30 Things To Do Around Mount Fuji & Central Japan
Standing 3776 metres in height, Fuji is Japan’s tallest and most iconic mountain. Lying around 2.5 hours from central Tokyo, Fuji attracts countless visitors each year. Many come to be simply catch sight of the mountain, spellbound its size and beauty, while many others come with the more energetic plan to climb it.
An active volcano, Fuji has long been revered, feared, and held in awe by the Japanese people. Without doubt the country’s most iconic and instantly recognisable natural feature, Fuji is much more than just a mountain or volcano. It holds huge spiritual and cultural importance for Japan and rising high above the surrounding plateau is a constant presence in the daily life of the country.
As Japan’s tallest mountain, it is unusual that it sits alone; unlike the other high peaks of Central Japan, that run across a series of long mountain ranges. As such, Fuji acts as a beacon, calling you to leave the capital and begin your journey into Japan’s mountainous heartland and our home region – Central Japan.
Here are our tips and suggestions for 30 things to do around Mount Fuji and Central Japan:
1 / Climbing Mount Fuji / July to September
Fuji’s official climbing season runs from early-July until mid-September, during which time, all trails and mountain facilities are open. Weather is typically mild and this time and snow will be gone from the mountain. Visitors have the option of summitting Fuji via different trails including the Yoshida Trail – open from early-July until mid-September – along with the Subashiri, Gotemba and Fujinomiya Trails – open from mid-July until mid-September.
Stations are positioned along each trail with most climbers choosing to walk from the 5th station of their chosen trail. The Yoshida Trail is the most popular and as such, the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station on that trail is a very popular starting point for many visitors. From the 5th station, it takes between 5 to 7 hours to ascend and 3 to 5 hours to descend.
Climbing Fuji is an extremely popular undertaking for both Japanese and international visitors. The more popular trails are likely to be congested as you join a column of many hundreds of people moving up the mountain. Mountain huts are available around the 7th and 8th stations however these book-out, so should wish to use one, make sure to reserve your spot well in advance.
It is also worth noting that Fuji stands at just under 4000 metres in height. As you ascend, the air is notably thinner. It will affect most people and can have serious health implications for some visitors. Even in summer, temperatures can be cold – potentially below 0°C – near the summit, so make sure you are well-prepared and suitably dressed.
Finally, Mount Fuji is an active volcano and your personal safety should be your first priority. The Japan Meteorological Agency provides real-time advice and warnings for the entire country. Prior to visiting Fuji, we recommend checking the following website.
2 / Best Views of Mount Fuji / all year round
Rising almost 4km above sea level, Mount Fuji is an unmissable sight. Equally imposing as it is beautiful, the mountain can be seen for great distances and from endless angles.
Some of the most beautiful views of Fuji can occur from the most unexpected and mundane places – a convenience store car park or while driving or walking along a nameless suburban street.
Many visitors to the area want that classic photo of Fuji, set against a reflective lake or behind a tranquil temple. In that regard, these are three of the best locations from where to view and photograph Mount Fuji:
1 / Kawaguchiko: as one of the ‘Fuji Five Lakes’, the huge expanse and shoreline of Kawaguchiko offers outstanding views of Fuji – pictured above – see below for details.
2 / Chureito Pagoda: located nearby Shiomyoshida Station, Chureito Padoga is part of Arakura Sengen Shrine. To reach the pagoda, visitors must ascend a long and somewhat trying stone staircase of almost 400 stairs but in doing so, move above the town below and to a fantastic view of Fuji.
With the pagoda in the foreground, visitors can capture that quintessential photo of the mountain, which in spring and autumn is even more spectacular framed by the blossoms and coloured leaves.
3 / Oshino Hakkai: is a reconstructed traditional village centred around eight naturally occurring ponds, fed by the snowmelt each spring.
Bridges and paths lead between the ponds and past traditional thatch-roofed buildings – a beautiful setting from which to view Mount Fuji looming nearby.
3 / Kawaguchiko (Kawaguchi Lake) / all year round
Kawaguchiko or ‘Kawaguchi Lake’ is one of five large bodies of water making-up Fujigoko or the ‘Fuji Five Lakes’ along with lakes Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko and Motosuko. Each lake has its own character and reasons to visit as you explore the region.
Of the five, Kawaguchiko is the easiest to access using public transport and offers the most attractions around its shores. On a fine day, the views of Fuji from Kawaguchiko are truly fantastic and based on that reputation, the area surrounding Kawaguchiko has been developed with hotels and guesthouses, restaurants and cafés, museums, shops, markets and more.
Kawaguchiko is worth visiting regardless of season with each of year framing the imposing mountain in different colours and light. Autumn in particular is spectacular as the leaves change colour and markets pop-up on the shore of the lake. Just make sure to keep any eye on the forecast and head there on a clear day, when the view is sure to be truly spectacular.
For accommodation listings around Kawaguchiko, please refer to our ‘Kawaguchiko (Kawaguchi Lake) Onsen Area’, hotel page.
4 / Itchiku Kubota Art Museum / all year round
Located within easy walking distance of Kawaguchiko, the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum profiles the life and work of textile artist Itchiku Kubota. The museum consists of the main exhibition building, the Gaudi-esque ‘New Wing’ building, two cafes and a landscaped garden.
During his lifetime, Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003) achieved only limited fame in Japan but was recognised and awarded in Europe for his mastery of the ‘Tsujigahana’ dying technique – an antiquated technique used during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573). Kubota revitalized and mastered the old technique and in doing so, produced stunning and elaborate kimono.
The main building – a pyramid-shaped timber structure – displays Kubota’s ‘Symphony of Light’, an exquisite series of kimono with further information and video presentations of this life and work. The museum also includes Kubota’s private collection of artworks including his collection of glassware and beads, from around the world.
5 / Fuji-Q Highland / all year round
Want to get the adrenaline pumping? Then you need to head to Fuji-Q Highland. Located in the shadow of Mount Fuji, Fuji-Q Highland is one of Japan’s most popular amusement parks and home to its best rollercoasters.
The park boasts four main rollercoasters: 1. Fujiyama – once the world’s fastest and tallest and still one of the best; 2. Dodonpa – said to have the fastest acceleration of any rollercoaster in the world; 3. Takabisha – the steepest rollercoaster in the world; and 4. Eejanaika – the park’s ‘4th dimension’ rollercoaster, with rotating seats within the car.
The park includes other rides including those suited to children along with mazes and other attractions. For the younger kids, ‘Thomas Land’ is based on the popular Thomas the Tank series. Restaurants, gift shops and the Highland Resort Hotel and Spa are also available.
Fuji-Q Highland draws devoted fans from all over the world so expect long queues for the rollercoasters, particularly on weekends and holidays.
6 / Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine / all year round
Fujiyoshia Sengen Shrine is one of many around Fuji dedicated to the Shinto goddess, Konohara-sakyua Hime. Translating as ‘Princess Blossom of the Trees’, the deity and this shrine have a strong association with the mountain.
The shrine acts as the trailhead for the Yoshida Trail that ascends to the summit of Fuji and even if they won’t walk from there, many climbers enroute to climb Fuji stop at the shrine to pay their respects, invoke the spirit and ask for safe passage.
Regardless of whether you will be climbing Fuji yourself, the shrine is well-worth a visit. Set back from the road and along an avenue of trees – typical of many Shinto shrines – the shrine is a solemn and beautiful destination.
A little further afield, let’s explore Hakone…
Lying to the southeast of Fuji, Hakone sits in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park – a beautiful region known for its hot springs, forests, and beautiful views of the mountain. When heading to Hakone, there’s only one place to start – onsen!
7 / Hot Springs of Hakone / all year round
Easily accessible from Toyo, Hakone is one of Japan’s most famous hot spring areas. Set amongst the beautiful landscape of the national park and often enjoying outstanding views of Mount Fuji, the numerous onsen of the region have long been visited by those seeking beauty and relaxation.
There are numerous hotels and ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) in the area, catering to all tastes and budgets. Readily accessible from Tokyo, Hakone is well-established as a stop on the tourist trail.
For accommodation listings around Hakone, please refer to our ‘Hakone Onsen Area’, hotel page.
8 / Hakone Open-Air Museum / all year round
The Hakone Open-Air Museum mixes traditional indoor galleries and exhibition spaces with outdoor installation of many artworks. Set among the beautifully manicured museum grounds, and set against the lush backdrop of the surrounding forest, the museum marries the display of art with the environment in-keeping with the increasingly popular trend in Japan.
Artworks from renowned artists including Picasso, Rodin and Medardo Rosso are among the large collection on display, with pieces by many other important artists included.
9 / Owakudani / all year round
Accessible via the Hakone Ropeway, Owakudani is a dramatic volcanic zone, characterized by boiling hot springs, hot rivers and sulfurous clouds drifting through the valley.
The area was formed around 3000 years ago when the Hakone volcano last erupted. Today, it draws many visitors who come to experience a landscape they will rarely have the chance to visit – and so close to major urban centres!
Walking trails lead around the volcanic zone with restaurants and souvenir shops also available. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy another fantastic view of Fuji from Owakudani.
10 / Ashinoko (Ashi Lake) / all year round
Accessible from Hakone using the Hakone Tozan Railway and then the Hakone Ropeway, ‘Ashinoko’ or Ashi Lake is a popular destination known for its beautiful view of Fuji. When planning a visit to Ashinnoko it should be noted that if the weather is overcast or raining there may well be no view of the mountain.
Yet on a clear day, the view is beautiful and allows for some terrific photography. Two companies operate sightseeing boats on the lake. Expect to pay around JPY1000 with cruises lasting a relatively short 30 minutes.
11 / Hakone Tozan Railway / best: spring and autumn
Running from Hakone-Yumoto Station – in central Hakone – to Gora Station, the Hakone Tozan Railway is an enjoyable 35-minute ride on Japan’s oldest mountain train line. In doing so, the railway provides access to and from the Hakone Ropeway – ascending to Ashinoko via Owakudani.
The railway is single track and in door to ascend the steep mountain incline, requires three switchbacks when the train pulls inside a side yard in order to switch tracks and continue onward.
Particularly beautiful in June and July when ‘ajisai’ (hydrangeas) line the tracks, and again in late-October to November when the stunning autumn leaves take hold, riding the Hakone Tozan Railway is a fun and relaxing experience.
12 / Hakone Ropeway / all year round
Running from Sounzan Station to Togendai Station, the Hakone Ropeway connects visitors with some of Hakone’s most popular destinations including Owakudani, the Hakone Open-Air Museum and Ashinoko.
To ride from the first to last station takes around 35-minutes and costs JPY1480. In between, passengers can disembark at either Owakudani Station or Ubako Station, from where walking trails span-out through the landscape.
On a clear day, the ropeway allows for fantastic views of Fuji… but as the photo above shows, it is not guaranteed.
Now let’s go a little further yet and dive into Central Japan…
Heading north from Mount Fuji, making use of the Chuo Main Line – using the Limited Express Azusa or Limited Express Kaiji services – visitors can continue their journey further into Central Japan including the following destinations and activities:
13 / Suntory Hakushu Distillery / all year round
Sitting in the shadow of the South Japan Alps, the Suntory Hakushu Distillery produces some of Japan’s finest whisky and some of the most sought-after in the world.
Established in 1973, the pristine water flowing from the mountains are ideal for producing whiskey and since its opening, Hakushu has won numerous international awards.
The distillery is set within extensive and attractive grounds with multiple buildings including the distillery itself, a museum, large tasting and event hall and restaurant. Multiple daily tours of the distillery are available – including a tasting at the end – with a range of other options and personalised tours also available.
14 / Matsumoto / all year round
Heading further north, Matsumoto is a historic town and convenient hub from which to launch further into your exploration of Central Japan. Home of one of Japan’s last remaining original castles – a registered National Treasure – Matsumoto has a fascinating history and is home to lively arts and dining scene.
Lying in the valley beneath the North Japan Alps, Matsumoto is ideally positioned to enjoy the rural surrounds of nearby Azumino including Daio Wasabi Farm and Hotaka Onsen-kyo, before heading high into the mountains toward the alpine oasis of Kamikochi.
Open to the public from mid-April until mid-November, Kamikochi is considered the jewel of the Chubu Sangaku National Park.
Boasting some of Japan’s best hiking trails and mountaineering courses, exploring the North Alps and Chubu Sangaku National Park is best enjoyed from spring to autumn.
15 / Kiso Valley / all year round
Known for its pristine beauty, typified by emerald-coloured rivers, lush forests, and quaint townships, Kiso Valley is quietly becoming a popular destination for many international visitors.
Most famously, the ‘Kisoji’ section of the historic Nakasendo Trail runs through the area and is home to the best-preserved postal towns along the route including Narai, Magome and Tsumago.
Accessible all year round, walking the Nakasendo is most enjoyable in spring and autumn. It can also be walk in summer and winter but be prepared for heat in humidity in summer, followed by deep cold and snow in winter.
While in the area, make sure to explore the Kiso Ontake Mountain Range including Japan’s second tallest volcano behind Fuji, Mount Ontake. An area of rare natural beauty, verdant forests are criss-crossed by walking trails leading to gushing waterfalls and emerald reasons.
For accommodation listings around Kiso, please refer to our ‘Kiso-Fukushima Area’, hotel page.
16 / Historic Old Town of Takayama / all year round
Famous for the excellent preservation of its Edo Period (1603-1868) historic centre, Takayama is a popular destination in the heart of the region.
Takayama is equally well-known for its food culture including Hida beef – considered some of the best in Japan – and its famous beef sushi, Takayama ramen and more! For foodies, Takayama is a real treat. If you have your eye on a particular restaurant, make sure to book in advance!
Try to avoid the middle of the day – between 11:00 and 15:00 – when large tour buses arrive and crowd the small historic area with tourists.
For accommodation listings around Takayama, please refer to our ‘Takayama City Area’, hotel page.
17 / Shirakawa-go and Gokayama / all year round
Easily accessible via Takayama, the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1995. Actually consisting of three villages, they are known for this distinctive ‘gassho-style’ thatch-roofed houses set in a beautiful alpine setting of rice fields and high mountains above.
World Heritage-listing has ensured that the villages are hugely popular with both domestic and international tourists but don’t let that put you off. The villages are well-worth visiting and walking away for the central area of the main village of Ogimachi, will quickly have you unencumbered by other visitors.
If you really want to avoid the crowds, consider heading to the other villages of Suganuma and Ainokura. Much smaller than Ogimachi they are also far less visited and offer a peaceful experience of these important rural hamlets.
18 / Toyama / all year round
A stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line – running from Tokyo to Kanazawa – Toyama is another convenient hub from which to explore the north areas of Central Japan.
From Toyama, the Toyama Chiho Railway provides access to the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route and its iconic Snow Walls. Open from mid-April until late-November, the Snow Walls of Tateyama-Kurobe are at their best – up to 20 metres in height! – from opening until early-June, before the melting snow reveals a lush alpine landscape and fantastic hiking trails.
19 / Kanazawa / all year round
Nearby Toyama, Kanazawa is the northern terminus of both the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line – running southeast to Tokyo via Nagano City – and Limited Express Thunderbird – running southwest to Kyoto and Osaka.
Located nearby the Sea of Japan, Kanazawa is home to one of Japan’s best seafood markets – the Omicho Fish Market – and fantastic cuisine in its many restaurants. For further tips and suggestions, please refer to our ‘25 Things To Do In & Around Kanazawa’ page.
20 / Nagano City Area / all year round
Another stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, Nagano City is most famous as host of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
As such, it is the ideal launching point from where to access many of the Nagano’s many ski resorts – around 80 in total – while also exploring nearby attractions including the city’s near-1400 year old Zenkoji Temple.
From Nagano Station, visitors can also head to nearby Togakushi, home to some of Japan’s most important Shinto Shrines and Togakure ninjas, or for the samurai-fans, historic Matsushiro.
For accommodation listings around Nagano, please refer to our ‘Nagano City Area’, hotel page.
21 / Yamanouchi Town / all year round
Taking the Nagano Dentetsu Line from Nagano Station, visitors can head to Yamanouchi Town – home to the world-famous Jigokudani Monkey Park. At its most popular through the snow of winter, the park is in fact open all year round. The monkeys – known for their hot spring-bathing antics – come to the park all year round with each season offering its own reasons to visit.
Known fondly as ‘snow monkeys’, they are in fact there all year round with spring, summer and autumn each providing their own reasons to visit to the park.
When visiting the park, staying in nearby Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen is a great way to enjoy the region’s many hot springs and traditional guesthouses, while a little further along the mountain road, Japan’s largest ski resort – Shiga Kogen – is just waiting to be discovered.
Boasting the longest season in Nagano and most reliable snow, Shiga Kogen is notably larger than any other resort and blessed with excellent powder.
Just ask the locals, Shiga is the place to go!
22 / Hakuba / all year round
An hour from Nagano Station, Hakuba is home to Nagano’s most popular and international ski resorts. Having hosted multiple events during the 1998 Winter Olympics, Hakuba came to the attention of the world and now draws huge numbers every year, wanting to experience its fabled powder, excellent terrain and vibrant nightlife – spread across many resorts.
Best known for its winter, Hakuba is now establishing itself as a mecca for green season sports enthusiasts.
After all, those mountains are just as big in summer and are home to some of Japan’s best hiking and mountaineering trails. For tips and suggestions all year round, please refer to our ‘25 Things to Do In & Around Hakuba’ page.
23 / Mountain Trails / spring to autumn
Want to know more about hiking in Nagano? Our ‘Best Trails in Nagano’ page provides further information and links.
24 / Nozawa Onsen / all year round
Easily accessible from Nagano Station or Iiyama Station, Nozawa Onsen is one of Nagano’s most popular resorts – offering skiers and boarders around 300 hectares of train between 565 and 1650 metres.
Also known for its great powder and setup for snowboarders, Nozawa is a lively resort serviced by a large village full of accommodation, restaurants and bars and ‘onsen’ (hot springs), Nozawa’s reputation is as much based on what happens off the mountain. For tips and suggestions all year round, please refer to our ‘25 Things to Do In & Around Nozawa’ page.
25 / Ski Resorts / winter
Want to know more about ski resorts in Nagano? Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to plan, book and get the most out of your winter to getaway!
26 / Karuizawa and Kusatsu Onsen / all year round
Another convenient stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line – only 30 minutes from Nagano Station – Karuizawa is a picturesque mountain resort town. Home to great restaurants and shopping, hot springs, natural sites and a small ski resort, Karuizawa is popular for lots of reasons.
For tips, suggestions and reasons you should visit Karuizawa , please see our ‘25 Things to Do In & Around Karuizawa’ page.
Nearby Karuizawa, Kusatsu Onsen is one of Japan’s most famous hot spring towns. Fed by the volcanic waters of Mount Shirane, the town is instantly recognisable to most Japanese due to its iconic ‘yubatake’ or ‘Hot Water Field’, that cools the thermal water before feeding it into the town’s many onsen guesthouses.
For further suggestions and reasons to visit Kusatsu, please refer to our ‘25 Things To Do In & Around Kusatsu Onsen’ page.
27 / Onsen In & Around Nagano / all year round
Home to countless natural hot springs, enjoying an ‘onsen’ while in Central Japan really is a must-do activity! In the cold months of winter and cooler months of autumn, dipping into a thermal bath feels fantastic whereas in the warmer months of spring and summer, the initial heat of onsen leads your body to cool itself – a truly pleasurable feeling.
Spread throughout the region, the historic onsen towns have numerous ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) with their own in-house onsen.
Our ‘Onsen In & Around Nagano’ page introduces everything you need to know about using an onsen, the benefits and where to find them.
28 / Cherry Blossoms of Nagano / spring only
Blooming every spring, the cherry blossoms of Central Japan transform the atmosphere and character of the region and banish all thoughts of winter.
Known as ‘sakura’ in Japan, the blossoms are viewed as symbolic of the fleeting beauty and fragility of life itself and Japanese look forward to ‘hanami’ (flower-viewing) each spring.
Given Central Japan’s higher altitude and cooler climate, the blossoms bloom later than in Tokyo with many varieties of wild cherry trees spread throughout the mountains.
Our ‘Cherry bBlossoms’ page introduces everything you need to know about the importance of the flowers and where to find them in Nagano.
29 / Autumn Leaves of Nagano / autumn only
As though book-ending the blossoms of spring, the changing leaves of autumn are just as spectacular – a stunning display that transforms the landscape a rich mix of red, gold, amber and brown.
Though areas of higher altitudes are likely to enjoy the changing colours of autumn as early as September, most areas in Nagano welcome their koyo season between early-October and mid-November.
For information of where to go and how to plan your visit to see the leaves, please refer to our ‘Autumn Leaves in Nagano’ page.
30 / Private charters & tours with Snow Monkey Resorts / all year round
Central Japan offers many, many reasons to visit. Based in Nagano City and operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator, offering a range of services including group tours, private tours and charters.
We can arrange transport including a private vehicle and driver, along with an English-speaking guide, to transport to, from and between any of these destinations and more! Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations, in combination with any activity that suits your interests and schedule.
We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of that experience and help you discover even more!
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano.
Got a question about visiting Fuji and Central Japan? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get planning together!