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Published: March 31st 2016
Geographically Japan is like NZ: volcanic islands with forested mountains, natural thermal pools and the occasional snowy peak. We escaped the metropolis of Tokyo to revive at the Japanese Lake District, staying in Kawaguchiko at the foot of Mt Fuji.
We stayed our first night in a ryokan, a traditional inn. We had a lovely room with tatami mats and a futon, dressed in the yukata robes and slippers provided and soaked in the hot baths. Onsen (hot springs) are traditionally taken naked (men and women separate) so the hotel had two - one overlooked the lake and the other faced Mt Fuji. They swap each day so we both got a turn in each. It's hard to get a better Japan experience than soaking in a rotemburo (outdoor tub), looking at Mt Fuji and then dressing in a yukata and eating a traditional multi-course dinner or breakfast! The meals were fantastic. Dinner was served in a private room with eight tiny couses exquisitely presented and tasting. At breakfast I counted 13 different foods set out on our table (with some others available on a side table which we didn't attempt), all delicious and beautifully presented.
Today we walked
around the lake and visited the astonishing Ichiku Kubota Kimono Museum. The museum comprises original kimonos in breathtaking colours and designs, all created by Ichiku through a process he invented in his 60s after years of experimentation. He devoted the last 20 years of his life to creating a series of kimonos reflecting the changing seasons and when he died in 2004 had completed about 40. His son is continuing the work. Each kimono links to the next in the style of Japanese screens, so walking around one gets the changing colours of autumn and winter (unfortunately he didn't live to complete spring and summer). They are all stunning and we spent a long time just sitting and soaking in the beauty. No photos were allowed but we have bought a book so we can continue to enjoy them and show others.
Now we have moved to a different hotel, more modern and ordinary but it has its compensations - I am lying in bed looking at Mt Fuji as I write. The mountain towers over this entire area and seeing it one can really understand why it is the national symbol. There are lots of forested mountain ranges around here but Mt Fuji stands alone as a snow covered peak with stark geometry and a dignity that prompts the Japanese to call it Fuji-San, using the honorific usually used for people.
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