One of the side trips we had planned during our Japan visit was to see the ever popular, Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san. Nearly perfectly shaped volcano, Mt. Fuji stands around 11300 feet tall and last erupted in 1707. Located in Shizuoka, Mt. Fuji is seen from Tokyo on a clear day. General wisdom states that the mountain is only seen about 20% of the time, in the early mornings or late evenings and better in winter than in summer.
Our original plan was to visit Fuji-san as a side trip from Tokyo. We closely monitored the cloud cover situation in Tokyo and Shizuoka the first few days we were in Tokyo. To our dismay, the cloud cover was more than 30% then which meant little chance of being able to see Mt. Fuji. The weather seemed to improve as the week went on, so we left Mt. Fuji for the day we were returning from Kyoto. It seemed to be a sunny day with little cloud cover and we kept our fingers crossed.
We experienced our first sight of Fuji-san on the Shinkansen trip between Tokyo and Kyoto. That had been a beautiful morning and we soaked up the views of the mountain in the distance. But we longed for a closer and unobstructed view.
Travelers can see Mt. Fuji from the Hakone national park area where they can combine beautiful views of Fuji-san with cruises on Lake Ashi. Alternatively, one can choose to visit the Fujigoko area, the Fuji five lakes, to enjoy stunning views. It’s also a great base for climbing Mt. Fuji, which can be done in July and August.
As our Kyoto sojourn came to an end, we bid goodbye to our gracious hostess at Kamuro-an and took a cab to the Kyoto station. Our plan was to travel from Kyoto to Shizuoka and then onto Mishima via the JR Line. And from there, to take the local bus to Kawaguchiko, at the foot of the mountain.
Although we left Kyoto by 9 am, by the time we reached Mishima, it was already past 11 am. We were famished and decided to get lunch at the station itself. Then we went to the bus ticket office only to find that the next bus wouldn’t leave until past 1 pm. Even riding the Express buses with limited stops, it would take us 1.5 hours (one way) to get to Kawaguchiko station. We were looking at a three-hour journey round trip with maybe an hour or two in between to explore the area and then an hour-long train ride back to Tokyo. We had an early morning flight the next day back home from Tokyo. As the bus drove along, we decided not to make the long trip to the foothills, choosing instead to stop along the way.
Before leaving for Japan, I had come across a blog post where the author had mentioned stopping at Gotemba station, en route to Kawaguchi. From there, she walked to the local park where she enjoyed excellent views of Mt. Fuji. We decided this would be a great option for us to try. Gotemba station was just about 40 mins from Mishima station, so we could see Mt. Fuji and return in plenty of time to catch an early train back to Tokyo.
Once we reached Gotemba station, we tried first to get some form of internet connection. We had recently switched to T-Mobile in the hopes of having an internet access while traveling. While I knew the author had been in the Gotemba area but couldn’t remember the name of the local park. After spending some time on our phones, we were able to locate the webpage and found our final destination was Heiwa Park, short for Fujibussharitoheiwa park. We went to the local taxi stand where several cabs were parked and the drivers were conversing genially. Approaching the nearest driver, we repeatedly uttered the name, Heiwa Park. The driver initially asked us to hop in, then seemed to change his mind. He called out to the next one and said something. It soon became clear that they did not know where Heiwa Park was located and I did not know the address in Japanese.
By now, we were getting a bit worried. Mr. JJ and I knew we weren’t too far from the park but were not sure how long it would take us to walk to the park, even on such a nice day as that one. Eventually, one of the older drivers joined in and said something and our driver shook his head many times, comprehension seeming to dawn on his face. We knew then that he had an idea where to take us.
Few minutes later, we were dropped off at the Heiwa Park and we were glad we had decided to visit. The park itself was very beautiful with excellent fall colors. The day was sunny as promised, the clouds were few and far between. There were few travelers as we sauntered in.
It became apparent quickly that the majority of the crowd was where the biggest draw of the park lay. Enjoying unparalleled views of Fuji-san! There were several moments that day when we thought we might have to miss seeing Mt. Fuji in all its glory. It seemed so near and yet so far. But there stood the majestic mountain, across from us, with a few clouds at its peak, its snowy white slopes glittering in the sun!
We patiently waited our turn as those before us hogged the viewing area and took several selfies and pictures. And then it was our turn to enjoy the panorama for a bit. We were amongst many yet it felt we were the only ones there, that Fuji-san was out to grace us with a view. We took it all in like a sponge, feasting on a vision that many come for but few are fortunate enough to see.
Soon enough, it was time to say goodbye to the best viewing spot and make our way around the park. The sunny fall day with the flame colored leaves around us, the beautiful temple on the grounds, the gardens of the park and the statuary created a lovely tapestry for an autumnal afternoon. Our cheeks were bright from being out on a crisp, sunny day and we were loath to leave. But our train to Tokyo beckoned and we bid goodbye to Heiwa Park reluctantly, choosing to walk back to the bus station.
As the bus wound its way back to Mishima, we kept looking for Fuji-san in the distance. But by then, the cloud cover had increased and we weren’t able to see much of the mountain.
We had, indeed, been lucky to make it to Heiwa Park that afternoon despite a last-minute change of plans. And furthermore, lucky to find some fantastic views of Fuji-san.
Arigato gozaimasu, Fuji-san, for letting us carry a small piece of your beauty in our hearts and minds, forever! And from such a wonderful setting as the Heiwa Park, a little known gem!