Fujimomiya, when I arrived, was grey and made me a little sad, this is probably because I was exhausted and irritable. I was meant to be staying at a guesthouse but I had a bad feeling about this place for the last few days, I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t want to stay there. So I booked myself into a hotel right near the station which was a perfectly fine place to stay but was definitely rooted in 1978. I have to say that my best sleep of the trip was in that hotel though, I was out straight away and woke up refreshed and ready to take on the world the next day.
My goal for Fujinomiya was to see Mount Fuji, but Fuji-San had other plans that day and decided to stay firmly hidden behind a blanket of clouds. It’s frustrating because I was right by the base of the mountain and just thought it would be easy to see, but also fascinating because of how much cloud that surrounds it even when the rest of the sky is clearing up. I headed to Shiraito Falls, which Google Maps told me there were absolutely no buses for. Google Maps was wrong. I found the local bus, got myself a round trip ticket and made my way up there. It’s a 30-minute bus ride and well worth the trek. The falls are beautiful, made up of hundreds of waterfalls falling over a wall of old lava. The water is fed by the snow melting on Fuji itself and is so clear you can see right to the bottom of the pool even though it’s deep. The surrounding area is mossy trees and gigantic bamboo plants that just tower over you. It’s a truly stunning sight and worthy of it’s World Heritage badge of honour. I got some roast chestnuts and some persimmons from some nice old ladies on the side of the road because I am a sucker and buy food from people who give me samples ALL THE TIME. The chestnuts are great though, the persimmons did not look edible once I’d got back to the hotel.
I went to the Mount Fuji Museum in Fujinomiya after finding the bus back into town. The town is actually super cute, and yes it’s grey but there are lots of good shops and restaurants around. The Mount Fuji Museum is a brilliant design, you walk upwards in a spiral through projections of the different levels of the ascent of Mount Fuji, it’s meant to represent the climb itself. You can get off the ascent on different floors to see exhibitions about the history of Fuji, religious significance, and representation in art and music. There’s also a cool film where you can watch some of the religious rituals happen. They have two fantastic observation decks, which if Mount Fuji wasn’t hiding, would have been AMAZING places to look at it. But alas Fuji-San was still asleep, occasionally peeking out of clouds but not coming out to play at all.
Fujisan Sengen Shrine was next on my route, this shrine is over 1000 years old and was built to protect from volcanic eruptions. It has become the region’s most important shrine and the head shrine of over 1300 Sengen and Asama shrines nationwide. The shrine is also a traditional starting point for climbing Mount Fuji. It used to be one of the biggest shrines in Japan but earthquakes have destroyed a lot of the main structure and just the inner and outer shrine remain, along with the gate. There’s a crystal clear pond called Wakutamaike, which is Fujisan’s spring-fed pond, and in the past religious believers would use its water to purify their bodies here before climbing Fujisan. They have bottles and you can drink the water yourself!
I hit up a bakery and a conbini and headed off to walk around town for a while after this before heading back to my hotel to chill and pack up ready to head to Atami the next day. Fujinomiya is a great stop and I would def go to the waterfalls again and try and go further along that bus route, though perhaps I would book a day tour out from Tokyo rather than staying the night. Atami though, Atami is beautiful. It was about an hour and a half from Fujinomiya on local trains and once I got here I was hooked on it. This is how I imagine the city from Kiki’s Delivery Service would look like in real life. It’s built into the cliff sides of these giant hills and mountains so you have to walk up a lot of steep streets to get back up to most guesthouses. There’s a huge river that flows through the city and is covered with these beautiful pink and red roses which grow in huge, thorny arches over the water, the thorns accentuated by these bridges shaped like dragons. The streets are narrow and winding and a mix of big modern looking flats and huge, mossy trees and cherry blossoms. Then you have the bay spreading out as far as the eye can see below right at the bottom of all the hills. It’s a sight to see.
My ryokan is the best. It’s got its own little outside sitting area with sliding windows that you can close at night or when it gets too cold. The Japanese style room is large and comfy, with a TV and a really soft futon for the floor. My room overlooks the really pretty garden and I’ve done a lot of writing since I got back from my little hike around town. The guesthouse is so beautiful and the owner is the nicest dude ever. He speaks a little English so between that and my terrible Japanese we’ve had a good chat. I enjoyed a cup of green tea on my balcony before heading out on my walk. Then when I got back I had a bath outside in the outdoor private onsen bath, which was HEAVEN. I’ve never had a bath outside and was a little nervous at first, but there are super tall bamboo fences around the whole bath and no-one can see in at all. The bath is steaming hot and made of these giant rocks and once you’re inside you just lean back and relax and watch the birds fly by and sit in the mossy trees, or enjoy the rain. It started to rain while I was in the bath and the combination of cold rain and a hot bath was very good indeed. I can’t wait to do this again tomorrow night. A+ Japanese bath time.
Tomorrow will be clear, so I want to go to this great Mount Fuji viewing place nearby, but I also want to explore more of Atami. So I am a little torn on my plans. There are a lot of beautiful gardens here to see, and also a lot of good food to eat. So I’m going to spend the evening chilling and planning!
Maryam Hassan is a 32 year old Photographer, Montessori Teacher, Wearer of Yellow from London who transplanted herself to Chicago in 2015. She likes punk music, hash browns, animal facts and mangoes.
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