Google “Mount Fuji” and your first search results are very likely to include the beautiful view of Japan’s sacred mountain from the Chureito Pagoda in Arakurayama Sengen Shrine Park, Fujiyoshida. Most of these search results won’t even mention the location – it’s just one of the default “pretty Japan” stock photos used in articles.
This iconic location had been on my bucket list for a while, but since the view would be the main point of the expedition, good weather, or at least good visibility was paramount. In December 2019 I was in Tokyo for a week and the weather was perfect most days. Time to get on a train to Fujiyoshida.
I departed from my hotel in Otsuka and took the Yamanote Line to Shinjuku. From there I took a Limited Express train to Otsuki (1 hour) and continued on the Fujikyuko line to Shimoyoshida (50 minutes).
As I got nearer to your destination, I started catching glimpses of the mountain. It never gets old.
It was a week day, but the train was pretty full with mostly elderly Japanese hikers with backpacks and walking sticks. I was afraid they were all going to see the pagoda, but they all got off at another stop for, probably, a less touristy hike.
The train station in Shimoyoshida is small. Cross the tracks and you’ll see Mt Fuji behind the train station. You can get a drink from one of the vending machines there, or make use of its decent toilets.
Check out the map outside the station to get your bearings. To head for the pagoda, go to the right outside the station, straight on and eventually cross back over the train tracks, straight on, then go right underneath the overpass and straight towards Arakurayama Sengen Shrine Park.
There are clear signs pointing you towards the park and its pagoda. It’s a 20 minute walk and you will get to see Mt Fuji from many interesting angles as you walk through the village and the fields.
Once you get to the park you will have to either go up some 390 steps to the top, or take the winding road for a steadier ascend. I took the steps. The further you go up, the better the views become, so don’t forget to look over your shoulder once every while. Take care though, it gets pretty busy up there.
The shrine itself is halfway up Mount Arakura, you’ll see the red torii gate. Here you can rest for a bit and get some snacks from the stalls outside the shrine.
When you get to the five-storied pagoda, you’ll have to climb up behind it. Wow. Pinch yourself, you’re really there and it really is the most spectacular view.
The pagoda was built in 1963, as an addition to Arakura Fuji Sengen Shrine. It is a memorial to peace, commemorating the war dead. The shrine itself was first established in 705.
I was there in Winter, so the trees were bare. Imagine being lucky enough to be there in Sakura season, when the pagoda is framed by cherry blossoms. It’s a lot harder to get clear skies then, that’s why I chose to go in Winter.
There isn’t a lot of space on the observatory deck behind the pagoda and you’ll be competing with a lots of people trying to get their selfies and group shots. You’ll have to be a little patient. Take your time. Maybe sit down for a bit, take it all in before you try to get your shot and return to the station.
From Shimoyoshida station you could head towards Kawaguchiko to cycle around the lake, for more amazing views of Mount Fuji.