Mt. Fuji is often depicted in advertisements and social media posts about Japan. As the country’s tallest peak at 3776 metres, it can be seen from many locations on the island of Honshu and spotted from the air when flying into Tokyo’s Haneda Airport from the west.
As Mt. Fuji is situated only 100km from the capital of Tokyo, it can be seen on particularly clear days from the city’s observation decks (such as Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, or Bunkyo Civic Center), though this is a somewhat rare occurrence providing only a distant view. Visibility is much better if you travel out of the city to get a closer look at the mountain.
When I visited Japan last year, I travelled to the Fuji Five Lakes district in the hopes of seeing this majestic cultural icon. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful–it wasn’t visible through the clouds on my summer trip. But I did learn a lot about this mountain and the places from which it can be seen.
If you’re planning to visit Japan on an upcoming photography trip, here’s some tips on where you can get the best views of Mt. Fuji!
Mt. Fuji Photography Tips:
- Despite its massive size, Mt. Fuji is rather elusive. As I discovered, the mountain is frequently covered in cloud and I heard many reports of other travellers who visited Japan with the intention of seeing Mt. Fuji but left disappointed. It’s said that Mt. Fuji is only visible around a quarter of the time, so patience is essential. Spend as many days as you can in the area surrounding the mountain, and expect to deal with short windows of time in which the peak reveals itself.
- Visiting during the winter season will increase your chances of seeing Mt. Fuji. This is generally a better time for visibility as there is less humidity in the air, making the mountain appear clearer, and November to May is usually the time when you will see snow covering its peak. The shoulder seasons also offer good viewing opportunities as you can include the changing colours of spring wildflowers or autumn maple leaves in your shots.
Where to get the best views of Mt. Fuji:
- Lake Kawaguchi
- Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway
- Chureito Pagoda
- Oshino Hakkai
- Shizuoka City
- Shibazakura Festival
- Lake Motosu
- Lake Yamanaka
Lake Kawaguchi is one of the most easily accessible destinations to view Mt. Fuji as it’s the most visited part of the Fuji Five Lakes district. A 2 hour train or bus ride will take you from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko Station, which is situated right next to the lake.
The northern shore of Kawaguchi offers excellent views of Mt. Fuji, and on still days you may even be treated to a reflection of the mountain in the water. Take a polarising filter so that you can reduce glare during the day, or do your photography after sunset in blue hour so that you can capture the changing colours of the sky in the west.
Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway
On the eastern shore of Lake Kawaguchi, you’ll find the Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway. This cable car may be touristy, but it does offer a nice elevated view of Mt. Fuji from the observation platform.
The park behind the top ropeway station has a short walking path which travels through the forest to a Shinto shrine. This is a great spot where you can get away from the crowds and use the buildings and native trees to create depth in your Mt. Fuji photos.
Perhaps the most well-known Mt Fuji photography spot, Chureito Pagoda sits on a hill near Lake Kawaguchi. The 5-story pagoda is decorated in the traditional bright facade and creates a perfect Japanese cultural scene when looking towards Mt. Fuji.
This location is also famous for having trees covered in cherry blossoms as they bloom in spring, or as a destination to see the Japanese maple leaves as they turn in autumn. It’s the perfect place to capture colours in photography.
Oshino Hakkai is a picturesque historic village accessible by bus from Kawaguchiko Station. The village is known for having a collection of eight ponds that are filled with snow melt fed directly from Mt Fuji’s slopes, resulting in pools of crystal clear spring water.
The iconic shot of Oshino Hakkai is taken from the Hannokibayashi Museum, where the views show Mt. Fuji towering behind the thatched roofs of the village. Head to this spot right after the museum opens at 9AM or before it closes at 5PM to avoid the most crowded part of the day.
Hakone is a little further from the mountain than some of the other locations in this list, but it remains one of the most popular Mt. Fuji Instagram spots due to its proximity to Tokyo. A steady stream of day trippers travel from the city to see Mt. Fuji and explore the town.
The most common photo spot is at the southeast edge of Lake Ashinoko and features Mt. Fuji positioned behind the lake with the Torii Gate of the Hakone Shrine sitting beside the lake. The diagonal lines of the shore, hills, and mountain create a pleasant visual flow in photos.
Shizuoka might not be the most attractive city, but it is a good place to capture Mt. Fuji contrasted with urban Japan. Commuter trains, convenience stores, and street scenes are just a few of the things that could be photographed here with Mt. Fuji standing proud in the background.
Some of the popular spots for viewing Mt. Fuji are Miho Beach where you can capture the distant mountain behind a pebbled shoreline, and Nihondaira for views over Shizuoka City and Suruga Bay as they stretch out towards Mt. Fuji.
You’ll have to travel between mid April and early June to sneak this photo spot into your schedule, but it’s definitely worth planning your trip around it–the Shibazakura “Pink Moss” festival is surely one of the most delightful things you’ll see. Peaking in the first 3 weeks of May, the ground at this Mt. Fuji photo spot is covered by vibrant pink phlox moss.
Shibazakura is held on the festival site near Lake Motosu and it can get very busy with tourists and photographers, especially during the Golden Week holiday period. Head over in the early mornings to beat the crowds, or in the late afternoons for the best lighting conditions.
The vista of Mt. Fuji from Lake Motosu is so greatly admired that it features on the back of the Japanese 1000 yen bill. This spot is not so easy via public transport, but you can drive to the viewpoint situated at the northwest corner of the lake.
The area surrounding Lake Motosu is generally underdeveloped, so it’s a great area to capture Mt. Fuji with a surrounding landscape of natural scenery.
Lake Yamanaka is one of the best places to see the amazing ‘Diamond Fuji’. Between October and February each year, people travel to the lake’s shore to a position where the sun will set directly behind the cone of Mt. Fuji.
This phenomenon attracts plenty of photographers who are interested in capturing the light beams and glow of the sun behind the mountain. Shooting into the sun can be tricky, so read up on the relevant camera settings and photography tips before heading out to capture Diamond Fuji.