Mt. Fuji, Japan - One Day Itinerary
Mt. Fuji, Japan - One Day Itinerary

Mt. Fuji, Japan - One Day Itinerary

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If you ever dreamed about going to Japan, odds are that you’ll have heard of the most sacred mountain of the country, Mt. Fuji. The climbing season for the mountain is only open for about two months out of the year and some previous experience is highly suggested to summit the peak. For all others wishing to keep warm and enjoy Mt. Fuji from afar, there are a ton of places you could go to photograph it, providing you with excellent foregrounds with which to compose your photos.

Before my trip, I did some research to find the best Mt. Fuji viewing spots and how to get to each one in the most efficient way possible. You can take a bus to each of ‘Fuji’s Five Lakes’, however I wanted to have the more flexibility with regards to my time and the light for my photos. Therefore, I rented a car. 

I stayed at a hostel in the Hakone area. This is a geothermally active area and so many of the accommodations have their own on-site onsens. This one day itinerary will require an early start, however just imagine that after you’ve seen all the many faces of Mt. Fuji, you can come back and relax in a hot spring and reflect on the day. I can assure you that there is nothing better. I did this mini-road trip in November of 2019, starting about 2 hours before sunrise and ending just a little after dark. You can start off by going clockwise or counterclockwise on this route. I did the latter. This was because I wanted to do the bulk of the driving in the morning to get it over with while the roads were more or less clear of traffic.

Itinerary Overview

  • 204.6 km
  • 4.9 h drive time

Here is some useful info for renting a car and driving in Japan:

  • I rented my car from Odawara Train Station at the Nissan rental shop en route to Hakone. I booked the car in advance online and found there to be no problems.
  • You MUST get an international driver’s permit. You are not able to get this once you are in the country as it requires sending an application into your own country’s automobile association (just do a google search) along with a passport photo, having it processed, and the permit being mailed back to you. I am unaware of any situation where you are allowed to drive using just your license from your home country.
  • I used my GPS on my phone and it worked out just fine. I picked up a SIM card for it when I landed at the airport.
  • I found that most if not all the signs I saw, had English writing on them as well.
  • I picked up the car the evening before my Mt. Fuji drive, so I could be prepared and start off right in the morning upon waking up.

Stop 1: Mt. Daikanzan Observation Deck

This stop is not too far from Hakone and it very popular among photographers. If you find yourself lucky enough, the cloud cover will be just below you and you can see Mt. Fuji completely unimpeded. You can start your day off here to catch the sunrise or go straight to Stop 2 (below). It’s unfortunate when you have to choose one place over another due to limited time you may have. But you can’t go wrong with this stop. The observation deck itself opens at 9am, however there are a few points where you can pull off near the observation area to get these views, which is what I did. 

Mt. Daikanzan Observation Deck

Stop 2: Lake Tanuki North Day Campground

This next part of the trip is the longest leg. A solid 90-120 minutes or so will get you to the Lake Tanuki campground. The drive to get here was mostly highways that were easy to navigate without too many turns. I didn’t get lost once! In the last few kilometers, you’ll actually reach Lake Tanuki, but drive along its perimeter to this spot. There are picnic tables here and small little piers that jut out into the lake. As was the case with me, there were a few Japanese gentlemen fishing which gave me an excellent subject to photograph. I stay here for about 45 minutes before moving onto the next spot.

Lake Tanuki North Day Campground

Stop 3: Kyakamura FUJI hotel

Next, you’ll make your way just a few kilometers away to another viewing point of Mt. Fuji from the same lake. This is from the Kyakamura FUJI hotel. Once you park here, go around the opposite side of the hotel by taking the path to the right of it. This will loop you around and you can go down to a viewing point that is right on the water. Just a few mins here sufficed for me.

Tip: If you want an amazing view of Mt. Fuji from your accommodation (and therefore don’t want to drive all those hours before sunrise), then stay for a day at the Kyakamura FUJI hotel.

Kyakamura FUJI hotel

Stop 4: Shiraito Falls

Now this stop doesn’t provide you with a great view of Mt. Fuji, but this small set of waterfalls are worth seeing. Getting to Shiraito Falls doesn’t require a huge detour nor loads of hiking to reach. They are just a three-minute walk from the car park and if you are here early enough, there will be no one else that you must share it with.

Shiraito Falls

Stop 5: Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway at Lake Kawaguchi

I found this lake to be the most enjoyable among the Fuji Five Lakes. It is the most built up and commercialized but that doesn’t take away from its appeal. Upon arriving here, I parked right along the lake area and walked up towards the Panoramic Ropeway to purchase a ticket. The wait time was about an hour, so I went to grab lunch until my time came up. When that time came, I was whisked up the massive hill to an amazing viewpoint of Mt. Fuji. The area at the top is a moderate size but can feel quite small if there’s a lot of people there. I spent a solid half hour before going back down. 

Tip: Sometimes there may be a line to get back on the ropeway to go down. You can get around this by purchasing a ticket back down for a specific time. This will allow you to bypass everyone.

Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway at Lake Kawaguchi

Stop 6: Chureito Pagoda

Parking and entry to this place is free! This is one of the iconic places to capture Mt. Fuji in the same frame as one of Japan’s most famous pagodas. To get to the viewing point with the pagoda, start from the car park and make your way UP. By up I mean, you will go up lots and lots of stairs. The pathways are clearly marked and once you get up to level land, you will see the pagoda right in front of you. Walk over behind it to get the view of Mt. Fuji in the background and start snapping away. Make sure you move around the area to get the nice autumn colors in the shot as well. What I especially liked was the splash of bright colors against the white snow-capped cone of Fuji.

Mt. Fuji from Chureito Pagoda

Stop 7: Oshino Hakkai

This place is a must see, regardless of its proximity to Mt. Fuji or not. It is a small village with traditional Japanese buildings, almost like it is stuck in time. This is a very popular area among tourists but you can walk through it for free and appreciate the old architecture. There are stalls here too selling all sorts souvenirs and food. 

Stop 8: Lake Yamanaka Panoramic Deck

This last stop proved to be quite remarkable as the sun started to set immediately upon parking. There is no official parking area here (nor any sign of sorts), just a small park where people usually congregate. Most of the cars will be parked on the side of the road, so just follow their lead but use caution when getting in and out of your car. After sunrise here, you can head on back to your accommodation in Hakone for the night and reflect on your amazing day.

Bonus Stop 9: Lake Ashi

Before you have to take your car back the next day, I recommend driving to Lake Ashi and walking around the area to see Fuji from here. The area has small shops where you can grab lunch and have ice cream while enjoying the scenery.

Mt. Fuji from Lake Ashi

About the Author

Author Photo

Chris Kane

Chris is from Washington DC but currently calls Sweden his home. Since finishing his degrees in chemistry, he is often found in his natural laboratory habitat. From time to time, he tries to step away, switching fluorescent lights with golden hour in any country that will have him. A self-taught photographer and drone flyer, he enjoys sharing his travel experiences on his blog, hoping to help any others who are looking to find meaningful travel experiences.

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