If you travel a lot like I do, you know that the biggest constrain is TIME.. Never enough right? Here is an effective way to use it when sightseeing in Japan: Give a try to a bus tour! For me until now buses were only a mean on transportation from point A to B, or to another way to skip a night at a hotel to save on lodging expenses… But did you know that bus tours are increasingly popular since they are super family friendly?
To understand why I decided to gave a try to the Mt. Fuji-Hakone Ashi lake cruising and the Gotemba Outlets Shopping Day tour by H.I.S. Japan Local tour and well, they did live up to the challenge!I had never tried bus tours, but I was completely surprised, pleased and touched by the conviviality of the atmosphere in this bus ride.
(Top Right corner) Mode Gakuen Coccoon Tower (Top Left ) Our dear tour guide Mr Nakamura leading the way
(Bottom) Our driver the enthusiastic M. Homma and our second tour guide assitant
OPTIMIZING TIME AND YET FEEL FREE
It was 8:20AM as we departed on time from the bottom of the famous Cocoon Tower by Shinjuku station were our English volunteer guides for the day told us about our itinerary -First stop of the day : Hakone Ashi Lake Pirate Cruise!
The view was just breathtaking! The cloudy weather didn’t allow to see Mt.Fuji yet, BUT the day was just starting, and since we were allowed to roam freely on the ship, I chose to enjoy the breeze and shake my legs, embracing the 30 min ride to the other end of the lake.
From there, we went to two sight other seeing spots the Hakone Peace Park in Gotemba city but the weather wasn’t on our side and Mt.Fuji wouldn’t come out of the clouds! NEVER MIND…
Hakone Peace Park Pagoda(up) Bell (bottom)
At the Fujimatsu View Restaurant it is always sunny!! We took a group pictures in front of a banner picturing what the view looks like on a sunny day, don’t let you eyes trick you!
All this sightseeing got us pretty hungry: it was lunch time at the all you can eat yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) buffet restaurant! Carnivores like me enjoyed the various meats, vegetarians could choose among various soups, salads and vegetables, whereas customers with religious restrictions were also pleased by the variety of options offered during the gourmet buffet. This original lunch was huge plus since most other companies only offer cold Japanese bento (lunch box). Well done H.I.S.!
Pork, salad bars, yakisoba, fried chicken, sushi, sausage and more, this BBQ tasted delighful!
A lovely couple from Singapore that adopted me for lunch, thank you!
At last the desert corner and its 24 flavors of ice cream was definitely a hit… yummy!
After getting our energy back, we were ready for an escapade to the Snowtown Yeti located at the 2nd stations of Mt. Fuji! Popular among local families for its skiing and snowboarding options, our group was in fact having the chance to go down in sleighs!
Regardless of the age of the group member, everybody had a great time! I even had a chance to share my snowman building skills to visitors from the Philippines, they seemed to have had a blast!
Some Japanese kids also felt like joining, after which I moved on to the slopes, but people from the youngest to the oldest seem to be having the time of their lives!
I seemed like I didn’t lose my sleigh technique, and took some time exchange with other participants.
Well I hope their kids will like that shot….I sure do they looked so happy!!
By 3PM still so sign of Mt. Fuji still invisible behind the clouds, but we kept hope that it would show up soon, time was running by, and it was time to go ……SHOPPING!
The “Gotemba Premium Outlets” is a vast shopping area from the West wing to the East wigs, from common brands like GAP, NIKE, BOSE or Abercrombie &Fitch to fashion designer ones featuring not only Japanese brands like Anna Sui or Issey Miyake but you will also find Alexander McQueen, Bvlgari, Gucci, etc. Don’t forget to pickup a map an seasonal coupons!
There were ice cream and coffee shops on both sides of the bridge between the West and East wings for shopping breaks as well a a playing area for kids.
It was time to head back to Tokyo and the sun was setting, and that is when Mt. Fuji decide to appear AT LAST!!
The shades of pinks and blues reminding me old Japanese painting, I realized that with this shot immortalizing the beauty of a sunset on the highest peek in Japan, I could finally go back to Tokyo fully satisfied by the Mt. Fuji-Hakone Ashi lake cruising and Gotemba Outlets Shopping tour.
Thank you to H.I.S. Japan Local tour and especially to the volunteer tour guides whose patience and generosity really made this day amazing!
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all participants who took the time to talk with me, as well as our tour guides whose English was impeccable and who were patient, cheerful and passionate. Thank you H.I.S. Japan Local Tour, looking forward to riding with you again!
※Notice: Depending on the season the itinerary is subject to change, notably replacing the Snowtown Yeti visit by a ride to the Fuji Skyline and moving on to Mt. Fuji New 5th Station.
Find Snowtown Yeti here: Snow Town Yeti, Fujiwara-2428 Suyama, Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture 410-1231
To enjoy this tour as we did, please check out the link below and make a reservation. Reservation >>The Mt. Fuji-Hakone Ashi lake cruising and Gotemba Outlets Shopping tour.