It was my second birthday celebration in Japan and once again, the weather was rainy and rather chilly. But nonetheless, we went ahead with our plan to spend the weekend in a traditional Japanese guesthouse by Lake Kawaguchi, one of the Fuji Five Lakes! Having spent my birthday on a weekend trip away to Hangzhou two years ago was one of the best experiences I’ve had, so I didn’t let the weather bother me too much. The biggest downside of the weather was that Mount Fuji wasn’t visible and the view onto Mount Fuji is THE reason to go to Lake Kawaguchi. Instead, we celebrated each tiny glimpse we caught of it and enjoyed the rather mystical late September atmosphere.
We visited three of the main attractions that were all unique and special in their own ways:
- Kawaguchiko Music Forest: European Flair, automated music instruments
- Saiko Iyashino-Sato Nenba: a village with Japanese thatched roof houses
- Itchiku Kubota Art Museum: the most inspiring museum I’ve been to
If you’re thinking about visiting the Fuji area and are wondering what are the best things to do around Lake Kawaguchi, I hope our photos and descriptions will be useful to you.
Kawaguchiko Music Forest
The Music Forest Museum feels like a cosy European style theme park that specialises on automatic musical instruments, the most famous one being an automatic instrument that was designed and manufactured for the Titanic, but hasn’t been used at the last minute when they decided to get live musicians instead. Every 10-20 minutes or so there are live performances in different locations at this museum and you can walk through a European-style garden from building to building. At first, we were a bit skeptical about this place, but the more time we spent there, the more we ended up liking it. It was definitely something we haven’t seen before and that we won’t forget about easily!
Saiko Iyashino-Sato Nenba (Healing Village)
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you’ll know that our golden rule for visiting tourist sights in Asia (especially Japan and China) is to arrive as early in the morning as possible. And we were so glad to have followed that rule at this outdoor village museum, as just as we finished walking through it, about two hours after its opening, bus loads of Chinese tourists arrived and there was suddenly a long queue just to buy a ticket!
This sight is actually similar to the thatched roof outdoor museum in Takayama and the actual village in Shirakawa-go, and every house offers different types of shops and activities. If you don’t get the chance to visit the Japanese Alps, this will be the perfect opportunity for you to see traditional Japanese thatched roof houses!
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
We had no idea what to expect when we entered the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, not having read anything about it before we came. The entrance fee was quite steep, but it all made sense as our experience unfolded! We started with a hot drink on the terrace cafe by the entrance, from where we could have overlooked Mount Fuji, if it hadn’t been cloudy (I’ll just leave it at that). Then, we entered the main exhibition hall where we were asked to watch a video that explains the exhibition first. I expected a boring video, but au contraire: instead we watched the most inspiring story about the artist Itchiku Kubota, who developed a unique kimono painting technique. He had this vision about creating this special technique, and while having to overcome many hurdles of poverty and being sent to Siberia in the war, he followed his dreams and perfected his technique in his 80s! Yes, you heard right, he completed his vision when he was around 80 years old! Hearing about his story really inspired me and makes me want to pursue my dreams whatever happens. We then went into the exhibition hall and were stunned by each kimono (that are pieces of art and not to be worn), each in different colours, for example Fuji at sunset with golden and red colours. We walked around the exhibition almost three times before we were ready to go and then the lady at the entrance asked us if she can explain something to us… so we went back to one of the kimonos and she asked us to stand in a different angle to properly see the light shining onto the fabric and the colours changing to a golden sunset. It was magical.
Afterwards, we headed to the Japanese teahouse in the art museum for a matcha tea set, overlooking the beautiful Japanese garden that the artist had set around the museum.
I found this art museum so fascinating that I think it would be totally worth to visit Lake Kawaguchi just to go there. Even if you’re not into art, it’s hard to dislike it! Overall, not having seen Mount Fuji on our trip to Kawaguchiko possibly gave us a different experience than we expected and made the trip unique in its own ways.
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