I’m drenched in sweat from riding all day. I’m pedaling as fast as I can towards the light at the end of a dark tunnel when a cool afternoon breeze hits me, and I finally see Lake Kawaguchi’s vibrant, deep blue colors. I let out a triumphant whoop as the road turns downhill.
Then, I stand up in my seat and let gravity do the rest as a sunset baths Fujisan in a red glow. “So, this is the Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lakes) cycling adventure,” I think. This is my experience cycling around the iconic Mount Fuji and how you can do it too.
Starting at Lake Kawaguchi
When I arrived in Fujikawaguchiko, I stayed at Hana Hostel and was welcomed by Hana and her family. In the morning, I ate a hearty energy-supplying breakfast, loaded up complimentary snacks, rented a bike from Hana and started down the hill towards Lake Kawaguchi.
The roads in town did give me some slight trepidation at the prospect of crashing into someone on the narrow sidewalks all day, but paths widened once I reached the lake—with enough space for cyclists and pedestrians to share.
A quick stop for art
About 30 minutes after starting my ride around Lake Kawaguchi, I arrived at the Forest Music Museum. The steep admission (¥1,800) was worth it to see this quaint, European mountain village-style gallery of acoustics, organs and opera concerts. I could easily spend hours exploring the museum, cafe or its lovely Tulip garden on the lake’s edge.
After the Forest Music Museum, I cycled through the beautiful Oishi Park and saw the lake’s best view of Fujisan. Finally, I’d traveled halfway around Lake Kawaguchi and came to the road that connects Lake Kawaguchi and the next lake, Lake Sai.
Uphill to Lake Sai
Until now, my journey was a leisurely ride downhill or on flat roads. But once I reached Lake Sai, it became more of a challenge. Sometimes I had to hop off and push my bike up a hill. But at the top, the roads were excellent to the shores of Lake Sai.
Lake Sai is smaller than Lake Kawaguchi, so cycling to the other side should only take about a half-hour, at which point you’ll arrive at a nice little beach that has a killer view of Mt Fuji and is an excellent spot for you to take a bunch of photos (I know I did).
As the sun was setting, I enjoyed the view one last time and returned to my hostel. I did not want to be riding at night, especially so close to Aokigahara (known for its dark history). The next morning, I loaded my bike onto a bus and returned to Aokigahara, and set out for Lake Shoji and Lake Motosu.
The lost hiker at Lake Shoji
Unfortunately, I was unprepared for the roads winding sharply around mountain cliffs. If you’re new to road cycling, use caution. Thankfully, on my trip, drivers were polite and alert when they saw me.
On the road to Lake Shoji, I ran into a fellow traveler, stumbling out of Aokigahara. The complete silence and eerieness that these woods are famous for can be disorientating, and the path can be difficult to follow and find in spots. This particular lost adventurer had strayed from the trail by accident and became panicked, trying to find their way out.
Eventually, they heard the sounds of the road and came to it. As someone who’s done a lot of hiking in Australia and Japan, I could sympathize with the fears of getting lost alone in the woods. Particularly a forest with the reputation of Aokigahara. I dismounted and walked with them the rest of the way to Shoji.
I don’t have much to say about Shoji personally. It’s smaller than the others, doesn’t have the greatest beach, and its main lodging is a run-down hotel that looks like its heyday was in the 90s. So all I’ll say is that I treated the wayward hiker to a hot chocolate, directed them to the bus stop and went on my way.
Lake Motsosu, take me home
The final lake on my journey, Lake Motosu, was my favorite. For me, the view of Fuji from the beach at Koan Camping Ground is the best in Japan. The mid-morning light catches the mountain, reflecting brightly off the snow crests at its top.
The water is clear and so inviting that I couldn’t help but go for a swim, even in the chilly weather. After warming myself at the camp store with some curry udon, I departed the lake and spent the rest of the day riding back. Finally, riding back, I came to the tunnel that led between Kawaguchi and Sai and allowed the downhill slope to take me home.
They say climbing Mount Fuji is the most rewarding experience a traveler in Japan can undertake, but I think visiting the Fuji Lakes, and cycling is just as rewarding. All year-round, these lakes command some of the best views of Fuji and are the perfect natural getaway.
What do you think about cycling around Fuji? What attractions do you think I missed? Let us know below!