Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter Sightseeing at Mt. Fuji

Many, many tours are offered through the Information, Tours and Ticketing office on base and we finally decided to sign up for one. We picked the "Winter Sightseeing at Mt. Fuji" tour and had been counting down the days on our calendar. The girls were really excited to see Fuji and the morning of our trip, they were jumping up and down squealing, "We're going to see Fuji!!!" We had to get up at 4:45am (tell me about it) to catch our 5:45am bus. Some people would call us dumb, some people would call us optimistic... but we decided not to carry anything extra - including anything that might keep the girls occupied on the bus trip. It was roughly a two-hour drive to our first stop and I'm very proud to say that the girls did GREAT on the bus ride. Everything was paid for in our tour package (transportation and entrance fees), except for meals, and it was a long trip. We left around 5:45am and didn't get home until 7:20pm. And though it was cold, all four of us had a really good time. We feel very lucky to be surrounded by all these opportunities while living in Japan. But enough about all those details. I know you want pictures.

Someone is super excited about our trip!

Beautiful Japanese countryside.

Our first stop was at the Fuji Peace Park, complete with a small Buddhist temple and large, white pagoda. We were supposed to have a fantastic view of Fuji from here, but it was rainy and cloudy and Fuji was completely covered. Bummer.

Actually, I take it back. Our first stop was actually a rest stop where we could grab some breakfast if needed. And let me just say, the "rest stops" in Japan are 175x better than the ones in the US. TONS of meal options, small stores and MUCH nicer bathrooms.

Making friends on our tour.

There was some sort of ceremony going on inside the temple.

Our tour guide told us to follow her down the steps....

Apparently we were the only ones who heard her.

And it was totally worth it. Beautiful. There were 33 statues.

The white pagoda.

This kid LOVES Buddhas.

She can't pass one of these without washing her hands.

I don't know what the groundskeeper was lighting back there, but I think it was some sort of offering.

It started raining while we were at the Peace Park, but it turned to light snow as we pulled up to our second stop. I'm not even really sure what this stop was to be honest, but there several small ponds (with incredibly clear water) and some souvenir areas for us to shop.

Everyone gazing into the deep pond. You could even see someone's digital camera at the very bottom....

What did I tell you?

My kids are attractions everywhere we go.

All the Japanese ladies love them and try to talk to them.

Enjoying her day with Mom. :)

Our third stop was at one of the five great lakes, made by an eruption of Mt. Fuji thousands of years ago. Our guide took us to a place for lunch where we would have a good view. And surprisingly, it was the first place we've eaten in Japan were we picked our meals from the case of plastic food beside the entrance. These are VERY common in Japan. You glance at the whole menu, which is made in plastic and displayed in a giant case. It's incredibly helpful for those of us who don't speak any Japanese.

The view from our table.

He's either taking it all in, or ignoring our children. I'm still not sure which one.

My choice for lunch. Mmmm. 

The Hubs' choice. It was MAGNIFICENT.

After lunch, we stopped at a little shop and bought some Fuji shortbread cookies.

As we headed to stop #4, we were so excited that the clouds had cleared out. We could see Fuji!!

Our fourth stop was the Fuji Visitors Center. Honestly, it was the least interesting stop. But, the kids were able to get out and run around and the center had a good spot for viewing Mt. Fuji.

Thing 2 wanted her picture taken with Fuji.

Our 5th and final stop was Sengen Shrine. Looks like an inconspicuous torii gate in the middle of town, right? Wait till you walk through it.

Amazing. HUGE trees and moss-covered stone lanterns lead you to the shrine.

These suckers are big.

Why is it so hard to get a good picture with your children??

This is one of the largest wooden torii gates in Japan. And, they are rebuilt every 60 years. Tradition says it has to be a bit bigger each time.

Just. Can't. Resist.

One of the original 4 trees that were used as markers of the shrine's premises. This thing is like, 1000 years old.

Sengen Jinja.

One of many entrances to the hiking trails of Mt. Fuji.

It was freezing by the time we wrapped up our trip to the Shrine and consequently, we headed home a little early. On our way back, our bus driver stopped at a great observation area so that we could take a few more pictures. 

If it doesn't look that tall, I would like to point out that it is taller than the clouds. It's 12,386 feet tall.

Christmas picture?

We stopped at another rest area on the way home for some dinner and the girls passed out shortly after that. They got a little cranky on that last leg home, but other than that, they did GREAT. I was so proud of them. They rode on the bus without trouble, had great behavior, and stayed interested and engaged at every stop. They both said they had a great time and my husband and I did too. We definitely want to go back and visit Fuji in the summer. Heck, we might even try to climb it (climbing tours are offered too, ya know) one day....