Fuji San

Did you know tourists can’t drive in Japan without an International Drivers License? Did you know that I don’t have an International Drivers License? And neither does anyone in my family? For people who travel as much as we do this seems like an oversight, but we’ve never needed an International Drivers License…. until we tried to figure out how to get from Kyoto to Mt. Fuji.

Kyoto and Mt. Fuji are not far apart. Only about 350 kilometres. But, getting from Kyoto to Mt. Fuji without a car turned into a public transport BINGO game… train, bullet train, bus, taxi… BINGO! We had to take the train almost all the way to Tokyo, then back-track almost half way via bus to reach Mt. Fuji. But, it was worth it for the look on my Dad’s face when he first spotted Mt. Fuji from the window of the Shinkansen train. Parents get to watch their children see and experience new things every day. It’s not often a kid gets to watch her Dad see something new and significant for the first time. Japan is magic like that.

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We’d booked into a resort-type place on the banks of Lake Yamanakako with sweeping views across to Mt. Fuji. The resort was the kind of place where breakfast and dinner are served in a big dinning room at the same time each day. There was an onsen (Japanese hot bath), a karaoke room and a table tennis room. Basically, I was picturing a big family resort like in Dirty Dancing but, with less Patrick Swayze and more raw fish.

Wearing yakata ready for the onsen.

Wearing yakata ready for the onsen.

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And, I wasn’t too far off! We were the only non-Japanese guests at the resort, the staff spoke only a teeny bit of English, the competition for the karaoke room was fierce and the set menus each morning and evening included plenty of raw fish! Sometimes the raw fish on our plates was the only thing we could identify. The resort was pretty old school and the food was properly old fashioned Japanese… miso soup at each meal, food artfully arranged on coordinated platters, rice served at the end of the meal. I’m fairly certain we all lost weight during our stay because the effort to identify our food burned more calories than actually eating it!

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We spent a ton of time at the onsen baths, which were steaming hot, almost always empty and had a view of Mt. Fuji. We took the tiny bus to the village and proceeded to slip and slide our way on a walk half way around the lake whilst being pelted with snowballs from Georgia, who had never seems seen snow before. We slept on futons on the floor each night, left our shoes at the front door, watched a sumo wrestling tournament on TV and even had a few goes in the karaoke room! At the end of our stay at Mt. Fuji we felt properly Japanese.

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