Kawaguchiko Getaway

Kawaguchiko Getaway

Or: Going somewhere where social distancing is actually possible

I remember when I was planning to go to New Zealand and Vietnam this year… For obvious reasons neither of those trips have happened, but thankfully domestic travel in Japan is still possible. So in a rare shared couple of days off, my girlfriend and I decided to go to one of the lakes near Mount Fuji for a quick mid-week holiday - not too far from Tokyo, but a nice break from the concrete jungle.

Wandering around

The lake itself is really quite scenic, so we spent the first day wandering around the shoreline and the nearby parks. We then went up a cable car in an attempt to see Mount Fuji on the other side of the hills. Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see the mountain, but we got some nice views of the lake instead.

Kawaguchiko is clearly a very tourist-oriented place and felt a bit like a ghost town while we were there. I guess that’s partly because of the pandemic and partly because no one in Japan ever takes holidays in the middle of the week!

This view reminded me a lot of New Zealand or English lakes - I could imagine the Swallows and Amazons sailing around here!

The town has heaps of greenery compared to Tokyo, but the houses still look Japanese somehow ... maybe it's the preference for small open space with a couple of artistically placed pine trees instead of a large garden

Not related to anything, but I like how suspicious this cat looks! We were watching it rustle around in the grass for a while before it slunk out across the path

The view from the ropeway - the lake is really pretty and reminds me of Queenstown in NZ (except with smaller mountains)

A weird wonderland

The second morning didn’t look like very good weather, so we went looking for some of the many museums around the lake. The first few we found were closed for safety, closed because it was mid-week, or closed for renovations. However, just as the weather cleared up we stumbled upon the “Music Forest Museum”, a mock quaint old English village with museums of music boxes and music-playing automatons.

It's an incredibly photogenic place, although I suspect it wouldn't look this good in peak season with crowds of tourists all over it

Sadly I didn’t get any good photos indoors with all their music machines - they had everything from clockwork musicians to a “jukebox” made up of a bunch of real violins stuck together to a music hall with a huge clockwork organ surrounded by mechanical dancers. All quite astonishing, all the more so because many of the machines were apparently shipped from Europe at huge expense!

While we were having lunch, we finally saw Mount Fuji! The clouds cleared just enough for about five minutes

Many questions

That and a leisurely walk back to the station was about all we had time for. On the train back we introduced each other to our families’ travel games: I introduced her to “I’m thinking of something” (a variant of 20 questions), and she introduced me to “Umigame-no-soup”, a Japanese game of puzzle scenarios.

This also works a bit like 20 questions, but instead of thinking of something you read out a scenario (usually from a book or website) with a hidden twist and the other person has to guess the twist by asking you questions. The one I got went something like “There are stories about ghosts in the woods. Sometimes a girl walks through the woods near a village, and the villagers have a rule that they must never speak to her. Why do they have that rule?” After a lot of questions (and more than one hint) I pieced together that the villagers are friendly ghosts who talk to the girl so they don’t frighten her - quite the challenge for my Japanese!

Posted on 28 September 2020
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