Fuji-Q Highland, thrilling rides with a view of Mt. Fuji

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As the quintessential Japanese symbol, Mt. Fuji often evokes quiet and peaceful imagery. That’s why it’s hard to think of it as home to some of the highest, steepest and scariest roller coasters in the world. However, it’s precisely this contrast along with its proximity to Tokyo that makes Fuji-Q Highland amusement park a unique place to visit and a must for all thrill seekers.

The park is located in the foothills of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi prefecture and can be reached by the Fujikyu express bus in approximately an hour and a half from Tokyo, Shinjuku and Shibuya stations. Fuji-Q features roller coasters such as Takabisha, with the steepest drop in the world at 121° degrees, Eejanaika, the so-called 4th dimension coaster with endless turns and spins and of course, the Fujiyama, dubbed “the king of coasters” with a maximum speed of 130 km/h and a maximum height of 79 m. However, if heart-pounding rides are not your thing, Fuji-Q offers great alternatives, such as Fuji Airways, a virtual flight around Mt. Fuji in high definition, or Thomas Land, an area filled with exciting rides for small children. Visitors can also enjoy taking on the Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear, the Ferris Wheel, or even visit the nearby Fujiyama Onsen, featuring Japan’s largest wooden bathroom with an exclusive pipeline that feeds the facilities with a stream of water packed with minerals. It is said that after soaking for a while in this onsen’s miraculous waters, your skin will feel smooth and beautiful.

Three of our WAttention Ninja had the opportunity to experience all Fuji-Q Highland has to offer and this is what they had to say:

Aagje Kessels

Our day started at Tokyo Station where we took the bus to Fuji-Q Highland. As soon as we got there we couldn’t resist the urge to take a ton of pictures. Honestly, if you have the opportunity to behold such a beautiful landscape as Mt. Fuji, you want to show it off to your friends on social media. We enjoyed everything, from the soaring roller coasters to the cute “La ville de Gaspard et Lisa”, an area that looks like a small French town where you can find many food stalls and nice souvenir shops. The three of us were very scared of the most thrilling roller coasters, but I’m glad to say that we conquered our fear and had the time of our lives. Lastly but definitely not least, we visited Fujiyama Onsen, which offers a great variety of baths. I personally loved the outdoor Onsen, because even though it was quite cold when I first stepped outside, I found that nothing can beat the feeling of dipping into the hot water and instantly feel your body warm up and your troubles wash away.
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We started an amazing day at Tokyo Station, where we rode the bus heading to Fuji-Q Highland. When we got there, we didn’t have to wait long before entering the park. We were already a bit hungry, but we were so excited to get on the rides that we headed straight to the most challenging roller coaster: “Eejanaika”. It was amazing, it was the most intense ride I had ever experienced. After eating a much-deserved lunch, we decided to ride our second roller coaster: “Fujiyama”, which offered amazing views of Mt. Fuji. We also tried other attractions like the teacup ride, and the amazing Fuji Airways, a virtual tour of Japan’s tallest mountain with amazing special effects and a huge screen. We also took the time to walk around Fuji-Q Highland and visit the onsen. We had an amazing day!

Jan Siegrist

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Jenny Teer

As soon as we arrived to Fuji-Q, we took on the most intense rollercoaster: the 4th dimension coaster “Eejanaika”, which turns riders upside down a whooping 14 times and holds the Guinness World record for the most inversions in a roller coaster. I was quite scared at first but when everything was over, I thought the experience was really worth it. After pumping so much adrenaline, we decided to take a break to eat lunch and recharge batteries with a hearty meal of pizza, fries and soup. Our second ride was the “Fujiyama”, the tallest complete-circuit rollercoaster measuring 79 m at its highest point. This awesome ride became my favorite in the whole park. Around 5 pm we headed to Fujiyama Onsen. Since it was our first time in an onsen, we were feeling a little bit shy but I knew I had to change my mind and give it a try. After a while, I became used to it and ended up really enjoying it.
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Sample schedule for a day in Fuji-Q Highland
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Fuji-Q Highland

Hours: Open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 17pm. Operation hours vary according to the season.
Admission: Park admission is 1,500 JPY for adults and high school students, 900 JPY for children. One-day free pass ticket is 5700 JPY for adults, 5200 JPY for high school students and 4300 JPY for children.
Address: 5-6-1 Shin-Nishihara, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: Take the Fujikyu Express bus at Tokyo Station bound for Mt. Fuji and get off at Fuji-Q Highland. Direct buses also operate from Shinjuku and Shibuya station, while daily night buses from Osaka and Kyoto are also available.
URL: https://www.fujiq.jp/en/
Contact: [email protected]

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with these useful tools

・Mt. Fuji Pass
This is a tourist pass especially made for foreigners visiting Japan. Save on sightseeing and transportation and get preferential access to different tourists facilities, including Fuji Q Highland.
Find out more here: http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/mtpass/
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・Fuji-Q Resorts App
Get insider tips to make the most out of your visit to the Mt. Fuji area
The app is available in Japanese, Chinese, English and Thai
Find out more here: http://app.fujiq-resorts.com/fuji-qresorts/lp/
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The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots

Get your cameras ready! Wattention staff visited Hokuto in Yamanashi prefecture and listed up the most photogenic spots in this area.

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600,000 sunflowers will welcome you at the Sunflower Festival in Hokuto City. Surrounded by Mount Fuji, the Yatsugatake Volcanic Group and the Southern Alps, the scenery is breathtaking and counts as one of the best photo spots during summer.

Information
Date: July 23rd – August 21st
Hours: 8am – 5pm
Admission: free
Access: About 20 minutes by taxi from Nirasaki Station (JR Chuo Main Line)
Address: Akeno Sunflower Field,  Asao 5664, Akeno-cho, Hokuto-shi, 408-0201 Yamanashi
URL: Hokuto Sunflower Festival 2016


2. Sun Meadows – Kiyosato Terrace

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The Kiyosato Terrace located at 1900m altitude is usually known as a popular ski area during winter season, but in summer you can enjoy the beautiful view of Kiyosato Highland, Mt. Fuji and the Southern Alps while relaxing on the huge bed-like sofas together with a delicious drink or dessert available at the Kiyosato Terrace Café. The Panorama Lift which takes you to the terrace has a total length of 1100m and the altitude difference from ground to top is about 330m.

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The price range for food and drinks is between 200 ~ 500 yen and the Sky Waffle for 500 yen is our recommendation!

Information
Date: May 28th – November 6th
Hours: 10am – 3pm (weekday); 9:30am – 3:30pm (Weekend, public holiday and during summer season)
Admission: Lift ticket (both ways) – 1,300 yen (adults), 700 yen (children)
Access: About 20 minutes by taxi from Nirasaki Station (JR Chuo Main Line)
Address: Sunmeadows Kiyosato Ski Area, Nishiide 8240-1, Oizumi-cho, Hokuto-shi, 409-1501 Yamanashi
URL: Sun Meadows – Kiyosato Terrace


3. The Red – and Yellow Bridge of Hokuto

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The red bridge named “Higashizawa Ohashi” and the yellow bridge named “Yatsugatake Kogen Ohashi” are surrounded by beautiful nature and especially during autumn season they offer a stunning photo scene when the trees show their beautiful autumn colors.

Information
Higashizawa Ohashi – Red Bridge
Address: 8240-1 Nishiide, Oizumi-cho, Hokuto-shi, 407-0311 Yamanashi

Yatsugatake Kogen Ohashi – Yellow Bridge
Address: Higashiide, Takane-cho, Hokuto-shi, 408-0024 Yamanashi  (Prefectural Road No. 28)


4. JR Koumi-Line and the Yatsugatake Volcanic Group

The JR Koumi-Line runs along the Yatsugatake Volcanic Group and offers a beautiful view of the surrounding nature and the mountains.

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JR Koumi-Line connects Hokuto in Yamanashi with Komoro in Naganao Prefecture. It runs 78,9km through the mountains with 31 stations. The best place for trainspotting is the Kobuchizawa Big Curve, where the train turns and you can get an unobstructed view of the sky and mountains. Or get on the train itself at Kobuchizawa Station and be fascinated by this unique panoramic view.


5. Suisha no Sato Koen (water wheel village park)

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This beautiful little park is surrounded by paddy fields and shows you the original rural life of Japan’s countryside. If you are lucky you can even spot Mt. Fuji.

Information
Hours: open all day
Admission: free
Access: About 10 minutes by taxi from Hinoharu Station (JR Chuo Main Line)
Address: Mukawacho Mifuki 2573, Hokuto-shi, 408-0301 Yamanashi
URL: Rural Water Wheel Park

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

Ninja ID: nene16


WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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Tabea Greuner
Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green

If you want to try something other than the traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan, try staying at a Japanese pension. Usually more laid-back and homey compared to the traditional ryokan, pensions in Japan are western-style lodgings that are run by families or private individuals. Very similar to B&Bs, pensions in Japan usually offer homemade breakfast, lunch, dinner and sometimes even tea! And since pensions usually double as the home for their owners, they always seem to showcase the owners’ personalities, hobbies and interests. Which is why each pension is so unique.

Inn Blue in Green

Only a 10-minute drive from Sunmeadows Ski Resort and a 5-minute drive from JR Kiyosato Station and Moeginomura, Inn Blue in Green is located in a very strategic yet quiet and beautiful place.

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The interior is cosy and comfortable, decked with warm wood and soothing colors. Here and there you can see dried flowers and little crafted decorations made by the owner’s wife. There’s also the owner’s huge collection of CDs. Both the owner and his wife are very kind and friendly. Let them know if you find a CD you like and they will gladly play it for you.

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Their sign shows the words of Paul Rusch, touted as the "Father of Kiyosato": Do your best and it must be first class
Their sign shows the words of Paul Rusch, touted as the “Father of Kiyosato”: Do your best and it must be first class
They have 3 cozy rooms with lovely views of the mountains. They are also family-friendly with a play area for kids on the first floor.

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For dinner, indulge in their Italian style home-cooked fare, made with fresh ingredients sourced locally from the surrounding area. Breakfast is also delightfully hearty and homemade.

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Step out onto the outdoor deck where you can enjoy your dinner or breakfast in the surrounding nature. The deck opens out to a wide expanse of green meadows and trees with breathtaking views of the Yatsugatake mountain range. Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot some deer!

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Information

Inn Blue in Green
Address: Takane-cho Kiyosato 3545-6030, Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: 5 min. drive from JR Kiyosato station
Booking: http://www.booking.com/hotel/jp/blue-in-green.html

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery

The history of Suntory

Unbenannt-2Shinjiro Torii (1879-1962), a lover of wine and scotch whiskey had a vision to establish the production of those beverages in Japan as well.

In February 1899 he set up his own business called “Torii Shoten” and started the production and sale of wine. His concept was to create western-style liquors that would match Japanese standards.

 

 

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Eight years later, the “Akadama Port Wine” was launched with big success and acted as the foundation stone of Suntory. In 1922, the wine was promoted by the first nude-poster in Japan featuring model Emiko Matsushima, which even ranked first place during the World’s Poster Contest held in Germany.

 

 

 

 

Due to this positive feedback he started to turn his dream of creating original Japanese whisky into reality and invested all his assets to build the first whisky distillery in Japan.
The first malt whisky distillery called Yamazaki, opened in 1923 between Osaka and Kyoto, an area with the most clean water resources in Japan. The Katsura -, Uji – and Kizu river confluence created a misty climate, as well as especially soft water. The variety of temperatures and humidity in this area offer the perfect conditions for the characteristic “Suntory barrel aging” process.

In April 1929 the first Japanese whisky “Suntory Shirofuda (white label)” was launched, but unfortunately flopped. The name “Suntory” was introduced together with the first product and combines the meaning of Akadama (Port Wine) which means red ball and resembles the “sun”, as well as the surname “Torii”.

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Finally, in 1937 the “Suntory Whisky Kakubin (square bottle)” led to success and is to date the top-selling whisky in the whole country.

 

 

 

Suntory Hakushu Distillery

In lieu of the 50th anniversary of Japanese whisky in 1973, the Hakushu Distillery was established. The distillery is located on the foothills of Mt. Kaikomagatake in Japan’s Southern Alps. Fresh and clear water flowing through a rich green environment offers the best conditions for whisky production.

The Hakushu Distillery is open for guided group tours where you have access to the historical museum, the distillery, the whisky aging area and the souvenir shop. The tour provides also an exclusive whisky tasting experience.

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The museum offers language guides in English, French and Chinese. The observation deck on top of the museum provides a beautiful view into Japan´s Southern Alps and its rich green forest.

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After leaving the museum, a short walk leads you to the distillery which gives you a peek into the process of the whisky production.

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Parts of the malting and mashing tank area, the fermentation area and the distillation area are open for curious visitors.

After leaving the distillery, a shuttle bus will bring you to the whisky aging building which is home to hundreds of barrels of different production years. The strong aroma of whiskey fills the whole room and a few minutes are necessary to get used to the strong smell.

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The light red whisky on the left side was produced 4 years ago and the one on the right side is already 12 years old. Within one year the whisky decreases by 1-2% (known as the “angels’ share”) and the color turns darker.

We went back to the main building for the tasting session. Three types of whiskies were prepared in front of each seat.

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Each of them was different in taste and color. The highlight was to create a Highball, a mix of whisky, sparkling water, a lot of ice, and some mint.

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Since the beginning of the 1970´s, mixing whisky with water got very popular, since it matches the traditional Japanese dishes very well.

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The flagship product of the Hakushu distillery, the Hakushu Single Malt Whisky in its green bottle, symbolizes the rich green environment of the area.

The souvenir shop offers a lot of limited products, like special designed glasses, pens and even snacks.

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Suntory is not only selling alcoholic beverages; soft drinks, water and even flowers or health products are in the range of products.

 

Information

Guided Tour (distillery, whisky aging area, the souvenir shop, tasting experience)
Hours: Weekday 10:30/11:30/12:30/13:30/14:30; Holiday 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30
A reservation is necessary: Telephone 0551-35-2211 (9:30-16:30); Online LINK
Age limit: 20~
Fee: 1,000 yen (tax included)

Historical Museum and souvenir shop
Hours: 9:30-10:30, 10:30-11:30, 11:30-12:30. 12:30-13:30, 13:30-14:30, 14:30-15:30, 15:30-16:00 (16:00-17:00)
A reservation is necessary: Telephone 0551-35-2211 (9:30-16:30); Online LINK
Fee: free

Access: About 10 minutes by taxi from Kobuchizawa Station (JR Chuo Line)
Address: 2913-1 Torihara, Hakushu-cho, Hokuto-shi, 408-0316 Yamanashi
URL: http://whisky.suntory.com/

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

Ninja ID: nene16


WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

Image_

Tabea Greuner
Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands

Nestled in the highlands between the Yatsugatake Mountains and Minami Alps, Hokuto City in Yamanashi Prefecture is a true jewel worth exploring. Surrounded by majestic mountains from 3 sides and the view of Mt. Fuji to the south, awe-inspiring views abound no matter where you look. Only two hours by train from Tokyo, the alpine weather in Hokuto is considerably cooler, making this one of the best places to escape from the summer heat of the Kanto region.

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Hokuto is blessed with some of the purest, most mineral-rich water in Japan flowing down from the mountains into their many natural springs.

This water lends to extraordinarily tasty vegetables, fruits, and produce. It is also credited for delicious soba, wines, whiskey, and sake that is loved by many connoisseurs.

Beautiful flowers grow in abundance here, evidenced by their many flower fields and gardens.

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In Hokuto you can see a blend of different cultures. Yet, all those different cultures seem to be perfectly at home here, anchored down harmoniously by the sky, the mountains and the surrounding nature.

In the northeast, you will encounter many Western styled houses and facilities. Seisenryo that wouldn’t be out of place in the American countryside, the Blue in Green guesthouse that is reminiscent of a French country house, and Moeginomura that looks like it was taken straight out of a German fairy-tale are all within driving distance.

A few minutes drive to the southwest will take you to a more Japanese area with expansive rice paddies and old-fashioned establishments including the Shichiken sake brewery and confectionery manufacturer, Kinseiken.

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You can enjoy outdoor activities such as horseback riding, segway tours, trail walking, or plain old trainspotting. And being out in the countryside doesn’t mean you can’t have a posh holiday. Go taste-testing in “wine resort” Risonare Yatsugatake or the Hakushu Whiskey Distillery. Hokuto also houses several art museums including the Keith Haring Museum and the Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum.

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So what are you waiting for? Quench your thirst this summer with picturesque views, good food and drinks, and cultural experiences here in Hokuto.

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

The common soba (buckwheat noodles) is made from buckwheat flour mixed with wheat flour that acts as a “tsunagi” or binding agent that keeps the dough together. Only soba restaurants with the most skilled craftsmen are able to produce Juwari soba, which consists entirely of buckwheat and Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi is one of them.

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No need to hide
You can see for yourself how skilled their soba craftsmen are through the big window that looks into the kitchen.

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Even in the peak of summer which is said to be the hardest time of the year to produce soba, they were able to roll and fold the dough evenly, their quick and precise cuts producing uniformly thin soba noodles.

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Water worth fighting for
The secret of Sanbuichi’s soba lies in the spring where they got their name and water from. Sanbuichi Yusui is arguably the most famous spring in Yatsugatake. Legend says that Takeda Shingen, an exceptionally famous samurai warlord divided the flowing water into three using this triangular stone in order to settle a feud among his farmers over the spring water.

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The water comes from the snow and rain that falls on the peaks of Yatsugatake which then filters through the ground, emerging as pure water filled with healthy minerals. The water flows throughout the year, neither drying out during summer, nor freezing over during winter.

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Soba so good
We tried their Juwari Soba Tenmori, which consists of Juwari soba and a side-dish of crispy tempura of season vegetables and shrimp. The tempura batter is thin enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the fresh vegetables. Dip them lightly in fine-grained salt for a subtle flavor. The soba is fragrant and has just enough chewiness in them. Put a bit of wasabi on the soba before dipping them in the tsuyu (dipping stock).

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Afterwards, pour some soba-yu (hot water mixed with buckwheat flour) into the leftover tsuyu and drink it like a soup. It’s believed to give you longevity.

Don’t forget to visit the farmer’s market shop adjacent to the restaurant where you can pick up vegetables and rice from the surrounding fields, some Shingen mochi (with a picture of Takeda Shingen on the packaging!) or some buckwheat flour and tsuyu to make your own soba-yu at home.

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Noodle flavor rate: ★★★★★
Freshness of ingredients:★★★★★

Restaurant information

Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi
Price range: 1,000 yen – 5,000 yen
Location: 292-1 Nagasakacho Koarama, Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: A 10-min walk from Kai-Koizumi Station

Read about other interesting spots in Hokuto City:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots

Restaurant Review: Moeginomura ROCK

This curry will rock your world!

Bacon and runny eggs and butter may sound like a typical American breakfast but these are the toppings to Rock’s unique curry.

Practically every Japanese household or restaurant that serves curry has its own secret recipe. Some stew bananas, apples or chocolate for a sugar and spice curry, others add a touch of red wine, soy sauce or even bonito shavings. Toppings can be anything betweeen natto, cheese and fried pork cutlets. Japan’s competition in curry is so high it is probably only second to India.

Still, it is safe to say that Brewpub Restaurant ROCK’s version of Japanese style curry can count itself among the true curry elites.

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Brewpub Restaurant ROCK is located within Moeginomura, a pleasant area with picturesque gardens, restaurants, cafes and shops located in Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture. The area makes for the perfect setting for a European mountain village postcard, except for the fact that it is located on the other side of the planet.
In the middle of this setting, ROCKS’s old-fashioned American saloon style architecture creates a remarkable juxtaposition between European and American architecture in Japan!

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Before I start talking about the curry, it cannot go without mentioning that ROCK is also famous for its craftbeer brand, TOUCHDOWN.
TOUCHDOWN has 5 different flavors as well as lager brewed beer and has won the prize of “Best beer of Asia” at the World Beer Awards of 2014.

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ROCK’s curry is so beloved that it would be hard to find a local that never gets cravings for it. It has a history of over 40 years, and while maintaining its roots, it has continued to evolve and capture the hearts of young and old.

The curry’s roux is on the thick side, tastes sweet but has a spicy and slightly sour fragrance at the same time.
Spices and ingredients stewed to create this roux are a company secret, but the slight sourness made me speculate that TOUCHDOWN beer could have been used as seasoning to add a special final touch.

The toppings play a role just as significant as the roux in ROCK’s curry, so let’s have a closer look. You will first notice the giant lump of juicy bacon which has been a trademark ever since ROCK originally opened in 1971, but that’s just beginning of this richly topped curry. A soft-boiled egg (or onsen egg in Japanese as it is boiled at the same temperature of hot spring water) is placed on top of the bacon so that the egg yolk may drip over it later on.

imagesWhat might be even more important, is the raisin butter you seen in front of the bacon. Mix this melting morsel with the roux for a sweet, rich taste that really distinguishes it from other Japanese curries.

While the dish might appear to be voluminous, note that half of it consists of fresh vegetables that come from nearby farms. The pickles on the right edge are capsicum, a vegetable rarely pickled in Japanese cuisine or even in general.

Altogether ROCK’s beef curry makes for a unique curry that is hard to compete with. Those that seek for even more satisfaction can add toppings as an extra slice of bacon or fried sausages.

 

Degree in which the curry stands out from its competitors: ★★★★☆

Degree in which the restaurant’s facade stands out from its surrounding: ★★★★★

Important Message:
In the early morning of Aug. 8, 2016, fire broke out in Moeginomura ROCK, causing heavy damage to the building. Excluding Rock, all the other buildings in Moeginomura were not affected and are operating as normal. No word yet on what may have started the fire and there is no definite date yet on when they will resume its business, but according to their website, Rock will definitely re-open. We do hope that they re-open quickly and we can once again enjoy their iconic curry.

UPDATE: Starting September 17, Moeginomura finished setting up a provisional kitchen and are currently re-opened for business. Even though the seating is still outdoors under a tent, we are glad to be able to once again savor the flavors unique to this beloved (and resilient!) restaurant.

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Price Range: 1,000 – 2,000

Hours: 10 am – 11:30 pm

Location: Kiyosato 3545 Moeginomura, Takanecho, Hokuto, Yamanashi  山梨県北杜市高根町清里3545 萌木の村

Access: 10-min walk from Kiyosato Station (JR Koumi Line)

Ski in Japan: Resorts Near Tokyo

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Here are our picks for slopes near Tokyo that will give you a satisfyingly ski-filled day trip and still leave you time to head back to Tokyo in the evening in time to watch the city light up.

Snowtown Yeti (Shizuoka Prefecture)

 

Yeti1English instructor : No
Number of courses : 5
Located on the southern foothills near Mt.Fuji, Snowtown Yeti starts its skiing season from October, perfect for those who can`t wait to ski. This resort is mostly for beginners, and night-skiing is available for those who find the winter daytime too short.

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Address: Fujiwara 2428, Suyama-aza, Susono-shi
Access: Take the Yeti Bus from Gotemba Station to Snowtown Yeti
Web: www.yeti-resort.com/en

Fujiten Snow Resort (Yamanashi Prefecture)

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English instructor : Private lessons only (advanced booking needed)
Number of courses : 7
Fujiten Snow Resort makes for a great ground to learn the basics of skiing, and has child-friendly courses as well. You can also enjoy a day of skiing with Mt.Fuji in the backdrop.

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Address: Fujisan 8545-1, Narusawa-mura, Minamitsuru-gun
Access: Take a taxi from Kawaguchiko Station to Fujiten Snow Resort
Web: www.fujiten.net/pc/en

 

Prince Grand Resort Karuizawa (Nagano Prefecture)

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English instructor : Yes
Number of courses : 10
How about skiing in the chic town of Karuizawa? After skiing, you can shop at an outlet mall or enjoy the hot springs in the area. This is the ultimate integrated winter resort near Tokyo.

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Address: Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun
Access: A 10-min. walk or 1-min. by taxi from Karuizawa Station. Free shuttle bus is also available.
Web: www.princehotels.com/en/ski/karuizawa/index.html

 

Fun Around Mt. Fuji (5): A Final View of Mt. Fuji

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For one final panoramic view of Mt. Fuji from another angle, we saved our highest ascent for last. And thankfully, hiking isn’t the only way to get 1,075 meters above Lake Kawaguchiko.

By hopping on the newly renovated Kachikachi-Yama Ropeway, we scaled to the top of Mt. Tenjo in just 3 minutes! This mountain is the setting for the famous Japanese folk tale “Kachi Kachi-Yama”, and its cute rabbit and raccoon characters awaited us at the summit.

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And just because we didn’t huff and puff our way up the mountain didn’t mean we weren’t entitled to eat the tanuki (“raccoon”) mochi while marveling at the scenery.

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From the observation platform, we indeed had a spectacular view overlooking both Lake Kawaguchiko to the east, and Mt. Fuji to the south. With mochi in one hand, and camera in the other, we snapped our final goodbye shots of our favorite mountain.

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Off to omiyage shopping!

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Of course, we couldn’t leave without finishing our trip in true Japanese fashion and picking up some omiyage. Fortunately for us, Mt. Fuji’s newly famed Fujiyama Cookie shop is located just next to the base of the Kachikachi-yama Ropeway. Shaped after the iconic mountain itself, and made with natural ingredients found in the Fuji Five Lakes area, only here can you find these cookies available for individual retail, including our favorite, the matcha green tea flavor.

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Azuki topping or white chocolate covered: 130 yen; Plain: 120 yen

And with Fuji-shaped cookies in our bags, and Fuji’s views in our heart, we bid farewell to the Fuji Five Lakes!

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Tip: For all your other omiyage shopping needs before leaving the Fuji Five Lakes Area, go to Gateway Fujiyama at Kawaguchiko Station. Here, you can also get assistance about transportation and attractions in English at the concierge desk.

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Attraction Info:
Kachikachi-yama Ropeway
URL: http://www.fujikyu.co.jp/en/leisure/

Fujiyama Cookie
URL: http://www.fujiyamacookie.jp (Japanese)

Fun Around Mt. Fuji (3): Mt. Fuji By Sky!

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Mt. Fuji by sky: Soaring at Fuji-Q Highland

Looking to enjoy Mt. Fuji from another angle? How about while speeding down the Takabisha ride above, with its world-record holding 121-degree drop, or while spinning upside down on one of its 7 inversions?

From sea to sky, let’s get high at Fuji-Q Highland! With some of the world’s tallest, fastest and steepest rollercoaster rides, just looking at some of these is enough to make one queasy.

 

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Fujiyama, the park’s centerpiece attraction, was the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster when it opened in 1996, and it continues to rank among the best coasters in the world. When climbing slowly up to the peak of 79 meters high, we couldn’t keep our eyes off Mt. Fuji, which seemed even closer from such heights…that is until we started dropping at 130 km per hour!

Soaring of a different sort

But fortunately for the faint of heart, there’s more than one way to soar here at this scenic theme park. We boarded a flight on the new Fuji Airways (Hikousha) ride – a “next generation movie theatre” – that gave us stunning aerial views of Mt. Fuji from the comfort of our carriage seats. Complete with forest scents and splashes from the lakes, this flyby around Mt. Fuji made for a full sensory experience.

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A taste of France by Mt. Fuji

Once our stomachs had settled from free-falling and flying, we couldn’t resist the smell of fresh baked pastries at the Café Brioche, where we had tea and croissants with our new favorite French picture book duo, Lisa & Gaspard. With the sound of accordions playing as we walked along this character-themed town, we felt as though we’d been transported to Paris itself!

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Having gotten our fill of panoramic views and pastries in the Highlands, join us as we go low next time, even underground, as we explore some natural beauty by the Lake Saiko Area.

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Hotel Tip: The Highland Resort Hotel & Spa next door is certainly the most convenient place to stay when visiting Fuji-Q Highland, with re-entry in and out of the hotel allowed. Also, the Fujiyama Terrace on the 4th floor had the most dynamic view of Mt. Fuji from any dining facility we’d eaten at. A trip here for breakfast or lunch is a banquet for the eyes and stomach.

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Attraction & Hotel Info:

Highland Resort Hotel & Spa
Address: 5-6-1 Shin-nishihara, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi
Access: A free shuttle bus is available from Fujisan Station.
Tel: 0555-22-1000
URL: http://www.highlandresort.co.jp/english/

Fuji-Q Highland
Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm (varies based on season)
Address: 5-6-1 Shin-nishihara, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi
Access: A 1-min walk from Fuji-Q Highland Station (Fujikyu Railway Line)
URL: https://www.fujiq.jp/en/

Fun Around Mt. Fuji (2): Mt. Fuji By Sea!

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What could be more beautiful than a clear sight of Japan’s most famous mountain? How about seeing its perfect symmetry reflected upon the waters of nearby Lake Yamanakako – the largest of the Fuji Five Lakes. We set out for the perfect view aboard two cruisers that are quite peculiar sights on their own: the Yamanakako no KABA, and the Excursion Ship [Swan Lake].

A bus…that swims?

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If you’ve never been on a bus that drove straight into a body of water…and survived, now’s your chance! Fear not, the Yamanakako no KABA, an amphibious kaba (“hippo”) bus runs both on land and lake. Led by our scout uniform-clad tour guide, who provided lively explanations throughout the ride, this hippo took us on a 10-min. expedition through the lake’s surrounding forestry, before splashing straight into the lake itself. If you don’t mind a little spray of water on your face, this 30-min. adventure makes for a great first encounter with Lake Yamanakako.

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Then, sail like a swan

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From one animal-themed cruiser to another, we hopped off the hippo and headed next to the far smoother and less wild Excursion Ship [Swan Lake]. While no real hippos live around this lake, there are quite a few gracefully gliding swans – the inspiration for this ride. You can even greet them up close before hopping on board, by picking up some feeding bait for 100 yen!

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While the double-deck interior cabin with its sleek wooden design and window-side seating make for a comfortable viewing spot, be sure to head to the balcony to take in the lake’s natural scents and sounds. Sailing along the serene lake, with the cool sea breeze in our face and the glittering sunlight reflecting off the lake’s waters, made for the perfect setting to gaze upon Mt. Fuji in all its majesty.

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So now that we’ve sailed, you ready to soar? Come back next time as we go airborne above Fuji-Q Highland, and see Mt. Fuji from a different angle, even while upside down!

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Tip: For luxury lodging just above the banks of Lake Yamanakako, stay at Hotel Mount Fuji, just like we did. With views of Mt. Fuji from our room, the courtyard, and even the outdoor onsen, it was like a buffet of Mt. Fuji photo spots! Speaking of which, we enjoyed the hotel’s buffet breakfast and its signature fluffy omelets – seasoned with a view of Mt. Fuji.

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Attraction & Hotel Information:
Yamanakako no KABA
URL: http://mtfuji-jp.com/lake-yamanaka/

Excursion Ship [Swan Lake]
URL: http://www.fujikyu.co.jp/en/leisure/leisure16.html

Hotel Mt. Fuji
Address: 1360-83 Yamanaka, Yamanakako-mura, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi
Access: A free shuttle bus is available from the Fujisan-Yamanakako bus stop, reservations required.
Tel: 0555-62-2111
URL: http://www.mtfuji-hotel.com/english

Fun Around Mt. Fuji (1): A Short Trip To The Fuji Five Lakes Area

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Part 1: Let the fun begin!

Thousands of tourists travel to Mt. Fuji each summer to make the strenuous ascent to its peak.

Others of us just want to have a little fun.

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Which is why I’m hanging in a hammock, rather than strapping on my climbing gear.

Ready to have some fun in the Fuji Five Lakes Area? Follow us in this 5-part series as we bring you onsens, high-flying rollercoasters, panoramic views, and yes, even a Hammock Café, where I’m hanging now. Everything is five times the fun with the majestic view of Mt. Fuji in the background, so let’s get started!

Train otaku, all aboard!ふじっこ号

First things first, you’re going to need to get around the Fuji Five Lakes Area, which is no problem with Fujikyu Railways. And if you’re a train otaku and vintage vehicles get your engines moving, these retro buses and old-fashioned trains will take you for a trip back in time.

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The Fujikyu Limited Express, featuring 58 cartoon characters of Mt. Fuji on its exterior.

Even if you’re like me, simply just wanting to get from point A to B, some of these rides will still stop you in your tracks…like the Fujikyu Limited Express, with 58 cartoon characters of Mt Fuji on its exterior.

Tip: Pick up your “Mt. Fuji and The Fuji Five Lakes Passport [Fujikyu Train Set]” at Otsuki Station to ride unlimited on Fujikyu Railways’ buses and trains for two consecutive days.

And while you’re at the station…

Station-side snacks

Since food is half the fun when traveling, try these two treats, conveniently available upon arrival at Fujisan Station.

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The Fujiyama Taiyaki combines the traditional taiyaki fish shape with Mt. Fuji, and is ready to erupt with steaming hot sweet bean filling! (160 yen)

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With vanilla “snow” on top, and native aobara (“blue rose”) as the mountain base, this soft serve embodies the shape and local flavor of Mt. Fuji. (350 yen)

Now that we’ve got some sugar in our system, where should we explore first?

A sacred starting point

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Even for non-climbers, you won’t want to miss the historical starting point of the Mt. Fuji climb, at the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine. This shrine, dedicated to restrain the erupting of Mt. Fuji, is preserved as one of Japan’s largest forest shrines with sacred trees dating back over 1,000 years. For a taste of Mt. Fuji’s ancient heritage and abundant nature, starting here will get your trip off on the right foot.

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Now, off to see Mt. Fuji! Come back for Part 2, and follow us as we catch some spectacular views from sea at Lake Yamanakako.

Tip: If looking for an affordable stay close to Fujisan Station, try the Fujisan Station Hotel, just a 2-min walk away. With rooms starting at 7,000 yen, including breakfast, this newly renovated hotel is equipped with free wifi in every room, and would certainly be my pick if traveling by myself to the Mt. Fuji area.

[Attraction & Hotel Information]

PICA Yamanakako Village (Hammock Café)
Access: There are several bus services per hour from Shinjuku Station (Fujikyu and Keio). Shuttle services are available for those staying at PICA Yamanakako Village (reservation required)
URL: http://yamanakako.pica-village.jp/en/

Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine
Access: Take Fujikyu Railway from Otsuki Station to Fujisan Station. A 20-min. walk from Otsuki Station
URL: http://sengenjinja.jp/english/

Fujisan Station Hotel
Address: 2-7-12 Matsuyama, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi
Access: A 2-min. walk from Fujisan Station
Tel: 0555-24-3300
URL: http://www.fujisanstation-hotel.com/ (Japanese)