What to do and Where to stay in
Mount Fuji & Hakone
Soaring magnificently into the sky, snow-capped Mount Fuji looms large, a symbol of Japan like no other. Then now-dormant volcano – and Japan’s tallest mountain – was granted World Heritage status in 2013, and thousands of people make the ascent to its 3,776m-high summit every year. Watching the sun rise from the crater is a sight the whole family will remember long after returning home.
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Experiences in Mount Fuji & Hakone
The Japanese proverb “a wise man climbs Fuji once. A fool climbs it twice” remains as sound advice as ever. This is a challenging climb. There are several routes to choose from, with the ascent divided into ten “stations”. You can make it easier by catching a bus to the fifth station, halfway up, shaving off around five hours (the traditional pilgrimage route begins lower down, at Fuji-Yoshida).
It takes most people around six hours to reach the summit from the halfway point. To time your arrival for dawn, hike through the night or stay overnight in a mountain hut and set off early. The climbing season runs from July 1 until August 31 and it’s advisable to go with an experienced guide.
Some children do climb Mount Fuji – but this is a serious mountain hike. If this isn’t for you and your family, you could head to Fuji-Q Highland, an amusement park just north of the volcano. The extreme roller coasters are a memorable way to bag views of Fuji, while gentler Thomas the Tank Engine rides are ideal for little ones.
Around 60km southeast of Mount Fuji, near the Sagami Bay coastline, lies gorgeously scenic Hakone. With its tranquil onsen (hot springs), serene lake and spectacular mountain scenery, this region makes for a true respite from the hecticness of Tokyo.
Get your bearings by walking the length of Ashino-ko, the central lake backed by Mount Fuji in the distance, with its torii gate rising out of the water. Soak tired muscles in one of Hakone’s onsen – the mineral-rich water is said to have therapeutic and rejuvenating qualities. Hakone Yuryo allows children aged six and over, and families wishing to bathe together can rent a private bath. For younger children, the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun theme park-style onsen is a good choice.
The Hakone Open Air Museum is Japan’s first outdoor museum – and perfect if you’re travelling with children. Set on a leafy hillside, it’s a safari for art addicts and includes works by Japanese and Western sculptors. Kids can clamber over Jenga-style wooden walls in the playground and gaze up at a tower made from stained glass windows as parents take in work by the likes of Rodin and Henry Moore.
Other family-friendly activities in Hakone include hiking through the Owakudani Valley. You could skip the walking and instead catch a gondola up the mountains. Spot Mount Fuji and Lake Ashinoko as you take the 30-minute ropeway over land.
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