Our final morning in Tokyo greeted us with beautiful blue skies – a good sign for our trip to Kawaguchiko. From Asakusa, we made our way to Shinjuku Station on the Ginza and Yamanote lines, and then headed over to the Keio bus station to buy our tickets. When we arrived at Kawaguchiko Station, we were surprised at how much cooler it was compared to Tokyo. A quick Google told us that it’s situated at an altitude of 800 metres, which certainly explained the cool summer breeze. Despite the almost chilly weather, we still bought ourselves some freshly made strawberry ice cream from a cute little van outside the station.
Tokiyuyu Rakuyu Onsen Hotel
After wandering around the station for awhile (and finishing our ice cream), we took the free shuttle to our hotel – Tokiyuyu Rakuyu Hotel. Rakuyu is a cosy but modern style ryokan perched on the steep hillside of Tenjōyama (just next to the Kachi Kachi ropeway). Despite facing away from Mount Fuji, the hotel has a specular view of Lake Kawaguchiko and the surrounding mountains, which can be enjoyed both from the guest rooms and the lobby. Though each room has a private bathroom, Rakuyu also has onsen baths that overlook the lake. Relaxing in the hot water while gazing at the tranquil surrounds was definitely a highlight of our stay.
Lake Kawaguchiko & Tenjōyama Park
After spending some time relaxing at the hotel, we wandered down the hill to explore the lakeside and town. Despite the large number of people we saw milling about the train station when we arrived that morning, the lakeside was virtually empty. It was kind of eerie in a way, almost like the town had been abandoned for the summer. Nonetheless, it had a certain charm about it, with hydrangeas and lavender growing along the paths, and eagles (or some sort of bird of prey) circling above, occasionally disappearing into the forested mountains. We even encountered the cutest little stray cat meandering along the lava rocks by the lake.
After realising that we hadn’t actually seen Mount Fuji yet, we decided to head towards Tenjōyama Park to catch a glimpse of it before the sun went down. Whilst not a perfect view (the afternoon clouds had started to come in, obscuring some of the mountain), we did manage to see it up close for the first time!
Fuji Tempura Idaten
When dinnertime came around, we walked about the quiet streets for what felt like an eternity looking for Kawaguchiko’s famous hōtō noodles. However, as the sun went down and our stomachs started rumbling, our search quickly turned into finding anything that even resembled a restaurant (a task that proved surprisingly challenging). We eventually chanced upon Fuji Tempura Idaten, which I recognised as the number one restaurant on TripAdvisor for Kawaguchiko. This, combined with the fact that it was chock-full of people, led us to believe that maybe it was the only restaurant around for miles!
As we eagerly awaited our food, we took much delight in watching the seemingly understaffed and overstressed kitchen operate. The tempura chef calmly stood in the middle, looking like a zen master, while the two bewildered trainee staff ran around him, searching high and low for whatever the chef asked for.
Angela ordered the Fujiten set (¥880), which came with vegetables, shrimp, fugu fish, and egg. I ordered the similar Idaten set (¥780), which had mushrooms in place of the vegetables. Overall, the tempura was quite enjoyable. The batter was nice and light, and not overly oily as it can sometimes be. We were most excited to try the fugu, as neither of us have had it before. Honestly, it was nothing special – very similar to cod (in both taste and texture). Perhaps it is best to enjoy it in sashimi form, something we’ll have to try one day! Alongside the set meal, I also ordered a serving of hiyamugi noodles. They were served cold, with a broth to dip them in (similar to zaru soba). The noodles were very tasty, and slightly chewy, somewhere between sōmen and udon. The dipping sauce was very similar (if not identical) to the tsuyu used in zaru soba, with the chopped shiso cutting nicely through the sweetness.