Two Years Later: Fuji Five Lakes

Although I no longer live in Japan, Japan is still very much in my life. It never seems to leave you once you’ve been there. The draft posts I made from my last year in Japan niggle at me, because I want to remember them the way I do the novelty of my first year. This blog was never meant as a travel guide, it would become dated too quickly, but as a way for me to memorialize my experiences. So I hope, dear Reader, you won’t mind the time lag.

In November 2015 my aunt came to visit my sister and me, and as well as visiting Tokyo and Kanazawa, we took a trip to Fuji Five Lakes, where we could take in the scenic views of and around Mount Fuji. We stayed in Fujiyoshida, a sleepy Showa-era town at the base of the mountain.IMG_5750 (800x600)IMG_9025 (1024x768)IMG_8997 (800x601)Although most climbers start the trail at the fifth station where Fuji starts to get steeper, the journey through the lower elevations is supposed to be quite picturesque. Fujiyoshida is the start of the popular Yoshida trail which begins at the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine. When we visited, it was around the time of the Shichi-go-san Festival which celebrates the ages of seven and three for girls, and five and three for boys, so we were lucky to see families with their dressed-up children visiting the shrine too.

IMG_8990 (800x600)IMG_9005 (800x600)IMG_9010 (600x800)IMG_9019 (800x600)The area has quite a few odd little museums and attractions, such as the Herb Hall and Music Forest (devoted to music boxes), but we visited the Kubota Itchiku Museum. This museum is dedicated to its namesake kimono designer, who revived or recreated the craft of tsujigahana silk dying. The museum complex feels larger than it is because of the variety of styles and atmospheres. The entrance is through an elaborately decorated portal consisting of a large wooden gate and metal shapes resembling bog-wood atop white stone steps. The outdoor space is very much a part of the museum, with its garden designed by landscape architect Yasuo Kitayama, metal sculptures, and connection to the surrounding natural landscape. Autumn is the most recommended season to visit this area because of the colourful leaves. The New Wing, a rustic Gaudí-esque one-storey building contains the ticket office, shop, cafe and gallery of Kubota’s collection of glass beads.

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The kimono are displayed in the Main Hall, a pyramidal structure that still recalls the atmosphere of temple honden with its large cypress beams. The ‘Symphony of Light’ a series depicting a continuous landscape of the changing seasons, is displayed around the sides, and individual pieces or smaller sets are displayed on the central platform. There is no glass in front of the kimono, which shows the museum’s confidence in the self-control of the visitor, because it is the texture, rather than the colours, that makes these kimono so breathtaking. Multiple techniques are used to create the effects; tie-dying, embroidery, gilding and painting. The splendour of the colours can be seen from photographs, but the fabric comes alive in person with variations of light and shade, creating movement even in pure white.

Kubota (700x417)The day we walked around Lake Kawaguchi was cloudy and blustery, so we really enjoyed our local dinner of hōtō, thick noodles in a miso broth with lots of vegetables. It was definitely hearty enough to keep us warm for the walk to the station. Since darkness had fallen we could see the onsen hotels on the other side of the lake, giving us the feeling of seeing the bathhouse appear across the water in Spirited Away.
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