Still on our road trip through Japan, this final blog post is about a little less travelled place for most tourists to Japan. Starting on our journey from Tokyo to the central north of Honshu Island, we had stopped at Yamanouchi where the Snow Monkeys live, and made a westward turn towards Matsumoto, home of the Crow Castle. Heading south from Matsumoto, we were making our way back to Tokyo with a stop near Mt. Fuji.
There are several options on where to stay in the vicinity of Mt. Fuji. The topmost place for most tourists is Hakone with it’s many lakes, geothermal park and onsen resorts. Having been to Hakone a couple times before through day tours from Tokyo, we were not very keen to revisit and decided to try something new. The prices of hotels in Hakone can be expensive and dining options are quite limited especially for dinner as a lot of the restaurants in the area close early.
So we booked ourselves accommodation at a local resort called Gotemba Kogen Toki No Sumika (what a mouthful). Located near the town of Gotemba at the foot of Mt. Fuji, this is a leisure resort that mainly caters to the Japanese. Our rental car’s GPS led us to it, although we got a bit lost finding the right parking lot as the resort is quite large and spread out over a wide area.
What so special about this resort? Quite a lot actually. From October to March the resort turns into a magical wonderland with millions of lights brightening up the night in a brilliant display. Besides the light display, there is also a musical fountain at night, sports facilities, onsen facilities, several shops, restaurants and even a microbrewery.
So depending on the size of your group and your preference, you can choose from a standard hotel room to a large chalet.
As for the main attraction which is the winter illumination display, it’s a feast for the eyes as millions of lights brighten up the winter nights.
Besides the tunnel of light, there is a paid musical fountain performance. The fees are 1000/adult and 200/child.
Around the Area
Besides the resort itself, there are other places nearby that you can visit. These will probably require that you have a car as public transport seems to be rather lacking around here.
Gotemba Premium Outlets
If shopping is your thing then this is the place for you. This is like the premium factory outlets that you find in USA selling branded goods at discounted prices.
There are a couple of ski resorts along the slopes of Mt. Fuji and you can easily drive to any of them. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour’s drive to get there from Gotemba Kogen resort. Along the way, you will need to pay a toll fee to enter Mt. Fuji.
If you haven’t been up Mt. Fuji, then you can drive up to near the summit. There are 5 stations (1 being lowest, and 5 being highest) along the route, and the higher stations may be closed depending on weather and conditions on the mountain.
This is the more popular place for most visitors. With it’s gorgeous scenery and geothermal park, it’s the obvious choice if you haven’t been there before. There are hotels and ryokans available for visitors to stay. Checking recently, there are also many villas and houses available for rental in Airbnb and these may prove a more economical choice if you have a big group.
It’s around 30 minutes drive from Gotemba to Hakone, so you can probably do this in a day trip or make it part of your stay.
There are several temples and shrines in the area. Visiting one of these can be rewarding not only spiritually but in terms of great photography opportunities. One of the popular temples near Gotemba is the Peace Park.
Getting to Gotemba Kogen Toki No Sumika
From Tokyo, you can take a direct train from Shinjuku station to Gotemba Station, then take the resort’s free shuttle bus or a taxi from Gotemba Station.
As the resort caters mainly to Japanese tourists, I couldn’t book it on the usual hotel booking websites, instead you have to email them directly to book a room. Their website seems to be revamped and caters to English speaking visitors now.