June 21, 2017
Exploring Mount Fuji & Lake Ashi in Japan
Mount Fuji is iconic in Japan and comes with a long and prevalent history. When it came time to booking a trip, I knew there are lots of tour operators that can take you there. I booked my daytrip from Tokyo to Mount Fuji on Viator about a month before I left for Japan. Viator itself isn’t the tour operator; it’s a third-party excursion booking agent. The tour itself was run by a local company called Sunrise Tours.
My tour was expected to run about 11 hours. Pickup times are generally between 7:30AM-8:30 from several locations throughout Tokyo. Tip-don’t schedule a pickup from New Otani hotel like I did. The hotel is massive, confusing, and has several entrances. I ended up missing the morning pickup because there was no way to know which entrance the car was coming to. I had to take a taxi to the Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal in Tokyo, which is where all the morning hotel pickups drop-off passengers.
Once everyone got checked in at the Bus Terminal, we boarded our bus to Mt. Fuji! The bus spacious and comfortable and came with free WiFi. There was no bathroom on board, but we made several stops throughout the day so this wasn’t a big issue.
When we finally got to Mount Fuji, it was covered in fog! I later found out that it’s wise to check the weather forecast before going to the mountain as it can be foggy or rainy several days a week. If I end up visiting Mt. Fuji again, I won’t book the trip ahead of time for this reason. Instead, I’ll have the hotel concierge check the forecast and book on a day with clear weather.
My biggest concern with this tour is that we were given about 30 minutes to explore the area. That’s just not enough time to see everything. Aside from the mountain, there are several cafés, shops, a temple, horseback riding, and other sites to see.
The bus driver decided to pull over as we were driving back down the mountain since the fog had finally cleared up a bit.
As part of this tour, you can elect to have lunch at a Japanese restaurant after visiting the mountain. We drove down to the base of Mount Fuji and had the above pre-set Japanese lunch.
We enjoyed beautiful views of a nearby lake from our restaurant.
After lunch, we drove for about to hour to Lake Ashi. We boarded our ferry and spent about 15 minutes sailing across to the other side.
This tour came with a fun return route to Tokyo. Instead of taking the same bus all the way back, we were dropped off at a train station and got to take a ‘bullet train’ to Tokyo. These are some of the fastest trains in the world, so it was neat to ride one.
The trip (run by Sunrise Tours) was overall enjoyable. The bus was very comfortable and we got to leave the hectic capital and see some of the Japanese countryside. We also had a terrific tour leader who was explaining one thing or another about Japan during most of our time on the bus. My only bad experience with Sunrise Tours was the hotel pickup. If I had to do this again, I’d just meet directly at the bus station as the tour agency has a massive desk located there and it’s impossible to miss it. My final takeaway is that you shouldn’t book Mt. Fuji way in advance. Check the weather forecast and make sure it’s a clear morning before you visit!