I’m sure you have seen travel guides with on the cover a snow-capped Mt Fuji, a beautiful red pagoda, and blooming cherry blossoms. This particular photograph is probably Japan’s most iconic image and one that many tourists want to see for themselves. It can be found in Arakurayama Sengen Park is located in Yamanashi Prefecture near Kawaguchiko.
Hisotory of Arakurayama Sengen Park
The famous location opened as a public park in 1959. But the Shinto shrine that’s here, the Arakura Fuji Sengen Shrine, has a much longer history. It was founded in 705 to enshrine the spirits of the Arakura Family. When there was a big eruption of Mt Fuji in 807, a ritual to stop the eruption was held. At that time, the name ‘Sangoku-Daiichi’ (‘the number one shrine in the region’) and a plaque written by Emperor Heizei were sent to the shrine.
There are several shrines called Sengen Shrine. One of the biggest Sengen shrines is Kigaguchihongu Fuji Sengen Jinja, which is one of the official starting points to climb Mt. Fuji. Anyway, they are all related to people wanting Mt Fuji to stop erupting. People have believed that an eruption happens when the god of the mountain gets angry. So by praying at the shrine we try to comfort the spirit of Mt Fuji.
Approach to the Viewpoint
If you want to go there from Tokyo, you can take the Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station. It takes about one hour by express train to Otsuki Station, then you change to the Fujikyu Line and get off at Shimoyoshida Station. There are a few direct trains from Shinjuku to Shimoyoshida, so it’s best to check the timetable before you leave.
From Shimoyoshida Station, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the Sengen Shrine. You will see the torii gate that separates the everyday world from the sacred world at the entrance of the shrine. This is the first of 2 famous viewpoints. It’s nice to take a picture of the gate with Mt Fuji inside.
Then you can go up the stairs with 398 steps. This number has a meaning. The name of the god of Mt Fuji is Princess Konohana-Sakuya. When you read the number 398 in Japanese, it’s pronounced as “sakuya”, part of the name of the princess. The stairs are surrounded by cherry trees, so you can walk up the stairs while enjoying the cherry blossoms. It takes another 10 minutes to reach the next viewpoint.
At the View Point
At the top of the stairs, you will find Chureito, a five-storied pagoda that is about 20m tall. A five-storied pagoda is normally used in a Buddhist temple to keep Buddha’s relics. The Chureito pagoda, however, was constructed to console the spirits of the victims of the latest wars Japan was involved in. Those are the Japan-Sino War, Japan-Russo War, WW1, and WW2. There are steps and a walkway behind the pagoda from where you can take the famous picture of the big three; the pagoda, cherry blossoms, and Mt Fuji. There are 650 cherry trees in the park, so during peak season, the view from this point is incredibly beautiful.
But let me be completely honest with you. Shooting the famous picture featuring all three highlights is very difficult. First of all, you will have to be there during the blooming period of the cherry blossoms, which is mid to late April in this area. Even if you manage to come during this time, it is good to know that your chances to see Mt Fuji in its full glory are not so high. Because of hazy or cloudy conditions, which are common in spring, it is hard to catch the sakura and Mt Fuji together. Your chance to see Mt Fuji is best during winter, but then there are no cherry blossoms.
Our Visit to the Park
I visited Arakurayama Sengen Park on April 1st, 2021. It was a sunny day, so I was very excited in the morning when I left home before 7 am. I took the express train Fuji-Kaiyu, which only took one hour and 40 minutes. When I arrived at Shimoyoshida Station, it was already getting more cloudy. But, the cherry blossoms on the way were in full bloom, as they were blooming early this year.
I was really excited about this and took many pictures of the sakura. But when I reached the Chureito pagoda, Mt Fuji was hiding behind the clouds. I was disappointed, but I could still take nice pictures of the pagoda with sakura. Many tourists were there waiting in the hopes of Mt Fuji still showing its face. But it wasn’t too crowded. At least, I didn’t have to jump to see the view.
I decided to go up to the top of Mt Arakura (1180m). It seems hard to climb to the top, but the height at the viewpoint is already 858 meters, so the height difference is only 322 meters. I climbed a little fast and it took about 30 minutes to the top. The panoramic view from the top was great. I could look over other mountains and the city of Fujiyoshida. The only thing that I missed was Mt Fuji.
When I came back to the park, the clouds were thinner and I could see the summit of Mt Fuji! Though the photo doesn’t show the summit clearly, I could see it with my own eyes. I felt so lucky. Houtou noodles, my favorite local food, were my lunch.
Your Japan Tour
As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour including destinations with great views of Mt Fuji. Our guides can take you to the park and sightseeing spots around it for a great experience. Check out our group tours and private tours, or contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country. Japan is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!