In January 2015 after travelling to Japan for Tokyo Auto Salon, I spent 3 days in the picturesque location of Lake Kawaguchi. After doing countless amounts of research trying to find a hotel unlike no other, I came across this beautiful Ryokan named Konanso which had breathtaking views of Japan's iconic Mount Fuji.
Each room within the hotel was designed in a traditional Japanese style with tatami mats and shoji screens, and the option to choose between the lake view or the mountain view. The only problem was, the view comes with a pretty expensive price tag but I thought f*ck it! It's not every day that you get to travel to Mount Fuji, and it goes without saying that seeing Mount Fuji at least once is a must so I thought what better way to view the iconic mountain than from my own private onsen AKA hot spring.
When I arrived at my hotel after catching a bus from Tokyo, the room was still being made up, so I checked my bags in and decided to get as much exploring in as possible so that the next day could be spent relaxing in my private onsen (which was well and truly needed from running around TAS for 4 days). After walking around town, I stumbled across a hidden trail which led up a steep mountain called Mount Tenjo, which is said to have one of the best view spots of Mount Fuji.
The trail produced some incredible views of the surrounding town which meant I was stopping every 5 metres taking countless amounts of photos.
The best part was that no one was around, making the entire journey extra peaceful. I love the stillness and calmness of an empty trail.
At the time I wasn't sure how hard the hike would be, but it was hard. And I walk every day, so I was shocked at how unfit I was. Albeit it probably didn't help that I was wearing several layers of tops, 2 hoodies and 2 pairs of pants - yet I was still freezing my ass off!
But I didn't give up! I always try to remember that you can travel farther and accomplish more than you think. Uphill trails only leave two choices: reach the top or turn around. Reaching the top only requires the perseverance to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When life gets tough, I try to remember all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.
So I kept going until I got to the top (which took around an hour or so), and it was sooooo worth it! I even found the ultimate Zen spot!
Most day's Mount Fuji isn't even visible so I was incredibly lucky to have a clear view. I remember feeling a huge sense of gratitude as I took in the breathtaking, panoramic views and just feeling lucky to be alive. There is something so invigorating about nature that provides the opportunity to slow down and disconnect from our busy lives.
Like many other mountains in Japan, Mount Fuji is a diety of sorts, regarded as having its own soul (this is part of the animism of Shintoism). While many objects in nature, from trees to streams and so on, can be worshipped in Shintoism, mountains are naturally the most prominent. Since Fuji-san is so visible, it's also the most important mountain diety. Thousands of people climb Fuji-san on special days, e.g. New Year's Day, to pay homage and pray for good fortune, etc.
I would love to one day climb Fuji-san to watch the sunrise and to just say that I've done it, I think that would be unreal! My brother is an ultra trail marathon runner and has been meaning to race up there so perhaps I can tag along. Although if I struggled with Mount Tenjo, then I will struggle without a doubt hiking Mount Fuji - but I'm always up for a challenge!
They say if you can climb a mountain, you can do anything. While not technically true, the mantra still goes through my head constantly during a hike. Reaching the top of a mountain (big or small) is an impressive physical, mental, and emotional accomplishment. And is not only motivating but incredibly rewarding. It reminds me I can accomplish important things with my life if I dream big and put in the work.
At the top of Mount Tenjo there was a place where you could get your photos taken with Fuji-san as the backdrop, and a Usagi Shrine where you could pick your fortune:
"Like the bright light of the moon struggling to shine forth through a bank of clouds, so, too, should you take great pains over everything you do and be not in the least bit hasty, and under the protection of the Divine, good fortune will come."
Meaning: If you are very careful in everything you do and be patient, then good fortune will come.
Thus why I named my Stay Driven / Mount Fuji sticker 'Patience'.
P.S. If you want one of these limited edition stickers, enter the word "GAMAN" on check-out for a special discount! ヾ(｡･ω･)ｼ
After feeling revitalised whilst taking in the view before it started to get dark, I realised that on the other side of the mountain was the Kachi Kachi Ropeway which I probably should have taken coming UP the mountain, lol! The ropeway takes just 3 minutes, so if you visit, I would recommend you take the ropeway going up then do the hike on the way down.
When I got to the bottom of the ropeway, my hotel was in walking distance and I couldn't wait to see what it was like! The staff showed me my room and it was definitely better than what I had seen in the pictures. Everything felt so luxurious! After settling in I checked out the rest of the hotel. From the level above my room, there was an open area with a view of Lake Kawaguchi on one side and a view of Mount Fuji on the other, plus a rooftop foot spa!
Then as I was watching the mountain, this happened.... Now you see it, now you don't.
And just like that, Mount Fuji was no longer visible, so I called it a night.
The next morning I woke up early and opened the doors to snow! What better way to spend my day off relaxing at the hotel, watching the snow fall from my own private hot spring.
My dream whilst in Japan was to see some snow monkeys but didn't think they lived in Mount Fuji, however to my surprise I spotted a dozen or so frolicking in the abandoned houses in the near distance. You can see from the last picture above, one of the monkeys on the rooftop of someones snowcapped home! I sat watching the snow monkeys play with their kids all day, jumping from house to house.
I even considered leaving the hotel and bracing the snow storm to try and play with them lol but apparently they can be quite vicious creatures - especially if you look at them in the eyes.
Later that evening I got my first ever massage (it was the best BTW!) and ate a full course traditional Japanese dinner, all from the comfort of my hotel room. What a perfect way to spend my time in Mount Fuji.
The solitary mountain evokes a feeling like no other and I honestly feel so lucky to have been able to witness and capture some beautiful photos that I will forever cherish.
The only downside from my stay in Mount Fuji was the fact that on the last night I was up at 3am with food poisoning. Every 2 minutes I was chucking up some pretty nasty stuff. Now I don't want to throw you off from staying here, because the hotel is by far the best - I just unfortunately have a super, super sensitive stomach after getting Salmonella food poisoning in 2012 and I stupidly enough decided to stuff myself silly, trying every single weird food on offer. I'm talking sea snails, weird slimy things and yukky mushrooms - you name it, I tried it.
I guess the upside from being up at 3am was that I wouldn't miss the sunrise. You see the thing with me is that I always try to look for the positives in life no matter what the circumstances are, and encourage you to do the same. Always remember that no matter how hard life gets, it does get better and you can always turn a negative situation into a positive. The second I opened my door, I learnt that the snow had cleared, leaving a spectacular view of the iconic mountain.
Despite getting sick it was worth every cent!
Let me know in the comments below if you have ever visited Mount Fuji or have it on your bucket list!