There are few things in life that have made as much impact in my life and Mount Fuji has. Fuji has a certain magic that attracts you to it: The closer you are, the more enchanted you get. I was so fascinated by it that I even decided to climb it. Me, a beginner at hiking, climbing the highest mountain in Japan with no gear.
Fuji is so immense that it can be seen all the way from Tokyo on a clear day. If you are on a bullet train, sometimes you can get lucky and see it from a distance too. If you go to Japan, make sure to visit it. At least for one day.
To me, one day was not enough. You see, Fuji is in an area called the Five Lakes Region. It is surrounded by typical Japanese hotels (Ryokans), restaurants, viewing points, attractions (even an amusement park with insane roller coasters) and hot springs. Why would I only spend one day?
I planned my trip down to the smallest details. I stayed 3 days in a city called Fujikawaguchiko, in a hotel in the middle of a hill with a hot spring. The hotel's name was Rakuyu. Needless to say it was one of the bext experiences of my life.
Thomas (my husband) and I checked in on Rakuyu on Saturday morning. On Sunday, we climbed Mount Fuji. What a challenge. Fuji was a worthy opponent but we made it to the top. At the end of the day, when we headed back to the hotel, we were exhausted: my skin was sunburned, my legs were hurting in places I didn't know I could feel pain, my stomach was begging for food and my lungs were happy to have enough air to breath.
That night, after the climb, all we wanted to do was eat and relax. So I did what any person should do while in Japan: I booked us a private onsen (hot spring) at the hotel we were staying.
As we approach to the onsen on the second floor of the hotel, Thomas and I smiled and talked, using the little bit of energy left inside our bodies to go up the stairs. How could a weekend be so perfect? The five lakes region certainly had a magic that was impossible to describe. We opened the door that led us to our onsen, and that's when we immediately saw it: A beautiful hot tub with an open view to the lake.
The room was split in two, the inside and the balcony. Inside the room there was a place to keep our belongings, as well as a shower area with local toiletries. In the balcony, the rustic hot tub released steam through the night air.
At first, I wondered if someone would see me naked from there: The onsen was only partially hidden by a few bamboos and some other types of decorative grass, but clearly not enough to cover everything.
"We are on a hill. No one can see us up here." Thomas said.
That's true. Although we were only on the second floor of the hotel, we had to climb a very steep hill just to go from the main street to the hotel reception. It was more like a 7th or 8th floor of a building than a second floor. Nobody could see my naked sunburned self staring at the Fujikawachiko lake.
The water was warm, almost too warm for a summer day, but it was the perfect temperature to let the muscles relax after a 10 hour hike up and down Fuji. Thomas and I took the time to talk about our trip: Certainly a trip of a lifetime. We had just gotten back from the west of the country where we had visited Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Mishima. Now, at Fuji, we enjoyed the 3 days by the lakes until we started to make our way to Tokyo, where our trip would come to an end after another 5 days.
Thomas grabbed a wooden bucket and poured water onto his hair. I immediately wanted to do the same.
"You always copy my ideas." He said.
"I can't help it. They are too good." I smiled.
The rustic and yet refined feel of the hotel also reflected on the look and feel of the onsen. The decoration consisted of stones on the ground and wooden objects throughout the tub and the shower area. Our yukatas and slippers, kindly given to us by the hotel, were placed in wooden baskets at the entrance.
We stayed for about an hour and a half. After that, we showered, and slowly headed back to our Japanese style room with our futons already prepared by the hotel staff for a soothing night of sleep. As I lied my head on the pillow that night, I knew I would take that trip in my heart for as long as I lived. When my eyes and my mind started dozing off, all I could think of was:
"Thank you, Mount Fuji, for an unforgettable journey."