We had all been looking forward to our next port of call, not just because of the giant sleeping volcano it’s so famous for – but because this would be the one place in our trip that we would be staying in true Japanese style. Hotel Mizuno does have Western style rooms, but wanting to experience the traditional, we had one booked complete with Japanese tea set, tatami mat floors, sliding paper doors, and futons with silk quilts that were magically packed away each morning having been lovingly unfurled for us the night before.
The Hotel also has (according to a local taxi driver!) perhaps the best view of Mount Fuji in the whole of Fujikawaguchiko, and each morning once our sliding paper doors had been carefully drawn back (quite a treacherous feat to avoid putting a hand through those!), we could lie in bed and admire the beautiful and majestic mountain, an icon so sacred to Japan (and one that is quite surreal when you see it for the very first time!).
There’s not actually too much to Fuji Kawaguchiko town itself – there are a few cafes, a souvenir shop or two, a few restaurants and the train station. People mostly come here to climb, and the town becomes a brief resting post to refuel beforehand, and undoubtedly a recovery post for afterwards too. If you do feel the need to explore flatter ground whilst you are here, then you will find exceedingly good cakes at the slightly bizarre Heidi’s Village – an Alpine style resort (which felt rather strange given our current residential location)! Apart from that, a meander around the lake, and taking the odd refreshment stop in which to sit and admire Mt. Fuji was all in order. Be warned though, we set out to explore on a Thursday when quite typically a lot of things appear to be closed!
It’s at night that Hotel Mizuno really comes into its own however. It has a definite 1950’s vibe, and you wouldn’t be surprised to find the cast of MadMen downing a cocktail or two at the bar (or inspecting a few of the more interesting(!) titles in the library). And whilst sitting amongst the art work, and appreciating the candle lit ambience, you can put your feet up and watch the long trail of the flame lit torches of the climbers as they wind their way to the summit of Mt. Fuji in time for sunrise. There was a brief moment that I almost felt jealous of them on their missions to catch the dawn, but Mr R has actually done the climb before, and said it definitely wasn’t suitable for the Small People, so maybe we will save that for another day (Whilst on the topic of the hotel, the breakfasts are good here, and you can book dinner, but we also liked to walk down the steep hill and around the corner to the closest restaurant for some pretty respectable tonkatsu!)!
There is a definite aura about Mt. Fuji. You can almost feel the pulse of something deep and mysterious, and catch a hint of why it’s so special to Japan. It is so highly regarded, that to some poor souls, the thick forest surrounding the base of the Mountain is the place that they choose to go to end their lives. I thought about these people the next morning as I crept out of bed at 4am to watch the dawn break, and alone on the balcony I thought about how sad their lives must have been to take such steps. As the clouds changed from yellow to pink, and the light crept slowly slowly across the sky – the sun climbed ever higher – until finally it turned the top of Mt. Fuji a beautiful deep red. Then I thought of those people who were very much alive, and who were waiting there for that exact reason, and I found it all strangely moving.