At 3776 m above sea level, Mount Fuji (富士山) is the tallest mountain in Japan, and also an extremely distinctive feature of Japan’s geography. Rising above the clouds, this icon of Japan has provided a spiritual basis for the Japanese since ancient times. Located in the main island (Honshu) between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, this dormant volcano is world renowned for its symmetrical cone-shape and serenity. Needless to say that this solitary volcano attracts millions of travelers every year. And to make matters easy, there are many opportunities for travelers to enjoy views of Mount Fuji from countless points in the surrounding regions. On a clear day, it can be visible from as far as Tokyo, that too from majority of the skyscrapers. Having stayed in Japan for over 4 years, I have had the opportunity to view Mount Fuji from different angles, and found that it seemingly assumes a different character from each perspective. Hence in this article I summarize some of the best places to see Mount Fuji and feast on its unrivaled magnificence.
Significance of Mount Fuji
Although it might not be among the highest peaks in the world, Mount Fuji (Fuji-san as it is fondly called in Japan) is more revered and more famous than many other mountains in the world.
The most clichéd and stereotypical shot of Japan that you can find is that of Mount Fuji in the backdrop, peeking through cherry blossom branches. Mount Fuji has historically played an important part in the Japanese imagination, and it has been inspiring people to make countless art, poetry and songs for a long time. Admiration for the mountain appears in Japan’s earliest recorded literature, dating from the 8th century. Back then the now dormant volcano was prone to spewing smoke, making it all the more revered. Some collections even attempt to capture the essence of seeing the mountain from various viewpoints, Hokusai’s popular “36 Views of Mount Fuji” being a prime example.
Climbing and Travelling to Mount Fuji
Climbing (well, actually trekking) – There is a famous Japanese proverb – ‘He who climbs Mount Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool’. While summiting such a revered peak (that to at 3776m) brings a great sense of achievement (particularly at sunrise), the grueling trek is not known for its beautiful scenery or for being at one with nature. During the climbing season (esp. August) routes are absolutely packed and overcrowded. And its barren apocalyptic-looking landscape is a world away from Fuji’s beauty when viewed from afar. At the summit, the crater has a circumference of 4km, but be prepared for it to be clouded over.
Sad story – we too faced rain and cloud at the summit and hence missed out on the sunrise!
Travelling – Japan’s tallest and most famous peak is the natural draw of the Fuji Five Lakes (富士五湖) region. Even if you don’t intend to climb and summit Mount Fuji, it’s still worth coming to enjoy the visual and natural delights around the volcano’s northern foothills; the five lakes here act as natural reflecting pools for the mountain’s perfect cone.
Lake Yamanaka (or Yamanaka-ko) is the easternmost lake, followed by Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Sai, Lake Shōji and Lake Motosu. Particularly during the autumn’s fall-foliage season (kōyō), the lakes make a great weekend trip out of Tokyo for barbeque, leisurely strolling and hiking in the nearby hills.
Increase your chances to see Mount Fuji
Earlier (before 2000), Mount Fuji would show up only 80 days in a year from Tokyo. But thanks to the increasingly stringent emission control norms, in 2017 Mount Fuji was clearly visible on a record-breaking 138 days. So the good news is that with the right combination of luck and proper planning, you should be able to increase your probability to see Mount Fuji in its full glory!
Here are a few tips for getting a clear view of Mount Fuji:
- Keep a note of the weather forecast, especially “%age cloud” (best is < 10%)
- Wake up early – our beloved Fuji-san is best visible earlier in the day.
- Try to plan during winters – sky would be very clear
Top places to see Mount Fuji
Being the archipelago’s highest mountain, Mount Fuji can be seen from quite a distance, even from many buildings in Tokyo. And there are many famous tourist spots in the environs of Tokyo where you can enjoy the view of Mount Fuji.
FACT – Japan is a rare country where the highest mountain can be viewed from the capital city.
1. From Kamakura and Enoshima
We start of the list with my personal favorite. Kamakura, a coastal town in Kanagawa,is a popular day trip from Tokyo. Although Kamakura has many places where you can command a beautiful view of Mount Fuji, Inamuragasaki is especially recommended. Here, in addition to Mount Fuji, you will be able to enjoy scenic beauties unique to this area such as Enoshima and Shichirigahama.
How to reach: take the JR Sobu Yokosuka Sen line from Tokyo Station and you will arrive at Kamakura Station in 1 hour.
2. Around Fuji Five Lakes & Gotemba
Stunning view from Lake Kawaguchi (1)
Fuji Five Lakes (or Fuji-go-ko) is a scenic highland west of Tokyo at the foothills of Fuji-san which include Kawaguchi-ko, Motosu-ko, Sai-ko, Shoji-ko and Yamanaka-ko lakes. The area around each of these 5 lakes have developed into nice tourist spots especially because of the beautiful conical reflection of Mount Fuji on the clear blue water. Among these, my favorite is Lake Kawaguchi (or Kawaguchi-ko). There’s a well-developed tourist resort, a beautiful park and many hot-spring ryokans (Japanese Inns) around this lake where you can admire Mount Fuji.
How to reach: take a Highway-bus Shinjuku Express Bus Terminal to Kawaguchi-ko (1 hour 45mins)
3. From Hakone
Hakone (and the area around Lake Ashino) is another leading hot-spring resort of Japan which is famous for enjoying a scenic view of Mount Fuji while relaxing in an open-air hot-spring bath. Mount Fuji soars up in a majestic manner across Lake Ashino where many boats float to take you closer to the stunning view.
How to reach: take Odakyu Limited Express Romancecar from Shinjuku station and reach Hakone is just 75 minutes.
4. From Fuji-Q highland
Japan’s most famous amusement park at the foot of Mount Fuji, Fuji-Q Highland not only offers some of the scariest roller-coaster rides in the world, but also provides some spectacular views of Mount Fuji.
Tip: The “Mount Fuji Pass” is a tourist pass especially made for foreigners visiting Japan. Find out more here.
How to reach: take the Chuo Highway Bus Fujigoko Line at Shinjuku Station(south exit).
5. From other peaks like Mt Kitadake, Mt Okutama and Mt Takao
Question What is one of the best place to see the highest peak ? Answer from the 2nd highest peak. Mount Kita-dake (3193m) is the 2nd highest peak in Japan and has one of the best vantage points to see Mount Fuji.
Also, on the outskirts of Tokyo lies Mt. Okutama (1405m) and Mt. Takao (a.k.a. Takao-san, 599m) which are hikers’ paradise surrounded by trees, valleys and lakes – the perfect getaway from the city. Both of these offer beautiful views of Mount Fuji.
6. From Miho Beach (Shizuoka Prefecture)
The Miho peninsula extending from the Shizuoka City into Suruga Bay is famous for black volcanic sand and also for being one of the scenic places to see Mount Fuji. For many locals, sipping chilled beer on the beach (after a swim) while enjoying the beautiful view of their beloved Fuji-san is a favorite summer activity.
How to reach: take one of the Shizutetsu buses from JR Shimizu Station (25 minutes)
7. From Chureito Pagoda
If you have seen a photograph of Mount Fuji peeking through some cherry blossoms, its most likely to have been taken from the Chureito Pagoda. The iconic 5-storied pagoda resides on a hilltop directly facing Mount Fuji. The location offers spectacular views of Mount Fuji in combination with the pagoda, especially during the Cherry Blossom season in Japan (mid April) and also during the autumn color season which usually takes place in the first half of November.
Additionally, there are 2 more
places modes of transport from where you can see Mount Fuji –
from FLIGHT and from SHINKANSEN (Japanese Bullet Train).
View of Mount Fuji from Flight
I was returning from a business trip from Tokyo, and as always I had slept off the moment I boarded the flight.. Suddenly I could faintly hear the pilot announcing something (obviously in Japanese), but the only word that I could catch was “fujisan” (Mount Fuji in Japanese). I woke up, looked out of the window, and………..man…….whatta view!!
quickly took out my camera and fired a series of shots before the clouds formed a blanket.. and this is what I got
View of Mount Fuji from Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Mount Fuji can be seen while riding the Tokaido Shinkansen between from Tokyo to Osaka, precisely 42mins after leaving Tokyo. (Also, to see Mount Fuji in combination with the bullet trains, you will need to be in the farmlands east of central Fuji City.)