Views of Hakone and Lake Ashi
Before our stay at the bottom of Fuji-san we had spent two weeks exploring the Izu peninsular. Our last stop there had been near the sleepy seaside town of Heda. For our drive to Fujiyoshida from Heda we chose the scenic route over the Ashinoko Skyline Road. This toll road winds itself above Lake Ashi, opposite Mount Hakone with its famous hot spring area, beloved of weekenders escaping Tokyo.
Sadly the weather was misty and the views of the lake and the mountains were not the picture postcard perfect ones we would have wished for. On the way along the Skyline road we stopped at one of the rest stops for a hot bowl of udon and afterwards we joined some other tourists at the viewpoint outside. Jerome spotted the pirate tour ship on the calm lake below and we could also see the cable car going up and down the slopes of Mount Hakone.
Driving along a “Melody Road”
Driving on we not only got our first glimpse of the majestic Fuji-san, albeit shrouded in clouds, we also discovered a most peculiar musical road, called a melody road. Ridges that usually make drivers aware that they might be drifting off the road or across lanes have been spaced on the tarmac across the whole roadway to create a melody while driving over them, at a suggested speed of 40km/h to get the perfect pitch. The song’s name very fittingly is Mount Fuji, a traditional Japanese nursery song. It certainly made us smile and the drive more fun, which is exactly the reason why the owners have created this the melody road on this section, and of course to attract more visitors. We put this down as another crazy Japanese invention, however on doing some research after our trip I discovered that the idea actually originated in Denmark. Japan has copied the concept and had created over 30 of these melody roads by 2016. On the drive up towards Mount Fuji on the Fuji Subaru Line we encountered our second melody road on this trip, with the same melody of course!
Instead of driving straight to our inn, as check in time was not until a few hours later, we made a little detour into Fujiyoshida town. After parking our car in one of the local car parks in Shimoyoshida we strolled along the narrow stream that runs through this part of town until we came up on a shrine. After the usual ritual of cleansing hands and face at the trough with ladles that occur at the entrance of all shrines in Japan, we wandered through the grounds. Turning right we found ourselves on a narrow road, the surface had been plastered with multi coloured stones that ware arranged in a special pattern to create flowers.
Architecture of the 1960’s
In this part of town the street lamps must have once been fashionable, probably in the 1960’s, in fact the whole strip of houses to either side seemed stuck in the mid century era. It was like we were transported into an old Japanese movie set. I fell in love with the architecture of the houses and could have spent hours walking along the alleys. We could see Mount Fuji towering overhead, in the distance. There were little shops, cute cafes and some udon restaurants. Udon noodles are a prominent local dish in the area and I would advise you to pick up a Yoshida Udon Map at the city hall and try the thick noodles at least once.
Coffee and Cake at Cafe Gekkou
Instead of having udon at this time of day, we chose one of the cafes that we discovered on our round through the alleys. Café Gekkou カフェ月光 served delicious coffee and cake in a cosy atmosphere. There was a cat sleeping on one of the seats, which made Jerome happy and the cat did not seem to mind to be stroked by him at all.
Exploring the Little Alleys
We loved just wandering the street looking in the local shops and peering along the old fashioned lanes. After our stroll through Fujiyoshida it was time for us to drive over to our Inn.
Our Stay at Fujitomita Ryokan
Inn Fujitomita was located in the peaceful countryside, away from town, surrounded by a beautiful garden. It had a pool in the back yard, which the boys enjoyed a few times during our stay and Jerome had fun jumping on the large trampoline in the garden too. The traditional style inn is run by a friendly family with three children and while the rooms were not the most modern, they were spacious with tatami mats on the floors and ours even had stunning views of Mount Fuji from its window. There even was an onsen fed by natural hot spring water. The dishes at breakfast were generous, tasty and we were able choose between Japanese and Western style. Dinner was served if requested at the inn, however we fell in love with the little restaurant River’s Edge a few minutes away. This cute place’s main purpose was a shop for fishing supplies for the locals and tourists, however they also served delicious Japanese comfort food staples like beef curry and Yakisoba. Jerome fell in love with their burgers and pasta as well.
Next up Tokai Nature Trail
In preparation for our climb of Fuji-san we took a hike along the Tokai Nature Trail the following day. Read more about it in my next post.