After a series of early mornings, we decided to have a more relaxed day soaking up the sun in Kanazawa. Proceed with caution: our version of a lazy day doesn’t involve spending the best part of the day in a semi-vegetative state – we still clocked up a staggering 32,364 steps pottering around, if the iPhone pedometer is to be believed.
At the crack of dawn, we were woken by the all-too-familiar buzz of our alarms. Having packed up our belongings the previous night, we crept out of the dorm and made our way to Matsumoto Station to catch the 06:27 train to Shinano Omachi (¥670; £5.26). A little over an hour later, we hopped off the train and made a beeline for “Alps Roman Kan”, a small shop adjacent to the station which ships bags to the other end of the route for a nominal fee. After filling out some paperwork and labelling our bags, we sped off to catch the 08:00 bus to Ogizawa.
To this day, Kamikōchi, a remote valley in the Northern Japan Alps, remains one of the most scenic places I’ve ever visited. Featuring marshlands, wetlands and dense forest this subalpine valley is nestled amongst some of Japan’s highest and most dramatic peaks. Simply put, Kamikōchi’s stunning landscapes are a photographer’s paradise and a hiker’s heaven.
When Mount Fuji finally graced us with her (or should it be his?) presence, we were up, dressed, toothbrushed and out of the hostel door within five minutes. Knowing the clouds would return imminently, we motored across Kawaguchiko Ohashi Bridge making it to the viewing point just in time to admire the reflection of Fuji-san’s revered symmetrical cone in Lake Kawaguchi. Barely ten minutes later, swirling clouds had moved in and smothered the summit.
After a short-lived snooze, we were up at the crack of dawn in an attempt to see the legendary Mount Fuji at sunrise. Croissants in hand, we left the hostel just before 4am and made our way to the viewpoint on the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchi. Unfortunately for us, due to low cloud cover, Fuji-san thwarted our plans and never put in an appearance. On the upside, with everyone else still (sensibly) in their beds, the lakeside was indescribably peaceful.
Having taken in the bright lights of Tokyo, the next stop on our itinerary was Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji, a picture-perfect symmetrical active volcano – when it shows itself from behind the clouds, that is! Whilst do-able as a day trip from Tokyo, Fuji-san’s surrounding area merits a couple of days if you’ve got the time; besides the famous lakes in the foothills, there are lava caves and restored traditional villages to explore.
After clocking up a whopping 36,741 steps tootling round Tokyo the previous day, we decided to continue squeezing as much as we could into our short but sweet trip to the capital. Our second (and final) full day in Tokyo was spent wandering the streets of Ueno, Yakata and Asakusa. Tokyo’s northern neighbourhoods are steeped in history – so if you want to escape the frenzied shopping districts and get a taste of this futuristic metropolis’ history, add these spots to your itinerary!
Comprised of 6,852 islands and home to the world’s largest metropolitan area, a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun is nothing short of mesmerising: neon-lit cities which function round-the-clock and ethereal landscapes combined to make Japan one of my favourite countries visited to date. With just shy of three weeks to see as much of Japan as we could feasibly manage, Laurence and I compiled a jam-packed itinerary and clocked up hundreds of thousands of steps executing it – enough to make couch potatoes baulk from their sofas!