Although we already climbed Mount Fuji, we had not yet visited its surrounding areas. At its foot is a set of five lakes called "Fujigoko", of which the most famous are certainly Kawaguchi and Ashi (in Hakone). We spent a day around the first of them in mid-November, when Japanese maple trees (momiji) are in full bloom.
To get there, we took a Keio bus (the same company that goes to Fuji-san). The office is located at Shinjuku station west exit, in front of Yodobashi Camera, and buses departures are just in between. The ticket cost is not excessive: ¥1,800 one-way, but there's a discount for the purchase of 4 tickets (which was our case with 2 round-trips) that takes it down to ¥1,540. Departures are every half-hour and the journey lasts 1h45, but this is not guaranteed when returning because of the heavy traffic on Highway 20 to Tokyo.
The bus drops us off at Kawaguchiko station, from where you have to walk 10 minutes to reach the lake. While walking, we can see that Kawaguchi city gives a "from the past" feeling despite its many tourists: antiquated buildings show faded and rust. However, the nature is superb especially during this fall season.
The first thing to do is go to Kachi Kachi Ropeway cable car, up to the top from where you can have a panoramic view on the lake from one side, and on Mount Fuji from the other. The round-trip costs 700 yen. It's also possible to descend on foot, which lasts 40 minutes.
Back down, to travel around the lake we decided to rent electric bicycles. The most interesting company in terms of location and price is probably Sazanami, adjoining the eponymous restaurant. You can find them on the road between the funicular and the bridge. Fares are ¥600 per hour, or ¥2,600 for the whole day. Even if the lake is "only" 20km of circumference, there are many spots with views of the momiji and on Fuji-san, so 3 hours aren't too much. Be careful though: bikes size are Japanese ones..!
You can then enjoy a nice ride, in search of the most beautiful momiji spots! Do not forget to stop at the famous "Koyo" spot (called "maple corridor" on maps provided by the tourist organization at the station) which contains some of the most beautiful ones.
For those who don't wish to rent a bike or in case of bad weather, sightseeing buses can drop you to famous places around Kawaguchiko.
How to get to Kawaguchiko
By bus -- terminus of the Keio Line from Shinjuku west or Tokyo station (price: ¥1,800 / ~US$ 16.80 one way - duration: 1h45 to 2 hours), leaving every half hour. Discount for the purchase of 4 tickets (for example 2 round trips): ¥1,540 / ~US$ 14.40 each.
By train -- terminus of the Fujikyu line:
- In less than 2 hours with the FUJI EXCURSION Line, from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko (section Shinjuku-Otsuki covered by the JR Pass, Otsuki-Kawaguchiko ¥1,770 / ~US$ 16.50 one way; Or ¥4,130 / ~US$ 38.50 without the JR Pass. Important: only 2 round trips a day.
- Or, JR line from Shinjuku to Otsuki (¥1,340 / ~US$ 12.50 one way, covered by the JR Pass), then Fujikyu line (¥1,170 / ~US$ 10.90 one way)
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)
Electric bike rental: from ¥600 (~US$ 5.60) per hour to ¥2,600 (~US$ 24.30) for the whole day
Tourist bus on site: about ¥1,500 yen (~US$ 14.00)
How long / when to visit
On one day, for example from Tokyo
Ideal in autumn, to contemplate the red leaves on maple trees