Anyone who has researched about Japan travel before has likely seen this iconic picture: A beautiful five-tiered red pagoda standing tall amongst pink cherry blossoms, with Mount Fuji looking mighty majestic in the background. This imagery has represented the Land of the Rising Sun for ages. It has allured people from around the world, traveling to Japan to witness its beauty. So where exactly is this place in Japan? This is Chureito Pagoda of the Arakura Sengen Shrine, located not far from Tokyo.
During my two years of living in Japan, I had never had a chance to visit Chureito Pagoda. So it was a must accomplish revenge item on my list when I returned to travel in Japan earlier this year. The view was even more glorious than I had imagined. I’m not kidding when I say I got a little emotional when I finally saw it. Chureito Pagoda is a very worthy day trip from Tokyo. Let’s explore it together in this post.
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Best time to visit Chureito Pagoda from Tokyo
If you want to see Chureito Pagoda in its most classic attire, all dressed up in sakura, visit during spring from early to mid-April. Note though that the flowers have been blooming earlier and earlier in recent year, *cough climate change, so be sure to check Japan’s yearly sakura forecast.
The second best time to go is during autumn, when you can see beautiful koyo, aka colourful leaves. Instead of pink, you would be greeted by vivid colors of red and orange.
No matter when you go really, as long as the weather is clear, the sight is a stunner. Trust me. I actually went during mid-March, which was still a bit early for the cherry blossoms, but I was still blown away.
For avoiding the crowd, it is best to visit during weekdays as the site is a popular destination for locals on the weekends. And for the best visibility of the mountain, try to go as early morning as possible, as clouds tend to form later on in the day.
How to get to Chureito Pagoda from Tokyo
Chureito Pagoda is a part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine in Fujiyoshida city, Yamanashi prefecture. You can get here by either train or bus. I tried both modes of transport. I liked the bus better because it goes directly from Shinjuku. However, it’s a matter of preference depending on your departure point.
Getting to Chureito Pagoda By Train
The closest train station to Chureito Pagoda is Shimoyoshida. First, get to Otsuki station from wherever you are staying in Tokyo. Then, take the Fujikyu railway line to Shimoyoshida station. The ride is precisely 43 minutes. Unfortunately, the Fujikyu line is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass, so the journey will cost you 960 yen one way. From Shimoyoshida station, it’s about a 10-15 minutes walk to the shrine.
When you are ready to return to Tokyo, time your arrival time at Shimoyoshida station so you don’t have to wait a long time for the train. On weekdays, the train only runs 1-3 times per hour. See Google maps for the most updated schedule.
Check out this adorable Thomas and Friends themed Fujikyu train that I got on. Apparently, it was a limited edition decor in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Thomas Land in Fuji Q Highland nearby. If you are lucky enough to get on a themed Fujikyu train as well, I would love to see. Do send me a picture on my Instagram. 🙂
Getting to Chureito Pagoda By Bus
The other way to visit Chureito Pagoda is by highway bus. You can purchase tickets at the Shinjuku high way bus station. It cost 1,900 yen and the journey is about an hour and a half. You’d want to get off at the “Chuo Shimoyoshida” stop. The kanji for the stop is 中央道下吉田. Make sure to pay attention and not miss it.
Once you get off, it may first feel like you have landed in the middle of nowhere. Do not panic and attempt to walk down the highway (like ugh…I did). Look for this map by the bus stop. It will guide you on how to walk to Chureito Pagoda. There is a staircase nearby. Go down the stairs and follow the markers along the way. The walk is 1.4km and approximately 22 minutes on foot.
Once you arrive at the bottom of the mountain, it’s 400 steps up to the viewpoint. Oh yes, get those daily exercise in. Along the climb, you can see red tori gates, little shrines for praying and quirky signs telling visitors to beware of wild monkeys and boars. (The signs are cute but do take them seriously :P) If you can resist the temptation, don’t look back towards Fuji until you get to the top. It’s going to be a wow moment, I promise.
I was very lucky to visit on a day with blue sky and little clouds. Mount Fuji could not have been clearer. I felt like I could see the ridges along its snowy peak. With the red pagoda in the foreground, it was a dream come true for my little amateur photographer’s heart.
While I was snapping away with my camera, a Japanese grandpa offered to help me take my picture. Despite my limited Japanese, we started a chit chat and it led to a conversation that lasted almost an hour. He told me he loves Fuji and comes to see it often. He gave me several photos that he took and printed. We also talked about bullet trains in Japan, his other passion. By the end, he had gifted me a whole album worth of his photos, for free. I love moments like this during travel where I get to connect with strangers. It was very special to me. If you visit Chureito Pagoda and happen to see this cute grandpa there, do say hello to him for me!
What to do around Chureito Pagoda
For those with more time, there are tons of options for extending your trip after seeing Chureito Pagoda. This site is a part of the Fuji Five Lakes region, which has something for everyone from outdoorsy explorers, to cultural buffs, to resort lovers. Here are some ideas for things to do around Chureito Pagoda
Out of the five lakes surrounding Mount Fuji (Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamankako, Shojiko and Motosuko), Kawaguchiko is the most accessible of them all. Some of the famous attractions include the Kachi Kachi Ropeway, Kawaguchiko Music Forest, and Kawaguchiko Museum of Art. Here you can also see fantastic views of Mount Fuji from the lake shore and take a dip in a traditional Japanese hot spring.
Anyone else obsessed with Japanese kimonos like me? Kubota Itchiku Art museum showcases the work of Kubota Itchiku, a master who created extravagant kimonos with an intricate ancient silk dyeing technique. The museum is an easy visit from Lake Kawaguchiko as it is located on its north coast.
Fuji Shibazakura Festival
If you are visiting during mid-April to early June, you need to know about the Fuji Shibazakura Festival. Shibazakura is a pink moss that forms a beautiful carpet in the spring. Look out sakura! You got a competitor. The festival is held near Lake Motosuko, which has a stunning backdrop with Mount Fuji.
Fuji Q is a paradise for adrenaline junkies. This amusement park is home to some scary (read batshit crazy) roller coasters; including Takabisha, the steepest roller coaster in the world. The drop is at an angle of 121 degrees! My palm is sweating just thinking about it. But there are less intense attractions in the park as well such as a Ferris wheel, an ice skating rink, and kid-friendly playgrounds. For those seeking a little relaxation and luxury, right outside of the park is the Highland Resort Hotel and Spa. Hotel guests can enjoy early entrance to Fuji Q Theme park, and free entry to Fujiyama Museum and Fujiyama Onsen.
Where to stay near Chureito Pagoda
Looking to stay nearby? Check out these great choices:
- Mount Fuji view rooms. 10 Minutes walk to Chureito Pagoda Rating 9.3 | Estimated price $116 USD
- Hot spring bath on site. A popular choice for couples Rating 8.7 | Estimated price $137 USD
- Japanese style tatami rooms. 5 minutes walk to Shimoyoshida station Rating 9.1 | Estimated price $72 USD
- 20 minutes walk to Chureito Pagoda. A great option for budget travelers. Rating 9.2 | Estimated price $55 USD
Going to Japan soon? Plan your trip in 4 easy steps
Book A Flight: Find the cheapest flights on Skyscanner, my go-to search engine.
Find A Hotel: Score affordable accommodation on Booking.com. Receive $16 off your first booking with my link here.
Buy insurance: You never know what may happen on the road. Protect your trip & gear with World Nomad, the best travel insurance company ever. Get a quote here.
Read up on the best advice: Love a good old fashion guide book. Suggested reading: Lonely Planet: Japan Travel Guide
For more Japan travel inspiration, make sure to check out my Japan Instagram Story Highlights.
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