…Running slightly late as usual, we headed to the Fuji Hakone National Park to visit Lake Kawaguchi and take the cable car up Mount Kachi Kachi.
The lake was simply stunning. One of the five lakes created after the last eruption, Lake Kawaguchi is massive with breathtaking views, mountain upon mountain visible on the far end of the lake. For those interesting in spending time at the lake, they even have paddle boats which you can take out into the middle but I was content to just admire the stillness of the lake with its hazy reflection of mist and mountains.
We walked past rows of hydrangeas to get to the cable car where we picked up another one of the epic coin souvenirs that only Japan offers (as far as I know that is ^^ ).
The view from the cable car was even more stunning than I had anticipated. It was fast turning out to be my best day in Japan and I’d like to drop a pin right here as another place I’d love to live. I’m not the only one who feels that way either, with many people opting to build their holiday homes on the face of Kachi Kachi, with a view of the lake on on side and a view of Mt. Fuji on the other. The cable car ride took about 3 minutes but I really wish it had taken longer just so I could enjoy the aerial views a bit more.
Once we reached the top, we had two options- either enjoy the view from the top of the mountain, or walk down to the hydrangea garden about 15 minutes away. I was too much in love with the lake view for even the gorgeous hydrangeas to compete and so I headed up, where I was rewarded with a shower of mist which really helped given the hot weather. ^^ I was tempted to stay there for hours, and had the weather been more conducive I’d probably have to be dragged away. I think I found my dark tea house in the view of the lake from Kachi Kachi.
There was a bee warning up on the viewing platform, but no one said anything about monkeys- which is why we were pleasantly surprised when we saw a monkey swinging through the trees as we made our way back down to the cable car.
We had plenty of time to enjoy ourselves admiring the lake view and taking in the breeze and it was the view from this lake of the mountains beyond that I cannot forget. The one thing that left the most indelible print on me. I don’t think any picture can do it justice because when you look at a picture you are bigger than what you see, but when you’re actually there the sheer size and majesty of the surroundings is enough to put the world into perspective and re-calibrate your sense of self and sense of self-importance.
We had to leave Lake Kawaguchi though and we made a short stop at Oshino Hakkai to view one of the eight freshwater springs fed from Mt. Fuji, which are also known to offer great reflections of the mountain in their clear water. The day was hazy though so we didn’t have much luck with catching a reflection, but we did see what was some of the clearest spring water I’ve ever seen. It was so clear, in fact, that it could be called a mirror. As we stood on one side, we could see the perfect reflections of our friends in the water, and that’s when I realized how magnificent the reflection of Mt. Fuji would be in these springs.
Our guide felt bad that we didn’t have more time to spend there, explaining that people often came here to spend the entire day, attracted by the changing reflections in the springs as the day wears on. I understand the attraction and I feel like I’d love to come back here. We ended up buying peaches and grapes which are in season in July/August and then walked to the bus.
Of course, we’re prone to distractions and instead of heading to the bus we were naturally drawn to what seemed at the time to be a public garden, but later turned out to be a public garden for a fee which we didn’t realize since the gate is not exactly the entrance- you’re able to walk in from anywhere and we ended up wandering in inadvertently from a place where there were no signs. Oops. It was like a mini view of paradise, a beautiful garden, a lake with a stepping stones and a short bridge leading up to a gorgeous house. We finally got out after many attempts by our guide and were finally on our way to another Aladdin- this time an Arabic restaurant for dinner.
The ride was long but our guide was nothing if not well-prepared and this leg of the ride she told us about how Mount Kachi Kachi got its name. It’s a rather gruesome story but the story of Kachi Kachi Yama goes something like this…
There was once a badger, who went into the home of an elderly couple where he killed the elderly obaasan and… ate her…while her husband was away. He then assumed her form, but could not get rid of his tail. When the elderly ojiisan came back home, the badger attempted to act like obaasan while concealing his tail, but ojiisan knew at once that this was not his wife and confronted the badger. The badger managed to escape leaving behind a grieving ojiisan who was so hurt that he could not even go about his daily routine anymore. One day a rabbit came round to ojiisan’s house and on hearing ojiisan’s tale decided to help him. The rabbit walked past a hole in the forest where the badger had been hiding for a few days. The badger called out to him saying that he was hungry and could use some food. The rabbit told him that he would give him some food in return for him helping to carry a load of wood (or something to that effect) up the mountain. The badger agreed and up they went. The badger, starving for a good meal, kept badgering (pun very much intended) the rabbit to give him his food but the rabbit told him to wait till they got to the top of the mountain, as they had agreed. As they approached the peak, the rabbit took out two pieces of flint and started striking them together behind the badger’s back in order to start a fire. The oblivious badger wondered what the “kachi-kachi” sound was and the rabbit told him it was the name of the mountain. The rabbit set the badger’s load on fire and the badger finally felt the searing pain and began to roll around on the ground to put out the flames. The rabbit feigning innocence ran around yelling for help, though he knew that no one lived in the area. A few days after the “accident” the rabbit went to visit the badger to ask after him. The badger was still in pain so the rabbit offered him some ointment to help heal his wounds faster. The ointment, of course, was no ointment. It contained in fact chilly powder which burned deeper into his wounds but the rabbit assured the screaming badger that the more it hurt, the faster it would heal. A few days later, the rabbit came to see the badger again. This time he convinced him to come fishing with him on the lake and offered one of two boats. The badger took the boat that looked better but was in fact made of mud, and so as they got to the middle of the lake, his boat began to disintegrate and he yelled for help. The rabbit then told him that this was his punishment for having killed obaasan. And so the rabbit went back to ojiisan to give him the good news that he had avenged the death of obaasan.
Don’t look at me like that. I warned you it would be creepy.
After the creepy story, our guide went to happier territory and shared with us pictures of her attempt to scale Fuji with a group of other climbers earlier in July. It’s important to remember that adverse weather prevents any attempts at a climb except in the months of July and August yet despite this, our guide faced terrible weather close to the top which forced a retreat. They were faced with windspeeds as high as 35kph which meant they had to descend in a crouch to minimize their surface area so as not to be blown away. The climb takes about 2 days including an overnight stay and our sensei told us she had climbed Fuji once when she in her twenties. It kind of made me wish I could attempt the climb at least once.
From gruesome tales and tales of defeat at Fuji, she moved on to lighter things by giving us a demonstration of a traditional Japanese dance with some instrument, the name of which I can’t remember. Our guide was also pleased to tell us that she and her team had placed 4th in a contest with hundreds of participants thanks to their after-work practice and dedication. She’s even learning how to play a traditional musical instrument, but since she didn’t think she was very good, she instead showed us videos of her sensei performing. And one of the songs that she performed was something that Z remembered from his junior school play. Chandni all over again :P
We finally reached Aladdin where we had a yummy dinner of sheesh taouk and rice before heading back to the hotel for sweet dreams of Fuji. This had been my best day yet. <3
Stay Tuned for Day 8 Part 1