melts on Mt. Fuji it enters the ground and passes through several layers of lava, which is porous. Apparently it takes nearly 80 years for the water to reach the springs which is why they are so clean and pure. The deepest pool, Wakuike, was over 26 feet deep and coins were visible sitting on the bottom (visitors have been asked not to throw coins though as it degrades the water quality). Koi could be seen swimming in layers throughout the pool, and beautiful green water grasses on the bottom waved back and forth. Next to the pool was small waterfall where cold, refreshing water from the spring was available to drink or bottle (we filled a bottle).

A modern Japanese farmhouse in the Oshino Hakkai Springs neighborhood
Because of the cooler temperatures in the Five Lakes area, cherry trees and other plants were still in bloom.

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Surrounding the springs are farmhouses and farmland, and we visited several of the local vendors who were set up near the springs selling locally produced or grown items, including sweets, pickles and local crafts. We ate some grilled dango (balls of mochi basted with sweet soy sauce), grilled kusa mochi, made with local mugwort and filled with sweet bean paste (my favorite mochi, although I’d never had it grilled before), and hot chestnuts right from the roaster (Brett’s favorite). Several farmers had huge Fuji apples for sale – the samples we tried were very sweet – but we decided to wait until later to purchase those. The Five Lakes area is also known for growing wasabi, and I purchased two bags of wasabi senbei (crackers), and one of my favorite Japanese snacks.

The Hannoki Bayashi Shiryokan museum farmhouse
Crossview of the deep thatch on traditional farmhouses – it almost appears to be solid.

Included in the village is a small museum, Hannoki Bayashi Shiryokan, which allowed us to walk around two more of the springs as well as visit an old, traditional farmhouse and outbuildings. The former farm owners were apparently silk manufacturers – silkworms were grown in the attic area of the farmhouse, and then woven into fabric with finished products made at the home. We were able to climb through the entire house and see how the rooms were set up and where work was done – it was fascinating.

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Colorful koinoburi greeted visitors to the aquarium

After leaving the springs we headed over to a nearby small freshwater aquarium. Because of the streams coming off of Mt. Fuji and out of the other surrounding mountains, trout are plentiful in the area as are sturgeon. The kids especially enjoyed spending time here, and we came across several more farmers selling vegetables, apples, and eggs at the side of the parking lot – both my DIL and I were very tempted!

Then it was on to a nearby restaurant for lunch where we enjoyed another area specialty: houtou. These are wide, thick udon noodles served in broth. I ordered noodles with pumpkin, Brett had his with pork, and the lunch sets included pink rice (cooked with red beans), pickles, tofu and some other treats. We left with full, happy stomachs.

Pumpkin houtou set for lunch – I ate every bite.

Rain was coming down as we left the restaurant and Mt. Fuji was still swathed in heavy clouds, so we decided to split up for a while before going to our cabin. Brett and I wanted to visit the Itchiku Kubota Museum just down the road, and our son, DIL and kids needed to do some grocery shopping. The museum was the most beautiful I have ever visited in my life and worthy of a separate post.

The kitchen at the cabin.
The soaking tub was fully programmable – you filled and heated the water (and maintained the heat) from a remote control in the great room.
The cabin was paneled in pine which gave off a lovely, soft aroma throughout the house.

Our cabin for the next two days was wonderful. The house slept 10, and had a great room with a large, extremely well-equipped kitchen; a huge, luxurious soaking bath; a tatami room downstairs for two; and two bedrooms upstairs that slept four each. Both Brett and I said we could have happily lived in that house – it was lovely.

Mt. Fuji emerged from the clouds as the sun began to set.
Grandpa helped K with some after-dinner fireworks.

After getting unpacked and the food put away, we all took a short nap and awoke a couple of hours later to the magnificent sight of Mt. Fuji coming out of the clouds as the sun set – a beautiful ending to a terrific day, and a promise of a beautiful day to come.


13 thoughts on “Golden Week Getaway: Part One

  1. I love everything pumpkin and I would’ve had your same lunch! When I was in Argentina the travel agent we used made sure that everywhere we went, they knew I did not eat meat. That resulted in a number of wonderful pumpkin dishes. I can’t decide if the soup or the quiche was my favorite. I also love the house you stayed in, and I am just undone by that picture of Brett with your granddaughter. It is so sweet!


    1. Japanese pumpkin (kabocha) is so good . . . and you can eat the peel! I dont think you could have eaten the houtou though because the broth was meat-based. It was delicious though, and I LOVED those big fat noodles!

      We had such a great time there, and with the family. Our granddaughter is the most easy-going toddler I have ever met, and she and Brett really hit it off!

      P.S. I want to go back to Argentina!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The whole getaway was wonderful. We absolutely loved the cabin where we stayed, and were surprised by how much there was to do in the area. A getaway to us in the U.S. usually means relaxation, but in Japan it’s go-go-go (in a good way).

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  2. What a lovely first day you all had! We likewise loved all the various wasabi snacks, and that pumpkin houtou looks absolutely delicious. You are making me miss Japanese cuisine!

    So pleased you visited the Itchiku Kubota Museum! I could have easily spent half a day there luxuriating in those gorgeous kimono works-of-art, plus the beautiful wooded setting of the museum. So darned much to love about Japan!

    And likewise love the sweet photo of Brett and your granddaughter. Ours is about one year older than your girl, and we love every moment we are with her. It’s exhausting at times for sure, but such a small price to pay for the joy of enjoying her energetic little presence. 😉


    1. The whole getaway was just wonderful! I almost can’t believe all the things we saw and did, and the food! The wasabi crackers are my favorite and I stocked up because they can be hard to find otherwise (even in Tokyo).

      I’m planning a separate post on the Kubota museum. I have been a fan of his art for several years, but didn’t know about the museum until we arrived in Kawaguchiko – it was right down the road from our cabin!

      We are going to miss our grandchilden so much, but our DIL is very good about sending pictures and updates. We’re planning to come back to Japan for our granddaughter’s fourth birthday, and are just starting to talk about the possibility of doing a week’s vacation together at Walt Disney World in FL in 2021!


    1. Definitely one of the most beautiful areas in Japan, and I had no idea. I honestly wish we could have spent more time there – especially with that view of Mt. Fuji from our window every day!

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  3. Gorgeous! The food looks amazing and I’m just now realizing where Fuji apples originated. Duh. 🙂

    That cabin is to die for. That soaking tub would make my day…I love my tub! It’s frustrating to me how many homes and condos are now being built with only showers.

    Like others, I love the pics of Brett with your granddaughter. Just precious.


    1. The Fuji apples we bought last weekend are SO MUCH better than the ones we get back in the U.S. They are so sweet and juicy here.

      The cabin was a real fine. Apparently our son and family stayed there a couple of years ago, but in a smaller space. The hosts are wonderful, as is the location (and price). I didn’t get to take a bath there (just showers), but I loved how automatic it all was.


    1. It took every ounce of willpower to not buy a piece of sweet potato (yaki imo)! Thankfully I was a bit full from the two types of dango, but I still so wanted one of those sweet potatoes!

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