The Fujikawaguchiko Herb Festival is held annually in summer on the shore of Lake Kawaguchiko, which is at the foot of Mount Fuji. Don’t just go for the herbs – Lake Kawaguchiko is surrounded by a multitude of attractions, and it’s possible to see them all in a well-planned day. I was fortunate in that JR East did all my planning for me. JR East frequently organises various Ekikara Hiking events, one-day events that anyone can participate in from stations throughout eastern Japan (‘Ekikara’ means ‘from the Station’). Applications can be made through the JR East website, but it’s also possible to just join up when you arrive. At Kawaguchiko Station, I was given a map of the area (English on one side, Japanese on the other), with all the landmarks and a recommended route for reaching them all clearly marked. I was also given free postcards of Mount Fuji! For getting to Kawaguchiko Station from Tokyo, it’s possible to use a JR East Pass until Otsuki Station. After Otsuki, it’s a private train line to Kawaguchiko. To cover the whole journey, consider the Mount Fuji Round Trip Ticket (available from the JR East website, or at JR Service Stations).
The Herb Festival itself is held in Yagizaki Park and Oishi Park, both of which are directly on the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko, a clear, blue, sizable body of water that constitutes the centre of the town. The main features of the festival are the expansive beds of lavender, which you are able to walk through, and even pick herbs from. The smell is overwhelming, and I had never realized just how vividly purple lavender was until seeing it spread out against the blues of the river and mountains. There are other flowerbeds too, overflowing with brightly coloured flowers of every description, and walkways that pass through all of the gardens for observing the flora. Snacks and souvenirs are available from the shop at the festival, including blueberry ice creams, and pillows in the shape of a smiling Mount Fuji.
When you’ve had enough of lavender, be sure to check out the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum, and its collection of world-famous music boxes. The Rose Garden outside the museum is also worth your time, and in summer displayed some of the most perfect roses I have ever seen. If you’re on the JR East hike, showing your map at the door will get you discounted admission! Be on the look out for the seven shrines around the lake featuring golden statues of the Seven Gods of Fortune, as each one of them grants good luck. Also check out Kawaguchiko Herbkan, a shop filled with herbs, herb teas and herb goods, and take the Kachikachi-yama Ropeway for a three-minute ride to the peak of Tenjosan. The view from the top is amazing.
A final recommendation: pop into Fujiyama Cookie, the modest establishment right near the Kawaguchiko Store station of the Kachikachi-yama Ropeway, and try their delicious Mount Fuji shaped, green tea flavoured cookies!