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Kawaguchiko & Mt.Fuji | Traveling solo in winter with 8-month-old baby





So we covered what it was like to travel in the city with my baby in my blog post here about Tokyo. But what is it like traveling in the countryside? 

Key takeaways: 
 Walk, Bus, Taxi, Car Rental, or Driver. These are your options depending on your budget. Sometimes even if you do have the budget, there are not taxis available. You need to plan your trip carefully around what you want to see and how to get there. Know as much as you can especially if you are taking the train, do you need to purchase a ticket in advance (tickets can sell out)? Are the seats assigned? Which platform is the correct train (local vs express can cost you your time, which is not fun especially if the baby is fussy)? If you miss this train, how long until the next one (local trains in Kawaguchiko still run every 60min, so it would suck if you missed it, there’s no taxi, but it is also not walking distance but you are literally just trying to go 3 stations by train.) 

 Do your homework on baby products. This means be prepared as much as possible and have a list of stores and store hours on where you can find diapers and formula should you run out. We did end up running out of formula, found out at the grocery store that they didn’t stock them, thankfully a big drug store was right next door and had them. 

⌲ Food for the adult. I had to find out the hard way that there were no dinner options in Kawaguchiko after sundown, which is 4:30pm. I ended up having all of my meals from the convenience store just downstairs in my hotel (thank god there was one). Another option would be to go all the way to the large supermarket (OGINO) near Kawaguchiko station but that was a mission from where I was staying at. So make sure you look up food options too if you are going to the country side. 

⌲ Spend more time there than you think you need. It takes a while to get around the lake, and I’d definitely recommend staying at least one night if you are bringing a child. It’s not realistic to see all of Kawaguchiko accounting in the 2hour train ride each way from Tokyo and sunset at 4:30pm. 


Getting to Kawaguchiko 

Get your ticket as soon as possible, in fact buy in advance. Best if you can get it the day you land in Japan at Shinjuku station. I didn’t get my ticket until the day of, good thing I arrived with 30min to spare at Shinjuku station because I didn’t know I had to buy a ticket (thought I could just use my rail pass), they were also sold out of the direct trains, so I found out that I have to transfer. 

There is a direct train which departs at 8:30am and 9:30am, or you use the JR pass and transfer at Otsuki station to the Fuji Tozandensha. Both take approximately 2hrs to get to Kawaguchiko station. The Fuji Tozandensha is the fancy looking wooden train and is express, don’t take the regular looking train because that is local and will take much longer. I actually initially initially got onto the wrong train because that was the train the station ticketing person pointed me towards, which was not what I paid for, and with 2 minutes to spare I had to dart across the platform with my kid in my arms, not strapped in, and a kind Japanese man rolling my suitcase for me. 

 



How long to stay at Kawaguchiko? 

I would not recommend to finish Kawaguchiko on a long single day and head back to Tokyo the same day, especially if you have an infant with you. As mentioned earlier, Kawaguchiko is hard to get around without a car since spots are spread out. The bus lines are long and buses don’t come very often, in fact I never used the bus while I was in Kawaguchiko, I used the taxi to get to my hotel and mostly walked. 

To see most of the major sites, you can probably finish in 3 days 2 nights. In a more leisurely pace, just extend one more day. 


Hotel recommendations: Hotori No Hotel Ban, Hoshinoya 

Hotori No Hotel Ban is at the North East shore of Lake Kawaguchi. It is most center in terms of walking to different sites, it’s close to the maple corridor, it is a 30min walk west to Oishi park, and 30-40min walk southeast to Kawaguchiko station. It is also a short and reasonable cab ride to Chureito Pagoda. The best part is there is a bus stop right in front of the hotel and a family mart built into the hotel. They also have a café downstairs so you never need to worry about food. 



Hoshinoya: a more luxurious camping experience, more suitable if you are driving, or don’t mind staying in one place. There is a bus stop just down the hill as well if you don’t mind the wait and the time it takes to get around with a bus. From every hotel room, you can enjoy a direct view of Mount Fuji from the floor to ceiling window, some rooms also have a balcony you can go out to. To get up to the concrete hotel room buildings, you will need to take the hotel's jeep up from the reception to the main hall as it is on a steep hill. Inside the forest are a series of stairs and platform which form the outdoor bar, the camp fire and grill area, and a library. 

 





What sites can you see around Kawaguchiko? 

| Chureito Pagoda |

To get to the observation deck you need to walk up 398 steps, or a winding road up, so technically you could stroller most of the way up. But I’d say just tough up and hike up with the kid in the carrier and take lots of breaks, plus it gives you the chance to look back at the view whereas the winding road up is in a forest. People were super nice up top, they saw I was alone with the kid and multiple people offered to help me take photos. 

We took a taxi from our hotel to the Pagoda since using the bus plus train took forever whereas the taxi was just around 10 min. On the way back I walked back down to Shimoyoshida Station and took the train back. 



| Maple Corridor |

There is a specific range of dates where they have a festival and light up the corridor at night in November. I unfortunately missed it since I went too late, but there were still some leaves in the beginning of December, and very little tourists. 



| Nagasaki Park |

Everyone talks about Oishi park, but Nagasaki park has few people and has an even more beautiful view of Fuji in my opinion. It faces Fuji directly, unlike Oishi Park which faces Fuji from the side. The only thing is you do need to walk there, it is a really pleasant walk, but can be cold so dress warmly! 


The kid was wearing: longs sleeve footed onesie + sweater and sweatpants + down coat with inside lined with fleece + shoes. Temperature was around 0 - 5C


| Asama Shrine |

Not many people know about the shrine, and even less people know about the Tori gate in the mountain facing Mount fuji. I took the stroller and hiked 20 min up. It was tougher than Chureito Pagoda but it was so worth it. Driving takes only 5 min. Take note that it is not marked on the map, and nor can you see it from google street view. It is just past the camping site which is marked on the map. Thankfully I ran into a Thai family who drove up so I could capture this moment!



35°32'06.6"N 138°46'38.2"E




| Oishi park and Hana Terrace |

Other than the road just North East from Kawaguchiko Station, this is probably the only other place that has a series of restaurants and shops. This one is really new though, all of the cafes and restaurants are a bit more modern and trendy. For example we went to this pizza place serving Frappuccinos. There are also some souvenirs here. 




| A traditional Japanese village by bus or car: Oshino Hakkai, Iyashino Sato |

These are traditional villages with an amazing Fuji as back drop. Oshino Hakkai is loaded with Chinese tourists, so I’d say go earlier in the day (we were there around 11am). Iyashino Sato is also popular with tourists but not as crowded, and the individual houses sell local hand-made Japanese crafts, which make it even more special. 

Oshino Hakkai


(Below) Iyashino-Sato




Where to get food? 

Restaurants are far and sparse plus they close really early at night. If your hotel doesn’t serve food, you should definitely stop at the big supermarket called OGINO just 20min walk west from Kawaguchiko station. It has ready to eat hot meals such as yakitori, tempura, udon, soba, sushi, gyoza etc. They also have shopping carts with baby seats (up to 12mo and 12-36mo) so you can shop at ease!

 

Where to buy formula? 
There is a Big drug store next to OGINO supermarket. It doesn't have an English name, but you can google the following:


クスリのサンロード 
Hours: 9am – 12am


They have Japanese formula. It's different from what we usually use which is Enfamil. For Enfamil, you add 1 scoop of formula powder per 30ml, but for the Japanese formula you need to add 1 scoop of formula powder per 20ml. You really feel like you're massively overfeeding the kid, but apparently the Japanese formulas are much closer to breastmilk?

They also have a lot of the major diaper brands in all kinds of sizes so not to worry there. The staff do speak English, but if you have a hard time finding formula for example, search "Japanese Baby Formula" in google images and just show that to them. Don't show them pictures of foreign brand formula because they might not know what that is. 

Below is a map of every place mentioned

I really hope this was helpful and provides a bit more reassurance and confidence to any other parent or parents who will be traveling to Japan soon with their baby. After experiencing it first hand, I would encourage everyone to travel with their baby if possible. So many people brand it as a pain in the ass to travel with babies (or even kids), but it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to be prepared and to make the trip pleasant. In fact, it was such an amazing bonding experience with my child. I never spent so much time with him, carrying him right in front of me, and watching him interact with the world. People also say that it is not worth it bringing a young child who won’t remember things to travel. But I 100% disagree with that, the child is growing and learning while interacting with a new environment. It was his first time in a colder climate (0-10C), he had to get used to many different hotel rooms, different formula, and Japanese people definitely respond to him differently than Chinese people. He had several meals with us in a high chair, several without a high chair. There were all kinds of new sounds. He learned to nap in a carrier, on the train, and in broad daylight without curtains to darken the room. 

To me, traveling will always be the best education. You see the world in a new perspective, and you learn to adapt. You cannot replace education with something you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and experience with your heart. 

Happy Travels! 








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