Yamanaka-ko (-ko in Japanese means lake) is one of five lakes that surround the north side of mount Fuji, Japan’s dormant volcano and the symbol of a nation. The lakes represent what’s left of old eruptions, and they are so close to each other that the whole area is in fact known as Fuji goko (go means five and ko is lake).
Of all the five lakes, Yamanaka lake is the one that’s at the highest altitude, 980 meters above the sea level, which allows people to admire Fuji from very close.
The easiest way to reach Yamanaka lake is to take an Odakyu train or a bus from Shinjuku to Gotemba, the town which is considered the biggest entry point to climb Fuji. In less that two hours the hustle and bustle of Tokyo is replaced by the quiet and slow routine, and the urban concrete jungle makes way to lush green forests and mountains.
The city of Gotemba is famous, as mentioned, for being one of the many stations climbers can start they ascent to the Fuji crater. But Gotemba is also famous for having one of the biggest outlet malls in Japan, with more than 200 stores, and with a great view over Fuji from its outdoor plaza!
From Gotemba, lake Yamanaka can be reached quickly by car or bus. The road goes up and up, all the way until the end, sneaking through the woods. The landscape along the way keeps changing a lot, first the city roads lined with buildings,then flat open areas, then urbanization is left behind and what is left is only trees on both sides of the road, some clearings where it is possible to spot cyclists taking a rest, some rice paddies sharing the space with the forest. It is impossible not to stop at every turn and admire nature, while driving…
There is a racing kart course half way between Gotemba and lake Yamanaka,and it is open to visitors, too! It is a very interesting place, where it is possible to watch racers during their training sessions, mechanics always at work, and if a trip to Gotemba is well planned according to the events calendar, it may include a stop here to watch one of the actual races!
When the road finally starts to go down again, the last few kilometers, it means that Yamanaka lake is close.
The lake is beautiful, peaceful, framed by mountains all around. It is a perfect destination for those who want to disconnect from a busy life for just a day and enjoy nature. And it is big, so big that it looks like a sea, because it is impossible to see the other side and sailing boat can benefit of some winds! There is a great mix of colors at all seasons, so that the lake can be a top destination every day of the year. There are plenty of activities to do there. During summer, people use the lake for water sports, and camping is possible. Sightseeing tours are available that take tourists around the lake or on a short cruise on the lake. The best way to enjoy the beauty of the area is by bike. Rentals are available at various spots along the lake, and there is a well kept cycling route that goes by the water pretty much all around the border of the lake. It doesn’t matter how long the full round takes by cycling, because it is very entertaining and definitely relaxing. It represent also a good activity to enjoy with the whole family, kids will love it and helps to stay fit!
On the north shore of lake Yamanaka, there is a viewing spot, where Fuji can be admired in all its greatness. It is very impressive and it looks like it is reachable just by stretching an arm. Usually there are clouds hiding the top part of the mountain, but they tend to disappear in the late afternoon, just in time for the sunset to color the snow on Fuji of a nice pink shade.
For more information → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/destination/hujisan/