As Japan’s gateway to Mount Fuji, the Fuji Five Lakes region is an area of rugged hills, primaeval forest and tranquil lakes. To keep you fuelled as you explore, here are nine eateries where you can enjoy delicious local specialities under the watchful eye of the country’s most famous peak.
Fuji Five Lakes sits at the northern base of Mount Fuji and is a popular place to visit for those hoping to get up close and personal with Japan’s tallest mountain. The majority of attractions in the region are centred around Lake Kawaguchi – which is the easiest to access and most developed of the five lakes the area is named after – as are most of the cafés and restaurants. Each of the following places to eat around Fuji Five Lakes specialises in a particular dish or type of cuisine.
Head to Houtou Fudou for the region’s most famous dish
Fuji Five Lakes is best known for one dish in particular: hōtō noodles. These chunky wheat noodles are thicker than udon, and are prepared in a manner similar to dumplings. Chewy and soul-warming, they are usually served in a hearty, miso-based broth loaded with seasonal vegetables. One of the best places to try them is at Houtou Fudou, thanks to the quality of its ingredients, reasonable prices and generous portions. Its flagship restaurant on the north side of Lake Kawaguchi, close to the Kawaguchiko Museum of Art and Music Forest Museum, also offers striking views of Mount Fuji.
Taste locally brewed beer at Sylvans Garden Restaurant
Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
With a microbrewery on-site, Sylvans is a great spot for lovers of craft beer. Fujizakura Heights Beer uses water that flows down from Mount Fuji in its brews, which include everything from a light and hoppy lager to a rich and roasted black beer. They pair perfectly with the restaurant’s western-inspired menu, which features pub classics such as curry, pizza and steak. Inside, a large dining hall and bright conservatory provide plenty of seating. Alternatively, take a seat outside on the terrace if the weather is good, or wander around the expansive landscaped garden. A free shuttle bus runs between Sylvans and Kawaguchiko Station.
Housed inside a 150-year-old building a 15-minute walk from Kawaguchiko Station, Sanrokuen is a traditional barbecue restaurant where diners cook their food over a small charcoal grill in the centre of the table. With its thatched roof, dark wooden interior and antique furnishings, the building and its ambience alone are worth coming for; fortunately, the food lives up to the surroundings. There’s a choice of five set meals, consisting of different meats, fish, tofu and vegetables served on skewers for you to grill as you like, plus a serving of hōtō noodles. You can order extra if you’re particularly hungry, but with the portion sizes on offer, that’s unlikely.
This tiny teahouse sits right on top of Mount Tenjo, on the eastern shore of Lake Kawaguchi. To reach it, you can either take the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway cable car or make the 40-minute hike on foot. The café takes its theme from an old folk story about a mischievous tanuki (racoon dog) and the usagi (rabbit) who gets revenge on him. It sells unique tanuki and usagi dango dumplings (sticky rice cakes on a stick), coated in a sweet soy sauce and kinako (roasted soybean flour). Each branded with an image of Mount Fuji, they make for the perfect post-hike snack to enjoy while admiring the views.
If you’re craving something deep-fried and delicious, drop by Idaten for some freshly prepared tempura. Conveniently located just a short walk from Kawaguchiko Station, Idaten uses local, seasonal ingredients to make its hot and crispy tempura sets. There are various options available, including chicken, fish, prawn, egg, eel and vegetables, with rice and miso soup also on offer as accompaniments. Vegan diners can request egg-free batter and enjoy one of the vegetable-only sets. For something extra special, opt for one of the larger (and pricier) plates that come assembled in the shape of Mount Fuji.
Those coming to Fuji Five Lakes to hike – whether up Mount Fuji or one of the area’s many other peaks – should consider a visit to La Luce for some pre-trek carb-loading or post-hike indulgence. An Italian restaurant located in the region’s southern area, it offers a range of freshly baked pizzas and pasta dishes guaranteed to leave you satisfied. One of its signature dishes is a crab pasta with tomato sauce, but vegetarians have plenty of choices too, including a rich eggplant and basil pasta. There are also plenty of western-style desserts to enjoy, from tiramisu to crème brûlée.
Enjoy exquisite sushi at Shaw’s Sushi Bar and Dining
Opened in March 2019, Shaw’s Sushi Bar and Dining offers gorgeously presented sushi in a calm and stylish environment, just moments from Kawaguchiko Station. The menu is a little on the pricey side, but not out of keeping with what you’d expect from an authentic sushi place in a touristy area. Its sushi sets include nigiri (raw fish over rice), assorted types of sushi rolls, tempura, miso soup and a traditional bite-size dessert. A completely plant-based sushi set, which is well thought out and doesn’t feel like a compromise, is also available for vegetarian and vegan diners. Whichever meal you go for, the food is so elegant that it’s just begging to be instagrammed.
Located on the southern shore of Lake Kawaguchi, right next to the grassy Yagizaki Park, with its great views of Mount Fuji, you’ll find this bright and airy coffee shop. Its coffee beans are roasted in San Francisco, California – hence the name – and the café’s food menu also has an American vibe. Cisco Coffee offers a range of light meals for lunch, including grilled sandwiches oozing with cheese, garlic potato wedges, pastries, cookies and generous slices of cake, all at reasonable prices. Both indoor and outdoor seats are available, and if you enjoy the coffee, you can buy some to take home with you.
While Ide Sake Brewery may not be a restaurant, it does offer a local speciality, so it’s still deserving of a place on this list. A small, family-run establishment, Ide has been brewing sake since 1840. Just like Sylvans, it uses Mount Fuji’s spring waters to create its products, which is said to give its sake extra purity and a premium-quality taste. It offers tours and tastings for just ¥800 (£5.90) to visitors interested in learning more about the brewing process, which also includes a small souvenir glass adorned with an image of Mount Fuji to take home. If you don’t fancy the tour, pop in for just a tasting or to buy a bottle or two.