When I think of Japan, one of the first images that pops into my head is Mt. Fuji, so it’s no surprise that seeing that gorgeous, snow-capped symbol in person pretty much came hand-in-hand with my bucket list item of eating sushi in Japan.
On Sunday, March 31, I departed Tokyo for Hakone, a region known for volcanic hot springs and… Mt. Fuji! The day started off gloomy and overcast, but I was hopeful that the clouds would clear in time to get at least a slight glimpse of this natural beauty.
Even our tour escort Carol hung up her “teru teru bozu” doll — a traditional handmade doll that supposedly brings good weather — at the front of the bus. According to my tour guide Hiro, today was Carol’s day to bring us good weather. Tomorrow, Hiro-san would be held responsible.
My view out the bus window.
Our first stop of the day was Lake Ashinoko, a crater lake formed in the caldera of Mount Hakone. If the clouds lifted, we would’ve been able to see a magnificent view of Mt. Fuji in the background, but the clouds refused to budge. I couldn’t complain though. The mist floating above the surface of the water painted a serene and mesmerizing view of the lake.
As our ferry boat approached the dock, our group boarded for a short trip around the lake. I’ll never forget the feeling of standing atop of the ferry, looking out at the beautiful green horizon with a chilled breeze hitting my face. I couldn’t help but feel like I was on a ferry in the beautiful Pacific Northwest region of the U.S., especially with the overcast gloom.
As soon as the ferry docked, we were greeted by a street lined with various Japanese restaurants. It was lunchtime after all. My parents and I agreed on a noodle restaurant that also specialized in donburi — Japanese rice bowls. I figured a warm donburi bowl would be the perfect meal to accompany the brisk air blanketing us. Boy, was I right! The oyako (egg) donburi I consumed was “totemo oishii” (very delicious)! I’ve had good donburi, but this bowl was particularly good.
The silly mountain — tucked behind low-hanging clouds — decided to tease us and continue playing games of hide and seek throughout the afternoon. This was all during our ride to the Mt. Fuji visitors center and then the “go go me” (fifth station) of the mountain.
Giving up all hope, we ventured to our hotel (Hotel Mt. Fuji) to relax and enjoy a nice buffet dinner before getting some shut-eye and attempting to catch our dear friend the next day. At least my Mt. Fuji-shaped green tea cake was kind enough to make an appearance at dinner.
“Shiraito no Taki” (White Thread Waterfall)
I awoke Monday morning feeling refreshed and even more hopeful. Today was the day I would see Mt. Fuji with my own two eyes. Even the morning overcast weather couldn’t stop me from seeing it. Our group got on board the tour bus to trek on to a famous waterfall — “shiraito no taki” — inside the Yamanashi border on the lower slopes of Mt. Fuji. On the way there, I suddenly heard a loud gasp from a fellow tour mate. All heads turned left in unison as a massive, perfectly-formed mountain emerged from behind thin, wispy clouds. Could it be? Was that really it? I couldn’t believe my eyes!
Hiro announced that we would stop off at a lookout point to capture photos or simply take the view in. I did both.
My life was complete. I finally saw Mt. Fuji and could die a happy person… Until it would be time to check off another bucket list item.
Have any of you ever felt like you checked an item off your bucket list? I want to hear about your experiences as well!