Fuji 5-Lakes

Dear faithful readers — we’re sorry to have gone another few weeks without a post, but it is a busy time of year. We have one more back-logged post and then we will be close to up-to-date. We visited the Fuji 5-Lakes area in November with a friend of Jen’s from work. The area, as you might guess, features five big lakes surrounding one side of Mount Fuji. It was a gorgeous trip, with all the foliage turning, the lakes and mountains, and the temples.

We got to lake Kawaguchiko (the largest of the five) right at lunchtime, and Jen found us a recommended ramen place. We are becoming more broadly literate in ramen varieties — from tonkatsu (a favorite — long simmer pork bones make the broth), to shio (salt — very simple), shoyu (soy sauce), and miso (another favorite). Restaurants also have different types of noodles, and the pork is often marinated and cooked differently. Jen has found another excellent ramen place near our house which specializes in burnt miso — I have yet to try it, but she’s been raving about it. At any rate, this place had shio and miso varieties, so we filled our bellies with hot soup, then headed up a ropeway to a nearby mountain with a good view of Fuji-san.

One of the mountains (Mt Kachi Kachi) featured a Japanese folk-tale that is particularly grisly. A Japanese raccoon-dog (a tanuki, which we saw in Meiji Jingu the last time we went with Vida) is caught in a farmers field, but escapes by begging the farmer’s wife to free him, then kills the wife and makes her into soup, which he then feeds to the farmer when he returns. He tells the farmer what he’s done and scarpers, then the rabbit (who was a friend of the farmer) comes along and promises to help the farmer get revenge on the tanuki. The rabbit plays a series of tricks on the tanuki, including dropping a bees nest on his head followed by treating the stings with pepper, lighting a stack of kindling the tanuki was carrying on fire, and finally racing him across a lake, the tanuki in a boat made of mud, which dissolved. On the way up the mountain there were lots of statues and storyboards depicting the folktale, and kids played on and posed with (mostly the good rabbit, rather than the villainous tanuki) statues.

We wound our way through some back streets to find the Chureito Pagoda, a beautiful temple-tower well up on a hill with lovely autumn leaves and gorgeous Fuji-views. We parked at the bottom and hauled ourselves up the rather sizeable staircase to see the town below and the snow blowing off the peak of Fuji across from us.

Next we visited a temple (Sengen Shrine) down the hill right at the foot of Fuji which was beautiful in the afternoon light, with colorful leaves all over the ground, and ranks of mossy lanterns flanking the entrance. It is the start of the Fuji pilgrimage route, and so a hiking trail leads out the back toward the mountain. As we were only day-tripping, we did not go a-pilgriming, but instead piled back into the car to go to the second biggest lake in the area (Lake Yamanakako). We were very lucky in the timing, and got the light just right to catch some great photos before it started to get dark. We jumped back on the road, but unfortunately so did everyone else who’d left Tokyo for the weekend, and it was a very very slow trip home.

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