Since almost 6 months, we are no longer inhabitants of Tokyo.
We have decided to change direction, looking for our personal comfort zone away from crowded trains, too small and too expensive apartments and distractions that occupied our time, without giving us particular benefits.
Do I miss living in the city? Of course yes! Walks in the park near home in the evenings, the possibility of going anywhere by foot or bicycle, the stunning neighborhoods of Tokyo. ..
Would I go back? Months later, I am happy with the choice we made. We live in an area where time passes much more slowly, where neighbors know each other and also go for a beer together. Where strangers greet each other on the street and why not, they also stop you to have a friendly talk. Not to mention the fresh fish, local vegetables and fruit which, although still expensive, are more accessible.
The way we spend our free time has also changed. If in the city we were always in search of a particular restaurant or a characteristic neighborhood. Now our choice is aimed to discover the beauty of the country.
Not living in Tokyo anymore, and being equipped with a car, make our travel easier. We are more inclined to reach towns or countries surrounded by nature, which we have always seen on TV or the internet and have always intrigued us.
So, moved by our new lifestyle, we decided to visit a beautiful small corner of the country, not so common between tourists, and really fascinating.
Free day, backpacker, hats (indispensable under this crazy sun), Onigiri for the travel and we’re ready! Destination: Oshino Hakkai.
Located in the lakes region near the great Fuji San, Oshino Hakkai is an area that is not too popular between foreigners, and, as I saw, is undervalued.
Due to its strategic position with breathtaking views of Mount Fuji, and the presence of 8 small ponds distributed throughout the small village, Oshino Hakkai is a great place to have a walk surrounded by the beautiful colours of the nature.
History said that in the past, the entire area was cover by a huge big lake, but after the great eruption of Mount Fuji in 1707, the lava completely covered the lake, leaving just eight small ponds with a beautiful crystalline water.
Following the marked route you can visit the various ponds scattered throughout the country. .
The whole route is free, except for the largest pond viewer. Paying a poor entrance ticket it is possible to visit the small open-air museum, set up in a traditional country house, in which ancient agricultural tools are displayed along with swords and samurai armor. Along the way you can stop among the street food stalls set up by locals, or head to the tourist center where you will find a souvenir shop and a few restaurants.
If you are looking for a snack, I recommend you try the Kusamochi ・ く さ も ち, a traditional dessert (typical of spring, but in tourist areas you can find all year around). As you can see by the picture Kusamochi is a green mochi as the dough made of gluten rice include Artemisia leaves (yomogi). You can find it filled with a sweet red bean cream called Anko (If you are interested, here is the recipe to prepare this cream at home: Taste of Japan: Azuki Red Bean Cream (Sweet)).
Trust me, was delicious!!!
If you prefer a more abundant dish, with such a clear and clean waters that characterizes the area, I recommend you to try the local soba and tofu that you will found in the restaurant around the village!
Last but not least, I suggest you stop at the large main fountain at the centre of the village, where the outline of Mount Fuji is carved.
As indicated by the sign posted, the inhabitants of Oshino challenge visitors to dip their hands for more than 30 seconds in the icy water coming directly from the mountain glaciers. Maybe a game born for children, don’t be shy. It will not be difficult for you to find adults in the front row trying to pass the test. (Personal record: 40 seconds. I assure you that is really cold).
What struck me about Oshino?
Didi you know that here you can taste one of the most famous waters in the country?
The water present in each pond comes directly from the glaciers of Mount Fuji through natural underground ducts created by the lava flows after the great eruption. We are therefore talking about different layers of lava on which the water, for Km, flows until it reaches Oshino and continues to the valley.
You will be impressed to see incredibly clear and crystal ponds with turquoise colours. No coincidence, this area is defined among the first best waters in Japan (yes, there is a classification of this type, see for yourself link).
If you are wondering if it is possible to drink this water famous all over the country, the answer is yes, BUT ATTENTION! You can buy the bottle of water in souvenir shop, or you have to be a guest of a Ryokan in the area to enjoy it. It is strictly forbidden to take it from the pond!
Second aspect is the incredible amount of carp that populate the ponds. I know, in Japan, finding a carp in a river is nothing new.
But the amount of Koi (carp in Japanese) of dark color, almost black, in contrast to the crystal clear turquoise water, creates a truly breathtaking image.
Third aspect, the houses of the local.
Finally, before leaving, I advise you to leave the classic tourist route and take a stroll around the town.
Simply take a parallel route and try to look around.
Both Yo and I were fascinated by the beauty of traditional houses built in this area. With a large garden crowned with traditional and perfectly sculpted Niwaki (Japanese garden trees), pointed roofs, walls in white plaster, exposed wood, large Furuma (sliding panels) … Those houses represented everything that comes to mind when you think about traditional Japan . All completely immersed in nature.
If you have organized a visit around the 5 lakes of Mount Fuji, and therefore you are already in the area, my answer is yes! It is certainly a different destination, which allows you to walk in a small traditional town, interact with locals intent on selling off their improvised street food in decidedly improvised stalls, but above all, is a place where you can enjoy an incredible view of the Mount Fuji.
Enjoy the 8 ponds of Oshino Hakkai, always remembering to respect the environment in which you are!
Have a good trip!
Ele & Yo