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Sunrise at Chureito Pagoda and healing village of Nemba on Lake Saiko

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.

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Day 7 – Mt Fuji

Early bird catches the worm

Chureito pagoda is a part of Arakura Sengen Shrine and closest to Shimo-Yoshida Station along the Fujikyu Railway Line. Pagoda itself is located on a mountainside and one has to climb some ~400 steps to reach the top. This place is very popular among photographers and is best visited in Cherry blossom or autumn season. Five storied pagoda gives amazing view of Mt Fuji and Fujiyoshida City located at the base of mountain. Some pictures of Mt Fuji I had seen earlier from Pagoda were really breath taking.

USP (unique selling proposition) of Michael’s hostel was proximity to Chureito Pagoda (as if that matters to budget travelers 😉 ) Chureito Pagoda is about 20 minutes walk from hostel. I got up at around 5 AM, as sunrise was expected around 5:45AM. My English speaking African host from the hostel had nicely briefed me about the shortest way to reach Pagoda a day before. She was the most presentable host I have ever seen. She took special interest in guiding me about local festival and places which I could visit in Fuji area. When you are genuinely interested in a job, it shows. I made my way to the pagoda walking along the railway track as suggested. When i reached at the entry of Shrine, I could already see a few cycles parked. So I was sure to get some company at the top.

Entry to Shrine. Notice the cycles

Entry to Shrine. Notice the cycles and blooming sakura trees

After a climb of 15 minutes I was at the top of the Pagoda. Sunrise itself was not too spectacular but view Mt Fuji was clearest that I had seen till now. I think mentioned before but Mt Fuji is best seen in early hours of day. As day progresses visibility of mountain top is restricted due to clouds. I had a nice viewing of cherry blossom in Kyoto. And yet again I found full bloom in Kawaghuchiko area. Since pagoda is located at a height, cherry trees at the top did not bloom yet. I was perhaps a day or two early.

400 stairs leading to the top of Chureito Pagoda

400 stairs leading to the top of Chureito Pagoda

The Chureito Pagoda

The Chureito Pagoda

Sunrise at Chureito Pagoda

Sunrise at Chureito Pagoda, Note the pink cherry tree buds

Sunrise at The Chureito Pagoda

A panorama view of Mt Fuji, Fujiyoshida City and The Chureito Pagoda

This poster read, "This is what you see if you are in luck"

This poster read, “This is what you see if you are in luck”. I have been out of luck for years now 😉

Arakura Sengen Shrine

Arakura Sengen Shrine

View of Fuji san from Arakura Sengen Shrine

View of Fuji san from Arakura Sengen Shrine

After spending a couple of hours shooting from top of Pagoda I came to my hostel. I had plans to stay another night in Kawaguchiko area before heading to Hakone. I met a Italian backpackers in hostel, he was coming to Hakone. I asked him about stay option in Hakone and his feedback was really negative. He mentioned Hakone is expensive and has only resort options. Not really a place for backpackers. And he liked Kawaguchiko more than Hakone. I dropped Hakone from my plan. Another reason for dropping Hakone was, no entry to Owakudani due to high volcanic activity. Even Hakone ropeway (prime reason to go to Hakone)  was operating on its full route. I instead decided to spend the day walking on the nature trail along Kawaguchiko Lake. I wanted to stay near to Kawaghuchiko Lake as I wanted to shoot Milkyway tonight, so I checked out from Michael’s hostel. I went to Kawaguchiko station and again deposited my backpack in coin lockers.

Hindi – Pakistani bhai bhai

While on my way to Fugavu caves yesterday I saw a restaurant with Indian and Pakistani flags. Wow! no one can achieve that feat in India and Pakistan. So I decided to have lunch at this restaurant today. The ambient green color of the interior clearly showed it was operated by a Pakistani fellow. Anyway I had a warm reception and got to talk to the owner of the restaurant. He has been operating this restaurant from last eight years. Only two men were running the entire show. Though restaurant itself was small and had a seating capacity of less than 15 people. Our discussion from life in Japan progressed towards cricket. Fortunately India had just beaten Pakistan in T20 World cup so I had a upper hand. Pakistani fellow had his peace by mentioning how West Indies beat Indian team. Its okay to get defeated by anyone else I would say 😉

A Indian meal consisting of one naan, one vegetable and salad set me back by 1000Y.

Pakistani Restaurant bearing Indian Flag

Pakistani Restaurant bearing Indian Flag. Sorry for poor quality. This was clicked with phone from a moving bus.

Visit to the traditional farming village of Nemba

After a nice Indian meal, first in a week almost, I boarded the Green line again to explore the preserved village of Nemba.

Iyashi no Sato (いやしの里) is located on the site of a former farming village on the western shores of Lake Saiko. This village was destroyed by a landslide during a typhoon in 1966. later village was recreated and turned into a handi craft shopping arena. The village is now made up of more than twenty houses that have been converted into shops, restaurants, museums and galleries. Each of the shops specializes in a traditional craft such as pottery, incense or weaving. Some shops provide traditional dresses on rental.

Way to healing village

Way to healing village

Preserved Traditional huts

Preserved Traditional huts

A tourist, wearing a rental costume of a Japanese warrior

A tourist, wearing a rental costume of a Japanese warrior

Preserved Traditional huts

Preserved Traditional huts

Search for a budget option near the Lake

I decided to talk to some local shops near Lake Kawaguchiko to find any cheap stay options nearby. Its hard to find English speaking person in this area. Most of the local people I met did not know any English. Eventually I ended up booking a night at Wilderness Park Lodge. At 4860Y a night this was my most expensive stay in Japan. Thankfully it included breakfast. Later I realized this lodge is mainly used by adventure sports organizers who bring people in groups and stay only for few hours. Lodge had community bathroom. In a community bathroom (Separated by sex) many people can take bath at once. Their was no running hot water so I had to skip a shower. Restrooms were also small and below average. I was given a Japanese traditional room with futon style bedding and tatmi flooring (Note the floor mat made of dried, woven rushes). This room can be shared by 4 people at a time but I think I was the only guest staying on my floor so I had entire room for myself. A electric heater was provided in room. Not to mention night in lake Kawaguchiko were really cold. Lodge doesn’t not any dinner. Thankfully they had a microwave and I ended up eating Maggi for my dinner. Lodge is definitely over priced for the value they are providing but what other budget options do we have in this prime location? Service may be lean and over priced but view of Mt Fuji from my room window is impeccable. Milkyway will rise above horizon at 3AM tonight. I have a short night to sleep. Good night!

My traditional Japanese room for the night. Futon style bedding and tatami flooring.

My traditional Japanese room for the night. Futon style bedding and tatami flooring.

View of Mt Fuji from my room

View of Mt Fuji from my room

Next post – Dance of MilkyWay

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