This is a detailed post of my 2 weeks long solo backpacking trip to Japan. Please see preview and itinerary/index of my complete trip on this post.
Day 8 – Mt Fuji
Looking out for elusive Milky way
I am a great fan of SkyView cafe. This web based app is a wonderful tool for planning a milkyway shoot. Expected rise time of Milky way today was around 3AM. Since my hostel was located right on banks of Lake Kawaguchiko I just had to cross the road to reach my planned shooting point. I got up around 3AM and looked outside. Not bad, I could see a few bright stars. Thankfully coffee maker was left on near cafeteria and I made myself a mug full of black coffee. My hostel had a curfew till 5AM but I had already informed reception guys about my intention to shoot Milkyway pretty early. In no time I was testing Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 clicking star shots.
It was freaking cold. Recorded temperature was around 3 degrees. Though I had two layers of clothing and a warm mug of coffee I was still shivering. I had doubled up my bandana to save my ear and head. Thankfully air was still otherwise chill factor would have increased multiple folds. Moving around the tripod lens are also painful as they are very cold. That day i realized how important are two insulation covers on tripod lens 😉
I had planned to make a timelapse of MilkyWay moving across the Fuji san. Though I only had a two hours window before sunrise. Sky was not extremely clear and I could see some clouds coming in from west covering some part of Mt Fuji. As it turned out in less than an hour clouds made clicking stars very difficult and galactic core was barely visible. Sunrise time in Japan was close to 5AM that day so I had a narrow window for shooting. I had a very limited number of shots which showed milkyway core. Below is one of the shot from my timelapse i managed to take before clouds took over.
Sky wasn’t too good for astro shoots but lake water was perfectly still and I could see reflection of Mt Fuji very clearly. It was amazing how the lake whose water was making quite some noise last evening changed to perfectly still now. Sunrise had already happened and I walked along the bank of Lake clicking reflections and some landscapes. By now I got a company of a Korean photographer. He missed the Milkyway and wanted to shoot sunrise. But Sun was not to be seen anywhere. Cloud cover made the sky look all grey. After shooting sunrise, I decided to return to my hostel. Hostel had breakfast included in my stay price so I had an option to ofset some of the stay cost 😉 I had a heavy dose of Bread, butter and jam and snoozed off again for couple of hours. Here are some of the shots from morning I managed to click.
Walking on the Nature trail along Lake Kawaguchiko
Lake Kawaguchiko has a nature trail running along the entire periphery of the lake. Entire trail is over 16km long but I will only walk 6km today. I met a few localities who were doing a full trail as well. That would have been a wonderful experience too. But you need to have a luxury of time for doing the full trail. I have to move to Tokyo today so can’t really take the plunge. Also my trail is accessible by public transport so I can hop on a bus, but it was not needed. I started on my trail at 11 AM. Cherry trees along the lake were in full bloom. There were hundreds of white and pink cherry flowers on display. Due to cherry bloom season I could see many people having picnic around the trail.
I will be missing Shibazakura festival narrowly. The festival was beginning on 16th April. As I have mentioned before, we can not win all battles. Have to loose a few. I would have loved to visit the festival. Area where festival takes place looks like this when in full bloom. Isn’t it amazing?
For now I would have to get contented with some local moss flowers and sakura flowers. Some images from the trail.
Onsen Experience, not for Shy ones
Trip to Japan is not complete without a visit to Onsen. Hot springs are known as Onsen in Japan. As Japan has abundant volcanic sensitive regions, thousands of Onsen can be found everywhere in Japan. Hotels and resorts have build the area in community bathing pools. Most of the hotels charge a fees for entry to onsens. Not all hotels allow non staying guests to enter Onsens. Here is a list of Onsens in Kawaguchiko area. Of all the options I liked Onsen at Hotel Mufujian mainly due to view of Mt Fuji and fees was also okay. Hotel charged me a fees of 1200Y for entry to Onsen and this included bathing facility (Hot shower before/after, Soap, shampoo etc) and towels as well.
Now some facts about onsen. As a tradition, you are supposed to enter without any swimwear in an onsen. Onsen are separated by sex so no problems of ogling ladies 😉 Men being very decent never ever see any “paraya“(Not belong to onseself) naked soul 😀 On a serious note, nobody in onsen notice you entering or leaving. Onsen operator would provide you with two towels. One for using after bath and other is a face towel. So you can keep the towel on your face once you enter the hot water. I didn’t bother to use it though. There were two pools. One covered (AC) and other was in open air. I liked open air one more. Another hey point to note is , some hotels/resorts restrict people with tattoos to enter Onsens. Tattoos are associated with “Yakuza”, gangs in Japan.
I loved hot water bath experience. My hostel last night had no hot water so I was missing a bath already. I spent some extra time for people to leave so that I can click a photo of the actual Onsen. It was 4PM when i decided to leave onsen and head to Kawaguchiko station to catch bus to Delhi of Japan, Tokyo. Tokyo is less than 3 hours from Kawaguchiko and there are buses every hours till 6 PM. One way bus ticket set me back by 1800Y. But not before some rice balls, Onigiri and coffee.
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