Exploring the Five Lakes of Yamanashi is best done on a sunny day. I had clouds throughout my drive around the lakes, and as a result I missed out on some beautiful scenery and views of the forest and Mount Fuji.
This article mentions some of the main views and destinations around the Five Lakes of Yamanashi. These places are most conveniently reached by car since local buses are limited in these areas. There are some locals buses, but they only depart a few times a day, so ask in advance if you decide to go by bus. Hitch-hiking may prove to be difficult since it’s not something Japanese are familiar with.
Yamanako Lake is the largest of the Five Lakes, and also most developed. It has many choices of accommodation ranging from camping to hotels and local guesthouses called minshuku.
The best views of Mount Fuji are from the northern side of the lake, the least developed part of this area. There is also a viewpoint partway up the mountain called Panorama Dai on the southeastern side of the lake. There are no buses that go here, but it can be reached by foot in 30 minutes from the Iriguchi bus stop.
If you are interested in water skiing, boating, fishing, or windsurfing, you will feel quite happy in this part of Yamanashi. Be warned as this area becomes crowded in the summer as many local sports camps take place here.
The main pond of the eight ponds of Oshino Hakkai
Between Yamanko Lake and Kawaguchi Lake you can find Oshino Hakkai, where eight ponds are connected through underground waterways. This is a very tourist-heavy place since many sightseeing buses stop here in Yamanashi, but it is a beautiful and quiet place if you arrive at the right time.
A small river running through Oshino town
There are buses connecting Oshino Hakkai to Kawaguchi Lake. See this link for more details.
Kawaguchi Lake is a great starting point if you want to see the Five Lakes of Yamanashi. It is easy to reach from Tokyo by JR train. It takes approximately two hours from Shinjuku Station to get there. This lake is the most interesting of the Five Lakes because of the wide variety of entertainment such as hot springs, Fuji Q Highland Amusement park, and many different museums.
If you are staying in Kawaguchi, it’s easy to explore the lake’s surroundings by bus. A local bus called Fujikyu Kawaguchi bus runs to all the attractions around Kawaguchi Lake. You can buy a two-day ticket with unlimited travel for 1,000 yen for adults.
Kawaguchi: What would be a beautiful landscape if the sky was clear
There are many museums around this lake, as well as a forest and some great viewpoints to see Mount Fuji in Yamanashi. You can also enjoy fishing and kayaking here. Kawaguchi is the starting point for people who want to hike up Mount Fuji, but keep in mind that the climbing season is between July and September.
Saiko Lake is also known as the Lake of Maidens. It is tranquil, and even though you can’t go swimming here you can still enjoy kayaking and sunbathing.
The south end of the infamous Aokigahara suicide forest is located at Saiko of Yamanashi, and the lake is surrounded by endless trees. While you are visiting this lake, I recommend a short walk in the forest and maybe even visiting the Bat Cave if you have time to spare. There are even signs of warnings inside the forest.
A quick look inside the suicide forest
Shoji is the smallest of the Five Lakes. Except for a couple of hotels and some fishing, it does not have too much to offer visitors except maybe forest scenery. There are some water sports like kayaking and water skiing here, but other than that the main attraction is the Aokigahara forest that lies near to Saiko Lake.
If you look at a 1,000 yen bill, you’ll see a view of Mount Fuji with a lake and forest. This picture was taken at Motosu Lake, and it has since become a popular spot just so visitors can take the same picture themselves in Yamanashi.
Motoso, Saiko, and Shoji were once one lake, but they were divided into three smaller ones by a volcanic eruption a long time ago. The lakes remain connected by underground waterways and the water level stays unchanged, and Motosu’s beach is still black from the lava today.