Plan for the day
1) scenic route around Lake Yamanaka
6) Owakundani (optional)
A drive around Lake Yamanaka
We woke up early at about 6.30 am, it was too early for breakfast so rather than wasting time waiting for breakfast in our room we decided to explore Lake Yamanaka.
Driving round the lake, I was disappointed as the mist had whitewashed the entire scenery, my only consolation was I did spot some occasional red leaves. We drove one circle around the lake and stopped at the Diamond Fuji Lookout point again. Here the layer of mist was even denser, it enveloped the land and the lake and Mount Fuji was totally blocked from our sight.
Breakfast at Hotel Mifuji
We were back to our hotel for breakfast, most of the guest had apparently finished their meals as the dining room was rather empty. Breakfast was rather simple, nothing memorable. Before we left our hotel we explored the internal of the hotel and took some photos to remember this “not so good value for the money” place. This was an opinion from our perspective, in our stay here for a night, our needs were a good room, a good ensuite bathroom and a good breakfast. In all three areas the hotel fell short for the price we had to pay. Unfortunately I had booked my accommodation at this touristy spot too late, just about a month before the stay, so all the good choices were taken.
There was a longer but faster route which would get us to Lake Kawaguchi 5 minutes earlier. We did not take the faster route as it incurred toll and the toll charges in Japan was pretty expensive. Yesterday was our first day in Japan and we had already paid ¥7470 just for tolls for travelling from Narita to Tokyo and then to Lake Yamanaka. We hoped that such high toll cost would not be an everyday event.
Our mapcode of the maple corridor brought us directly to the start of the “corridor” unfortunately all the roads near the corridor were packed with cars and people. We could not find a place to park so we drove on further and further away from the maple corridor. We turned right into a smaller road and made another right turn and found an empty land beside a house. There was already a car parked on the land so we parked beside it. The land did not look like a private land so we thought it should be fine to leave our car there.
We walked a short distance down the road and turned a corner and found ourselves at the other end of the maple corridor. What a coincidence, our three right turns had brought us to the end point of the maple corridor. We started our walk from the end point moving toward the start point. The autumn beauty of the maple corridor took my breath away. It was the first time I encountered such a beautiful scene and I felt breathless just looking at it.
As we walked toward the start of the maple corridor we encountered more and more people. There was a huge crowd at the start of the maple corridor. It was obvious that the end point was a better location to start the walk because there was hardly anybody in sight and we were able to take many wonderful photos without human heads popping into our shots.
Kawaguchi Koyo Tunnel
It was already about 12.30pm and we had another 3 and a half hours before daylight disappeared. So far we had only completed three out of our six sightseeing destinations. There was not enough daylight to explore the next three. Yat Thong and I deliberated over the options and decided to drop Lake Saiko visit and postpone Owakundai visit to the next day.
Around Lake Kawaguchi
After dropping the two destinations we had more time to explore Lake Kawaguchi. The sky was clear and we could see Mount Fuji standing majestically in the backdrop of lake with its signature white snow capped top. Finally I was satisfied to be able to see this UNESCO beauty.
Songokuhara Pampas grass field
From Kawaguchi field we drove 45km for about an hour to reach Songokuhara Pampas grass field. The start of the pampas field walking trail was along the road 75.
As we approached our destination we saw that the road were jammed pack with cars. All the carparks nearby were full. I did not expect this place to be such a popular touristy destination. I included it in our list of visit because it was a nice break stop between Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Ashi where we had booked our accommodation for the night.
I had read on the internet that autumn was the best time to view the pampas field, it was the time when all the green grass turned yellow. No wonder the place was so crowded with visitors. We drove up and down along the stretch looking for a place to park but found none. In the end we turned into a restaurant just beside the pampas field.
It had a small carpark with six carpark spaces, unfortunately there was no empty space for us to park our car. Shorty a family of six of three generations came out from the restaurant and walked toward their car preparing to drive off. Coincidentally they were Singaporean too and lived in Tokyo. Their advice to us was to park and get a table queue number from the restaurant staff. We would probably need to wait for about 30 to 45 minutes for a free table in the restaurant so we could make use for this time to walk the pampas field. Fantastic!! We got to park our car, queue for our restaurant table, walk the pampas field and come back for dinner.
The pampas grass field was very huge, the grass were human height tall. As we walked into the field on the walking path that was cut into it, we could see the grass up the slope swaying in unison. It looked like rolling white waves in a huge yellow sea. The sight was very beautiful and very unique.
It was about 3pm when we sat down to eat our second meal of the day, based on time and meal sequence I should consider this meal a late lunch. But by the time we finished our food about 30 minutes later the sun had begun to set. Usually back home we would eat dinner around sunset timing. So on second thought this meal was an early dinner. Sitting at our table looking out of the window we could see that the rays of the setting sun was turning the pampas field orangy gold and we couldn’t wait to get back into the field again.
After our meal, we left the car at the parking space of the restaurant and walked back to enjoy the view of the pampas grass field glowing beautifully under the setting sun.
Accommodation for the Night
I had booked a double room at The Prince Hakone located just beside Lake Ashi. It was a short 10km drive from the pampas field to the hotel and we arrived at its door step in less than 20 minutes. The carpark was just outside the hotel and it was huge and empty.
Prince Hakone was a luxurious four stars hotel. My room was huge more than double the size of the room that I had at Mifuji Hotel where we stayed the night before and as for its bathroom it was four times the size of that at Mifuji. After the horrible bathroom experience at Mifuji Hotel I was only too glad to have a wonderful, relaxing and warm bath at this hotel.