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Famous Mount Fuji and its five scenic lakes are the biggest tourist attractions in the Chuba Region of Japan. The five lakes ringing the northern slopes of Mount Fuji were created by ancient lava flows from the volcano's historic eruptions. Lava dammed small rivers and even separated one large lake into three, creating the perfect scenic reflecting pools from which to view the majestic snow-covered peak. Known in Japan as Fujigoko, the five lakes add a wealth of serenity and recreational activities to the entire area, encouraging a booming tourism trade that dominates the local economy. Climbing Mount Fuji itself is a one-to-two-day affair, but one can easily enjoy a full week of activities when the lakes are included in vacation planning.
Dominating the island of Honshu, Mount Fuji towers 12,389 feet above sea level. The Fuji Five Lakes lie between 2,951 feet and 3,217 feet above sea level, and temperatures are cooler here during the hottest part of the summer season. The traditional Japanese love of natural beauty brings thousands of tourists to the area each summer to stroll the many trails, admire Mount Fuji across the serene surfaces of the lakes, fish, camp, cycle, windsurf, water ski and swim. An excellent public transportation system allows easy access to most of the lakes. Lake Motosu (or Motosu-ko as it is known locally) is the least developed and hardest to access by public transportation. Many visitors make the effort, as this is where the famous picture of Mount Fuji that graced the back of the old 5000 yen note was taken. That image is recognizable around the world, and tourists want to see it in person. Eight miles of shoreline frame Lake Motosu, Japan's ninth-deepest lake at 459 feet. The lake's water temperature never drops below 39 degrees, making it the only one of the five that does not freeze in winter. Several camping areas are located along the shore.
Other lakes in the group offer multiple hotels, public hot springs baths, restaurants and lovely gardens. Nearby Mount Tenjo offers a perfect vantage point for viewing both Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi (or Kawaguchiko) and offers the Kachi Kachi Ropeway as an easy way to reach the summit. Kawaguchiko is the middle lake of the five and has easy transportation access to the many hotels and tourist amenities near the eight-mile shoreline. The only island on any of the five lakes is at Lake Kawaguchiko; the view from Kawaguchiko-Ohashi Bridge is stunning. Locals offer boat tours to tourists. With spectacular views of Mount Fuji framed by cherry blossoms in spring or flaming red foliage in autumn, knowledgeable visitors often time their visits to take advantage of the colorful views. Early summer floral displays at Yagisaki Park and Oishi Park, the main sites of the Kawaguchiko Herb Festival, draw many visitors. Many cultural festivals are held here throughout the year, making Lake Kawaguchiko the best-known of the five lakes.
Lake Yamanaka is the easternmost lake of the Fuji Five Lakes and also the largest. Next to Lake Kawaguchiko, it is the most developed with small villages at both ends. At 3,217 ft above sea level, this is the highest in elevation of the five lakes and the third-highest lake in Japan. The lake attracts large numbers of young people who enjoy wakeboarding, water skiing, tennis and boating. Many school athletic clubs use the area as a training site because of the excellent amenities, including spas, campgrounds, restaurants and public hot springs baths found in the area. Hana-no-Miyako-Koen Flower Park is located about half a mile away. In winter fishermen try their luck fishing for wakasagi, also known as freshwater smelt.
Two smaller lakes round out the Fuji Five Lakes: Lake Shoji-or Shoji-ko and Lake Sai or Saiko. The two lakes and Motosu-ko are connected by underground water discharges, and the three maintain a common elevation of 2,951 feet. Saiko is less than a mile from Lake Kawaguchiko but little developed, likely because much of the shoreline is out of view of Mount Fuji. Sometimes dubbed 'the lake of the maiden', shadows cast by the mysterious ancient Aokigahara Jukai Forest along its western banks contribute to its deep blue color. The forest is popular for hiking, with several campgrounds along the 6.5-mile shoreline. Three nearby caves- Ice Cave, Wind Cave and Bat Cave- are easily accessed by tourists. The caves were long used as cold storage and ice storage but are mostly vacant now.
Lake Shoji or Shoji-ko is the smallest lake, with only a 1.5-mile shoreline. Shojiko has long been a tourist destination, and hotels were built here as early as the 1800s to accommodate visitors from all over the world. Remnants of past lava flows still jut above the water. Fishermen often fish from these rocks for herabuna, or crucian carp. Together, the five lakes, miles of trails, outdoor sports and spectacular scenery attract many visitors to the Fuji Five Lakes. And swimming across all five lakes is considered by extreme sports swimmers to be one of the must-do experiences in their careers. If these attractions weren't enough to entice visitors, the many public hot springs facilities (onsens), lush botanical gardens, cultural festivals and traditional villages assure even more visitors to the area. And for those with children in tow, a major amusement park with several large roller coasters, including one of the world's highest, enjoys a prime spot near the lakes and Mount Fuji.
Tour guides and professional assistance are available to those wishing to climb Mount Fuji or simply make the rounds of as many scenic spots and cultural locations as possible. Lodgings are available in the form of onsens and inns, hotels and guest cottages. There is plenty of camping available along the lakeshores, often with cabins for rent. No visit to Japan is complete without a visit to Mount Fuji. And the best way to enjoy the famous peak is to view it from the Fuji Five Lakes. Add this to your bucket list today-it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
*Few statistics are available for these lakes.
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