Sakura Season – Hoshinoya Fuji, Japan

View from the room at Hoshinoya Fuji

In planning our sakura-season visit to Japan, we somehow stumbled upon the website for Hoshinoya Fuji. The website features a shot of a bench seat looking out a giant picture window at Mt. Fuji framed by blooming cherry blossom trees. Once we saw that photo, we couldn’t un-see it, and we couldn’t settle for an alternate Fuji accommodation (marketing!…). Though this was our third trip to Japan, we’d only viewed Mt. Fuji through the Shinkansen window on our way from Tokyo to Kyoto, so we wanted to make a point of visiting the vicinity during this special season.

Despite all the planning and preparation that went into this trip, we failed to realize (or chose to ignore) the fact that these revered trees are only in bloom for about a 7-10-day window of time. While we nailed the timing and caught full bloom in Tokyo and Kyoto, we arrived to buds waiting to open at Hoshinoya Fuji. We did realize that viewing Mt. Fuji across Lake Kawaguchi requires a clear sky, so we booked 2 nights hoping that some point during our 48-hour stay would involve skies clear enough to see the mountain. We arrived around 2pm to a dreary, cold day – temperatures in the 30s, cloudy sky and it had apparently snowed earlier in the morning! Fuji was nowhere to be seen, so we left our luggage at reception and went up to the “cloud terrace” where a campfire was blazing, and welcome cocktails and snacks awaited.

View from Hoshinoya Fuji on a clear day in sakura season

The staff at Hoshinoya Fuji is incredible with exceptional English and overwhelmingly helpful attitudes. Upon checking in, you’re faced with dining options which must be reserved; one thing to keep in mind at this point is that you can really only view Mt. Fuji from your room, not from the dining room or the cloud terrace which came as a bit of a surprise to us. For this reason, we opted to have breakfast in our room both mornings where we could watch the morning light over Mt. Fuji. The breakfast box is carried to your room by staff in a fun, boxy backpack where they unpack it for you on the terrace and explain the mornings offerings. It is a ton of food – some sort of quiche/omelet, salad, soup, oven rolls with jams, yogurt with granola and a breakfast meat like ham, sausage or bacon. We opted for the seasonal dinner in the dining hall both evenings after the sun had gone down; we initially reserved shabu-shabu in our room for the second night, but the seasonal dinner was so good the first night that we ended up switching to enjoy it again. They offer a wine pairing course in the dining hall with locally sourced wines from the Yamanashi region around Mt. Fuji, we were excited to try these wines as we’d considered a day trip to the vineyards but didn’t have time to squeeze it in this trip. The wines were surprisingly good and paired well with the food which is also a hefty portion like the breakfast.

The resort offers many activities like e-bikes, trekking, canoeing, etc. but we decided to use this time for a little rest and relaxation. As mentioned, it was a cloudy day on arrival and we could not see Mt. Fuji at all, but it cleared up completely overnight and we woke up to the most perfect day imaginable. The obstructed view from the day before made for an even more dramatic revelation this morning! Ryan woke up at 4am and noticed that he was just able to make out the sloping sides of Mt. Fuji across the lake – this was the first glimpse of the mountain during our stay and he was so excited that he jumped out of bed and went outside. Each room has a decent sized terrace with a bed-type couch outside that has a heated table resting on it, it is covered with a thick, weatherproof blanket that captures the heat and covers occupants on all sides of the table, then there is another hard tabletop that goes on top of the blanket so that you can use the table for food/drinks; a really inventive and effective setup! Ryan spent the morning under the heated table in awe of the view until about 5:45am when he couldn’t take it any longer and woke me up so I wouldn’t miss sunrise. We laid lazily, snuggled up under the warm table for most of the day.

Each room at the resort is constructed to have a perfect view of Lake Kawaguchi and Mt. Fuji and on a clear day like this, we could not pull ourselves away from it. The view changes slightly but magnificently with the movement of the sun so when I say “we watched the light change over Mt. Fuji” it may not sound that eventful, but it was pure magic every minute. They market the resort as “glamping” with a focus on the Japanese tradition of “forest bathing” or becoming part of nature; fun fact, Japan celebrates a national holiday called Greenery Day where even the most competitive and demanding workplaces give employees the day off with the expectation that they get out amongst the sunshine and natural life. We walked the hiking trail around the cloud terrace a little bit and roasted some marshmallows by the fire, but we couldn’t get over the fact that the perfect view of Mt. Fuji was completely obstructed by the forest. We went back to our perch at our room pretty quickly, only returning to the cloud forest in the afternoon for the cocktail hour; though even that was debatable as we’d brought with us a delicious bottle of sake from Kyoto to enjoy in our room.

Mt Fuji Night view camera 4am from hoshinoya

Mt Fuji 6am from Hoshinoya Fuji

Mt Fuji from Hoshinoya fuji 7am

While it was rainy/snowy and cloudy the day we arrived, the clear skies and sunshine warmed the temperature up into the 60s today which was just what the cherry blossoms required to open up, they were unfolding before our eyes all day! A cherry blossom festival was occurring on the banks of Lake Kawaguchi in celebration of the blooms opening, so we walked down to the lake shore to check it out – there were many vendors out and tour buses came in and out all day, it was interesting to see a different perspective of Mt. Fuji and really nice to feel the energy and excitement about the great weather and the sakura week, but we still felt a magnetic pull from our balcony couch at the resort, so we only stayed a few minutes before walking back up. Sometimes it can be hard to just let yourself enjoy sitting and being on vacation, we struggled with this a little at Hoshinoya Fuji, feeling like we should be doing an activity or partaking in the lakeshore festival, but we finally realized that we were our happiest at our room and let ourselves enjoy it the rest of the afternoon, evening and next morning.

Our second and final morning at Hoshinoya Fuji played out pretty much like the first one – early morning greeting by Mt. Fuji’s outline resulting in a move from bed to balcony couch before sunrise. A few clouds rolled in this morning, not obstructing the view of Mt. Fuji much besides one cloud that rested right over the peak like a little hat. The staff who delivered our breakfast said he would tell us a secret because he knew we were leaving at noon, that the little cloud at the peak of Mt. Fuji was known to locals as an “umbrella cloud” signaling rain for later in the day. We could not believe how lucky we’d gotten with a full, perfect spring day at Hoshinoya Fuji sandwiched between a day of snow and a day of rain, plus the opening of the cherry blossoms which had the staff noticeably giddy with joy!

The most challenging part of our stay at Hoshinoya Fuji, and one that honestly had us questioning whether to visit or not, is that the location is tricky to get to since it is not on the shinkansen route. We took the shinkansen from Kyoto to Mishima Station (nearly 2 hours), we had arranged a private taxi through the resort which met us at Mishima station and took us straight to the resort for a pre-arranged price; this transfer was moderately pricey but went smoothly. On the back end, we had also arranged a taxi at (we thought) a set price to take us from the resort straight to our hotel in Ginza, Tokyo. Somehow this taxi was almost twice the pre-specified cost and was not nearly as nice a vehicle or service as what we’d experienced on the way in. We are not sure what happened on our outbound transfer, but we opted to put it out of our minds to keep our spirits up and focus only on the incredible experience we’d enjoyed at the resort.

Hoshinoya Fuji is a once in a lifetime type of accommodation, while it is expensive, it’s not unreasonably so for the experience. Our recommendation would be to bring a bottle of wine or sake with you and then reserve your time at the resort for sitting on the balcony and enjoying the pride of the Japanese people – their “Fuji-san” – and to not worry with activities or excursions, this is an activity in itself! We would highly recommend this experience but want to again caution that there is a risk of weather obstructing the view of Fuji for days at a time.

Sakura and Mt Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi

 


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