“Golden Week” in Japan is a week encompassing four national holidays which means lots of people! Many people warned us to stay put and not to venture too far from home based on increased congestion. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) we had already squared away our weekend getaway a good bit before the slew of holidays even registered on our radar (obviously a newbie mistake). Oh well, c’est la vie! Despite the warning and against all advice, we loaded everyone up and hit the road. Not surprisingly, we did (as predicted) experience heavier than typical traffic, however, the spectacular views of Mount Fuji were completely worth it! All in all, it worked out well, as we actually kind of escaped the masses by driving out into the country.

Only a few short hours from Tokyo, Fuji-Five Lakes Region (Fujigoko) feels like another world entirely. It’s an outdoor resort/getaway location and has tons of options for camping, fishing, hiking, and even snow sports during the winter. With everything framed against the iconic backdrop of Mt. Fuji, it’s definitely a Japan “must do” during any season.

DSC04069

[ D A Y • 1 ] Zushi → Parcabout Tree Nets Park → Shiba-Zakura Festival → Fugaku Wind Cave, Aokigahara Forest → Lake Saito → Koyodai Campground

It’s about a 3-hour drive from our house to the Fuji Five Lakes region and before taking off, Dom and I had agreed that the kids weren’t going to do the whole darn thing without asking (*ahem*…whining) for a stop, so we decided 90min in (~halfway through the drive) to pay a visit to Parcabout Tree Nets Park (This IS the coolest park and needs to be dialed into your itinerary if you’re adventuring in the area with kids.).

A few days before we left, we made a reservation (online) with the park for a 2-hour climbing session, so that we could insure we had a spot. When we got there we parked, hopped out of the car, sauntered up to the window, paid and boom (!!) released our little creatures into the WILD. Easy day. Two hours of hanging out, climbing nets, sliding down rope slides, and bouncing around on trampolines suspended 4-10m above the ground from trees most certainly fit the “lets-make-sure-the-kids-sleep-the-second-half-of-the-drive” bill perfectly. And the plan worked! 0.5678 seconds into the drive the kids were in snoozeville (and as a result the rest of the journey was pretty relaxing)!

Our next stop was the Fuji Shiba-sakura Festival where we spent the rest of the day enjoying the moss phlox blooms. This festival runs from the middle of April to the end of May every year and is an excellent place to take in some incredible views of Fuji-san. Of course the views were made even better with our newly well-rested kids (it’s incredible what a car nap can do for morale). The blooms were good when we went, but I do think they probably got better over the next two weeks or so (maybe?). Like most things floral it’s hard to time it all perfectly, but I think we got close to full bloom.

Post-festival, we took a short drive (~25min) to Fuji Fugaku Wind Cave where we popped back out of the car. This stop was neat, but not nearly as “wow-ing” as I had envisioned, but interesting nonetheless. The cave is short in length (201m) and requires ~15min max to explore, so although not a huge time investment it’s definitely not a “must do.” *If you’re timing is tight our advice is to leave it off the agenda and focus your time on the hikes listed. 

DSC04071

We followed the Wind Cave with a very short hike through a small portion of the 14 square mile Aokigahara Jukai Forest rounding out our exploration for the afternoon. We had read about this hike from a fellow blogger and good friend of ours that enjoys hiking immensely with her family. Her recs are on-point and descriptions fantastic (thanks, Ginger!) and like the hikes we would eventually tackle the next day, this hike did not disappoint.

DSC04103

Our first hike of the trip started out at the Bat Cave and followed an easy 2-mile route (out and back course) through the “Sea of Trees,” aka Aokigahara Forest, to Lake Saito. In English, Aokigahara Forest is better known to many as “Suicide Forest,” as many find the dense vegetation and solitude a suitable place to take their own life. Despite its dark reputation, however, we found the hike to be extremely tranquil and beautiful.  Here the trees grow atop hardened lava as their roots cannot penetrate the soil and thus must criss-cross over the tops of the rocks. It makes for a very unusual and otherworldly scene. The sunshine peeking through the dense tree canopy…pure magic despite its unpleasant reputation.

In our opinion, this is a great little hike that any active toddler could definitely tackle as it’s short and there isn’t much elevation (just be a bit careful with footing in some spots and you’re golden). We eventually made our way back to the car and headed to Koyodai (just a few minutes away) and checked-in. Minutes later we were enjoying some cold Fujiyama craft brews by Lake Saiko, and setting up camp for the night.

DSC03786

Parcabout Tree Nets Park: (Site is in Japanese so make sure to open using Google Chrome as that search engine will automatically translate it for you into English)

  • Hours: 0900 – 1700 (April to October), 0900 – 1600 (November to March)
  •  Admission:
    • Reservations are accepted up to 2 months in advance (visit this site to make a reservation online)
    • You pay on-site
    • 2,500yen/Ages 7 and up, 700yen/Age 3-6 (children in between these ages must be accompanied by an adult and up to 3 children are allowed per parent), 2 and under is free (2 hr. climbing session)
  • Parking: Free
  • Location

Parcabout Tree Nets Park Tips:

  • Snacks. Always snacks. Haha! In all seriousness though, there isn’t much around the park, so don’t let your wild creatures get hangry! Great spot at the base complete with picnic tables to sit and enjoy #allthefood. Additionally it was just a great spot to meet other folks!
  • Wear clothing that you can move in easily and that isn’t restrictive – you’ll be moving around a good bit and burning lots of energy! I severely underestimated the calories required to keep up with our little guy! Holy smokes! Workout for the day = DONE!
  • Tuck in your shirt before sliding down any of the rope slides in order to decrease your chances of rope burn (ouch!!).

DSC03879

Shiba-Sakura Festival:

  • Hours: 0800 – 1700
    Admission: 600yen/Adult; 250yen/Child (3 years old and over)
  • Parking: 500yen (pay machine before leaving and then show receipt upon exiting)

DSC04082

Fugaku Wind Cave:

  • Hours: 0900 – 1730 (I think?)
  • Admission: 350yen/Adult, 200yen/Child, free for children under elementary school age
  • Parking: Free
  • Location

Aokigahara Forest Hike (Bat Cave to Lake Saito):

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free (Bat Cave Parking Lot)
  • Location

Bat Cave to Lake Saito Directions:

  • Exit the Saiko Bat Cave parking area
  • At the very beginning of the hike the path will fork. Walk to the left of the sign (in the direction of “Yachonomori Park” (“Wild Bird Park”).
  • ~0.5miles into the hike, there is another fork in the path with the following options: Lake Saiko Lakefront, Yachonomori, Fugaku Wind Cave, or the Ryugu Cave. Follow the arrow for Lake Saiko Lakefront.
  • This path will eventually lead you to a paved road. Cross the road and you’ll see a sign “Aokigahara Woodlands Pap, Nenbahama Signboard” (I believe it is to the left).
  • From this point, you just have a bit more to go before reaching Lake Saiko. Make sure to go all the way to the lake so you can see Mt. Fuji if the sky is clear. The view is pretty great…okay, it’s more like AWESOME!

DSC04188

Koyodai Campground:

  • Admission:
    • Email: camp@koyodai.info for reservations
    • Tent Site: 1,080yen/night + the cost per person (1,080yen/night per adult; 540yen/night per child)
    • Cabin:
      • 5,940yen/night for 2 people
      • 7,560yen/night for 3 people
      • 9,180yen/night for 4 people
      • 10,800yen/night for 5-6 people
      • 21,600yen/night for 10-12 people
  • Parking: Free dirt lot with marked spaces in the middle of the cabins and camp sites

Koyodai Campground Tips:

  • You can purchase firewood here for 800yen/bundle.
  • If you choose to rent a cabin for the night it will be VERY bare bones, so bring everything! What do I mean by everything? Bedding, cooking supplies, dishes, lighter for fire, camping chairs, towels, etc. …like I said, EVERYTHING.
    • Rental Fees:
      • Futon/Blanket Set: 650yen/night
      • Cookware set: 1,800yen/night (1,200yen/second day)
      • Boat/Canoe: 1,000yen/hour, 2,500yen/half day, 3,500yen/full day
      • Bicycle: 500yen/hour
  • Public toilet and showers (there are no facilities inside the cabin)
    • Shower: 300yen/per person (usage hours: 0800 – 2200)

[ D A Y • 2 ] Koyodai → Mt. Koyodai → Panorama Dai (Lake Shojiko) → Fujizakura Heights Brewery → Arakurayama Sengen Park → Zushi

Sunday we picked up our things, loaded up the ‘ol van and headed out on two glorious hikes (again, hats off to our very active & adventurous amiga Ginger for finding these as they were not only the perfect length + difficulty, but also afforded us some ridiculous views!). The goal of this day was simple – see & experience Fuji-san up close and cash in on epic views.

DSC04218

Both of our Sunday hikes were harder than the one that we completed the day before through Aokigahara Forest. The first of the two hikes, summiting Mt. Koyodai (1,163m), being easier in difficulty and shorter in length than the second hike, Mt. Panorama Dai (1,325m). Fortunately for us Mt. Koyodai was just a few minutes drive away, so it was easy to get an early start and a jump on the day.

DSC04225

Panorama Dai, on the other hand, was a bit farther (20min drive away from the trailhead of Mt. Koyodai). Here, we parked right across the street from the trailhead next to beautiful Lake Shojiko. The day was clear and the water looked so inviting (although in reality it was probably realllyyy cold).  Panorama Dai is quick, but steep hike and definitely a bit more challenging than Mt. Koyodai. The rewards are pretty epic though when you reach the top. We’re talkin’ 180° view of Mt. Fuji with all of the surrounding lakes. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. *Details for both of the hikes below.

After hiking down Panorama Dai, we headed down “Music Highway” (a highway that has grooves that sing as one drives over them at the perfect speed – such a cool idea!) to Fujizakura Heights Brewery to pick up a few bottles of their seasonal Sakura Bock (i.e. the best craft brew I have tasted in Japan complete with a very kawaii (“super cute”) pink label – guys, you’ll want to try this one, too, definitely not reserved for just the ladies. There isn’t a traditional tasting room here, so we just picked up. a few bottles and then continued on our way.

We finished the weekend by exploring Arakurayama Sengen Park, Arakura Sengen Shrine, and taking in some more killer Fuji views from the five storied Chureito Pagoda. The well-known and picturesque pagoda is actually a part of Arakura Sengen Shrine and overlooks Fujiyoshida City.  It’s a bit of a climb from Arakura Sengen Shrine to the Pagoda (i.e. ~400 steps, so be ready to work a bit to get to the top!). But the views…well, their epic (are you noticing a trend here?!).

DSC04333-Edit

Post-pagoda climb it was a long-is drive back home (ugh…traffic). Golden Week, you weren’t what we were expecting. In fact, you were much more enjoyable. I’m not sure what we will have lined up for next year during this holiday season, but it will more than likely include the natural side of Japan again. ‘Til we meet again, Fuji-san!

DSC04238

Mt. Koyodai Hike:

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission (Observation Tower): 150yen/adult, 100yen/child to enter
  • Parking: We parked at the base of the trailhead (see Google Pin below) in a non-designated parking area and had no issues. However, if you are looking to drive up to the top there is a dirt parking lot available (I think it’s free).
  • Location: Koyodai Trailhead

Mt. Koyodai Tips:

  • The trailhead was only an 8minute drive from Koyodai Campground, so we got hiking pretty quickly after packing up which was a plus!
  • Total hiking distance ~2miles.
  • We moved fairly quickly on this hike (nothing new there), but at a fast clip (with kids) it took 30min to hike up to observation tower. We took slightly less time coming down (25min).

DSC04257

Mt. Panorama Dai:

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: The trailhead begins by a small parking area along the edge of Lake Shojiko. Find a parking spot along the side of the road (we parked for free) and then look for the trail off to the side. There is a trail map posted there as well (see sign above…haha, the kids are already so embarrassed by me!), so it’s pretty easy to spot.
  • Location: Panorama-Dai Trailhead

Mt. Panorama Dai Tips:

  • Again we hiked at a pretty good clip here. It took us approximately 35 minutes up to where the trail forks (where you’ll veer left) and then an additional 10 minutes to the lookout. We took a family photo on the way down (like set up the tripod and all kind of thing) making the descent 45 minutes.
  • The climb is ~1,200ft and is pretty steep in some spots so be prepared to gain some solid elevation fairly fast.
  • There were many spots when we visited where the leaves covered the trail making it a bit slippery, so just watch your footing as you ascend/descend.
  • Total hiking distance is 3.2miles.
  • Don’t forget your camera, lots of great photo stops along the way!

Music Highway:

  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free
  • Location: On the road leading to Fujizakura Heights Brewery…you can’t miss it. Keep an eye out for the music notes painted on the road.

DSC04344

Fujizakura Heights Brewery:

  •  Hours:
    • Regular Season:
      • (Weekdays) 1130 – 1500 (last order: 1430) and 1730 – 2200 (last order: meals 2100, drinks 2130)
      • (Saturday, Sunday, and Holiday) 1130 – 2200 (last order: meals 2100, drinks 2130)
    • Winter season (January – March):
      • (Weekdays) 1130 – 1500 (last order: 1430)
      • (Friday – Sunday) 1130 – 15:00 (last order: 1430) and 1730 – 2130 (last order: meals 2030, drinks 2100)
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free
  • Location: Brewery is next to Sylvans

Fujizakura Heights Brewery Tips: I don’t believe they offer brewery tours and there isn’t a traditional tasting room, but if stopping by during the spring pick up a bottle (or two) of the seasonal Sakura Bock (i.e. my favorite Japanese beer to-date! SO. GOOD.)

DSC04300-Edit

Arakurayama Sengen Park:

  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free
  • Location: 10 minutes from Fuji kyuko Line, Shimoyoshida station on foot

Arakura Sengen Shrine:

  • Hours: 0700 – 1930
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free
  • Location

Chureito Pagoda (more formally known as “The Fujiyoshida Cenotaph Monument”):

  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: See Google Pin above for Arakurayama Sengen Park

Chureito Pagoda Tips:

  • Do your best to time your visit with a clear day in order to maximize your chances of seeing Fuji.
  • The picture above is from the observation deck at the top (which is free!). Just remember to be respectful and follow the rules (ex: no tripods).
  • Supposedly there is a way to drive to the top if you have a car (we didn’t try to do this), but I assume (like most roads in Japan) it is probably narrow, so if you aren’t really comfortable with tight spaces it might be best to park using the Google pin above for Arakurayama Sengen Park and climb the ~400 steps from Arakura Sengen Shrine to the top to take in the epic views. Trust me – worth it!