[Travel Asia] Autumn Japan Trip | 11 Days in Japan | Day 1-2 Kawaguchi-Ko (Kawaguchi Lake)
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Yay! The day has finally come! OMG I was so excited. The first thing me and bae did once we landed at terminal 3 of the Narita International Airport, was to grab breakfast. Seriously after a late night flight, we were so hungry when we arrived Japan at 7am. At terminal 3 of Narita International Airport, there was a food court where we found a number of different food stalls. Both me and my partner went for the one that offers warm udon soup. Let's be honest, what's better than a bowl of warm noodle soup after a tiring flight? ...That being said, at the end none of us actually ordered their udon soup LOL. We went for thier set breakfast menu instead as we both love the Japanese TKG (Tamago Kake Gohan, a traditional japanese breakfast where you crack an raw egg into fresh, warm white rice). This dish is just as good as I remembered. Fresh, rich egg on warm, tender white rice. This really is the best way to our first day in Japan.
After breakfast, we went to catch our 10:30am bus that took us to Kawaguchiko. Since the whole bus trip was going to take roughly 4 hours, we took our chance and had a quick nap on the bus... until the bus stops at a highway rest area after about 3 hours of driving. We were given 20 mins of break time there, so we left the bus and stretched our limbs.... and ran directly to the Takoyaki stall afterwards. crispy on the outside, fluffy and tender on the inside, with big, chewy pieces of octopus on each bite. It was the perfect second breakfast. Hopping back onto the bus, we stayed awake for the rest of our bus journey, because the scenery outside the widow was simply captivating. It was a bright, cloudless day. It was our first time seeing the stunning Mount Fuji, and it was gorgeous between the shades of red from the autumn leaves. It only got us so much more excited about our holiday which is just about to start.
An hour later, we finally arrived the Kawaguchiko Station and OMG it was so busy! There were a lot of people and to be honest the station isn't a big one; not big enough to fit in all the tourists. We could tell that this is definitely a popular tourist area. Without wasting another second, we quickly found our way to the hotel that we;'e going to stay at. The Toyoko Inn Kawaguchiko Ohashi Hotel is only 15 mins walk away from the main station. The check-in process was fairly smooth, and the staff there could communicate in English just alright. Although we were told that there was another 30 mins before we could get our keys, we were allowed to fill in all the documents in advance and store our suitcases at the front desk. So we did those, and then we went on for a little exploring adventure nearby. That was when we discovered there was a Lawson (a nation-wide chain convenient store in Japan) just a block away. We spent some time there, bought some snacks, before heading back to our hotel and actually checking into our room. Whenever I am in Japan, I cannot help myself to snack on whatever food they have to offer. Lawson has my favourite chicken nuggets in the world so of course I got on of those. What surprised me is that they have launched some new products: a range of deep fried chicken cutlets of different flavours; and I knew I had to try it. So we took a portion of their cheddar cheese chicken nuggets and a piece of yuzu salt flavoured chicken cutlets. the nuggets are just as good as I remember them to be, but those cutlets, OMG it's the best chicken cutlet I've ever had in my life. Despite being made out of chicken breasts, the cutlet was so juicy and tender. The crispy yuzu salt flavoured crust was so satisfying yet so refreshing at the same time, it was magical! I have no idea how they did it.
I have to say, those tiny pieces of chicken has got our appetite going. Despite the fact that it's only 4 pm, we decided we're going to take a walk and start looking for a place for dinner. Although we haven't explored the room much, I still managed to take a quick shot of the beautiful sunset that could be seen from our room. Isn't it just breathtaking?
As we slowly walk down the hill to the downtown area, the night quickly arrived and we were so surprised by how quickly the sun sets here. There wasn't much light at all on the street. Although it didn't scare us like it did when we were in Paris, we still thought it would be a good idea to find a restaurant as close to the main streets as possible, and to head back to our hotel straight afterwards. Walking in the dark isn't really our thing, especially not in a foreign country.
It took us a good while before we decided on a small family style restaurant inside a family-ran hostel. I ordered their Kaki-Fry (deep fried oyster) set, while my partner went for something simpler, a bowl of soba noodle soup with tempura. Their food was nothing over the top nor does it have any wow factor, but it certainly was the kind of comfort food we needed on our day of arrival after a long journey. The soba noodle was flavorful and heart-warming, while the deep fried oysters were crispy on the outside and oh so juicy on the inside. I don't think I will ever understand how the Japanese can make basic white rice so delicious. I have tried multiple times using rice I brought home from Japan, and a special stone rice cooker, but still it was never as good as those I had in Japan. This might be a mystery I would never solve. We've also gave their homemade ume-plum juice a go and it was so refreshing even on a cold autumn night like this one. We could tell that Kawaguchiko is a popular tourist area for both local and foreign travellers as we could see English menus everywhere. For those who don't speak or read Japanese, you should still be fine visiting this area.
After dinner, we revisited the Lawson near our hotel, because I insisted. It's not that I wasn't feeling full from our dinner, it's just that I would not forgive myself if I didn't get myself some late night snacks when I'm travelling in Japan. So we did, we bought some fruit flavoured alcoholic beverages and some snacks on our way back to the hotel, which we enjoyed while chatting in bed.
For the price we've paid, there really is nothing I could complain of this hotel. Yes, the room might be on the tinier side but most hotels in Japan are. Although there wasn't any closet in our room, there were couple of hangers we could use and we never had a problem. The bathroom was reasonably spacious and sparkly clean. There was also a large bathtub in the bathroom if you are in the mood for a hot bath.
The bed was reasonably comfortable and the pillows were just fine. If there is one thing I wish we could have, it would be an air purifier. Since the hotel room has carpets on the floor, it is unavoidable that there will be some dust floating around or captured here and there. That being said it wouldn't be a problem for most people. For the majority of the time it didn't bother me either. It is only for those like my partner who has respiratory issues where they are ultra sensitive to any specks of dust then it might cause some issues. Despite that the room is mostly very comfortable.
We have woken up fairly early the following day. Like, 5am kind of early. It really was an accident as bae had a really big sneeze and it woke us both up LOL. Well since we're awake anyways while we slept fairly early the previous night, we have decided we were going to get us early and enjoy the complimentary dinner before the canteen becomes too crowded. ....At least that's what we thought. The breakfast service starts at 6:30am in the morning. Yet when we get there, roughly around that time, the canteen was PACKED. A lot of the diners were local tourists, probably because it was a Sunday. Regardless we've found ourselves a seat and have enjoyed a fairly nice Japanese style breakfast. And hey, it's all-you-can-eat Japanese food!
After filling our tummies, we walked down the hill and have reached the lake side. The south side of the lake is fairly well designed and there is a long walking trail along the lake. A morning walk along a beautiful lake on a bright sunny day was just the kind of thing we wanted. We walked along the lake and have arrived Yagizaki Park (八木崎公園). The Yagizaki Park is a fairly large park for the size of this town. It has got a lot of spaces for dogs to run about and there was a viewpoint for those who want to take a good shot of the spectacular Mount Fuji. Inside the park there were a lot of maple and ginko trees, so it was perfect for those who're coming for the autumn foliage like ourselves. There are a lot of small hills and gentle slopes inside the park which could be fun to climb.
After exploring the pretty and quaint park, we continued to walk further east along the lake. To be honest we have came to this park mostly because we wanted to visit a locally famous cafe called Cisco Coffee, located right at the corner of the park. Unfortunately we arrived way to early. By the time we got there, it's still an hour away from their opening time. So we decided to walk a little bit more, before circling back and try their signature hot chocolate.
As we continued to walk down the road, we found that the walking trail became more and more narrow. At some point we were basically walking on the highway among the woods. Fortunately the road wasn't at all busy and the local drivers seemed to be quite used to random tourists walking on their driving path. On our way, we have passed by the Fujiomurosengen Shrine (冨士御室浅間神社). The shrine is located on a hill deep inside the woods. We weren't in the mood of hiking at the moment so we didn't actually visit the shrine. But we did read the introduction board which could be found at the parking area of the shrine. The Fujiomurosengen Shrine is one of the oldest shrines around the Fuji area. Inside the woods, there are a lot of sakura trees, so in April every year during the sakura season, the shrine is packed full with tourists coming to see the beautiful blossoms. This shrine mainly worships one of the most famous Goddesses in Japanese myth - Konohananosakuyahime (コノハナノサクヤビメ，木花咲耶姫). She is the Goddess of love, fertility and fire. Some also worship her as the patron Goddess of Mount Fuji. The Fujiomurosengen Shrine first became famous as it was worshiped by the Takeda clan (武田家), a well-known clan in Japanese history. The shrine then became one of the most popular and most worshiped shrine in the area.
Walking passed the Shrine, we then proceeded towards the Sakuya Bell of Love, which is being marked as a tourist attraction on Google Maps. The bell was... a bell, with a few lines about the previously mentioned Goddess of Love, Sakuya, next to it. To be honest there wasn't much to see at all, and the path down there isn't easy to walk either. So I'd say this is a spot that you guys could skip if you're planning to visit Kawaguchi Lake anytime soon. Since there isn't much to see further down the road, me and my partner found our way back to Cisco Coffee to get that cup of long needed hot chocolate.
When we arrived, it was already quite busy in there. The dainty lakeside cabin was filled with both local and foreign customers. Well it's a good sign showing that they have good stuff I suppose? We were quite lucky to have found a table immediately after we've made our order. Bae ordered a caffe latte as he was feeling super sleepy, while I decided I wanted to try their signature, Instagram famous hot chocolate. And they didn't let us down. Their coffee was just fine but their hot chocolate was epic. Rich and creamy and oh so chocolaty; the best part is when the whipped cream and chocolate chips sprinkles melts into the warm beverage, it only made it so much thicker, richer, and better. It was just what I needed after a long morning walk on the chilly autumn day. While I was enjoying my drink, I can't help but to spy on what other customers were having. I have told myself that I need to come back for their hotcakes and desserts as they all look so good! I would've ordered one myself if I didn't come after breakfast :( It was our loss.
After warming ourselves up with decadent warm drinks, we continued our journey. We crossed the Kawaguchiko Ohashi Bridge to the north side of the lake. We continued to head east and luckily found out that there was a Momiji Festival at the Fujikawaguchiko Town area. There were lots of food stalls as well as handmade lifestyle goods (or zakka as the Japanese call them) such as scarves, ceramics and different types of accessories. Among all the amazing food that's being sold in the festival, one in particular caught our eyes. It was these chargrilled gigantic crab sticks they sold for 750 JYP (roughly £5.30). It was so meaty and fresh. The the naturally salty flesh tasted so sweet after being warmed and smoked over charcoal. It has got our snacking appetite going so we then bought another snack which is candied sweet potatoes. It was fun looking at the shopkeeper making his every effort to stuff as many sweet potato sticks into the small plastic cups that's being used to hold them! The caramelised exterior of the sweet potatoes are sweet, sticky and crunchy; whereas the interior was fluffy and naturally sweet while packed full of flavour. I tried very hard to stop myself from buying another portion of it.
As we walk and snack along our way at the festival, we have finally arrived the most popular tourist spot in Kawaguchi Lake around this season - the Momiji Corridor. It's got its name as the hundreds of maple trees are being planted along a narrow canal, turning it into a corridor covered in red leaves during the autumn foliage season. It was the perfect romantic walk for those who came for this view. Yes there are a lot of people there but most of them are local tourist which are super gentle and polite so we didn't get squeeze around. Despite being a tourist attraction, it was still a very enjoyable walk.
Our last destinations for the day were the Oishi Park and the Momiji Tunnel which is not far away from the park (at least that's what we thought at that moment). At that point it was already 1:30pm and we wanted to complete our schedule before the sun sets. So we kept walking and have finally arrived the Oishi Park (大石公園). We would have had lunch there at a local bakery called the Lake Bake, that's located at the corner of the park. Apparently it was a very popular bakery among the locals so when we got there it's packed. Therefore we didn't stay there but to continue walking across the park. About 5-10 minutes walk from the park there is a soba noodle place called the Mizunokaze (みずの風). Unfortunately by the time we got there, all their noodles have sold out :(. It was a pity but that's how you know they have good food! If you're lucky to have tried their noodles, leave a comment below and tell me how it was, as I am really curious!
After crossing the park, we have then found ourselves at a place called the Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center (河口湖自然生活館). We weren't quite sure why it's been given that name because... as far as we could tell, it really is just a souvenir shop LOL. Anyways, we have gave the shop a quick look, decided there wasn't much to see, then we moved on after checking the bus schedule, as the bus that could take us back to the hotel terminates there. We then kept going along the lake side, attempting to go to the Momiji Tunnel that's not far from where we were, according to Google Maps. What Google Maps didn't tell us was that in order to get to the Tunnel without a car, we had to walk along the highway where there was no pedestrian path, and the highway was built upon the cliff... That being said, we were amazed by how many tourists like ourselves actually took the risk, just to see the Mount Fuji and momiji at the perfect view point. Getting there wasn't easy, and the so-called 'tunnel' really wasn't anything more than a small indented path along the highway where it wasn't being built, but being walked into path instead, by tourists after years and years of returning visits. However, there is a parking lot nearby so if you're driving, it shouldn't be a problem for yuo. As difficult as it was for us to get there, I had to admit that it was an amazing view point indeed. It was the perfect spot to capture both the stunning Mount Fuji and falling maple leaves. The perfect #JapaneseAutumn shot indeed.
After taking that Instagram worthy shot, me and my partner made our way back to Oishi Park, where there is a place known as the "flower path and small Fuji". It was a small botanical garden where during autumn there are a lot of susuki grass (also known as silver grass), which is another must see during this season. By the time we got there, it was just about golden hour and I cannot find words that could be used to describe its beauty.This is where I believe a photo speaks a thousand words.
As the sun sets, the temperature dropped and the wind seemed to blow stronger. Neither me or my partner has had a proper lunch; and after a full day of walking, we were both exhausted so we hopped onto the bus that took us back to downtown and we headed straight for dinner. Not far from the Kawaguchiko station, there was a well-loved tempura restaurant called Fuji Tempura IDATEN (冨士天ぷら いだ天). As we got there early, we have only queued for no more than 10 minutes before the waitress showed us our table. There were a lot we could choose from the menu. All the tempuras are made to order, and if you ordered their tempura set, you can enjoy their self serviced, unlimited miso soup and rice. However, we had our eyes on something else.... so we ordered their signature ten-don (tempura rice bowl) for two: The Fujisan (Mount Fuji). According to the menu, this ten-don was designed to mimic the world famous Mount Fuji. The rice and prawn tempuras represent the mountain itself, the green peppers signifies the forest covering the mountain, and the ikura (fish roe) sushi mimics the lava oozing out of the mountain. The dish was as delicious as it was eye-catching. It is everything I could expect from a good ten-don. Fresh, local ingredients, crispy tempura coating, warm rice and delicious sauce drizzled all over the rice. It was even better when all these yummy goodness was being washed down with a glass of cool sake :p Did you know when the Japanese serves sake at room temperature over this cute little wooden cube called 'masu' (枡), they purposely pour your sake until it overflows from your glass into the masu until it's filled up to the ver top? In the past, this wooden box was a measuring container used to measure out rice grains. I have yet to find a proper academic article explaining where did this over-pouring tradition come from, but as far as my understanding goes, it is a way of showing hospitality by whoever poured you the sake.
We were full and satisfied after enjoying a hearty dinner. There wasn't much left for us to do afterwards, so we headed back to the hotel early, started packing and got ready for another long day ahead of us, where we will leave Kawaguchiko and head to the most exciting part of our trip: Hakone and the onsen hot spring.