Not quite ready to climb Mt. Fuji yet but would still like to see it up close? The best area we’ve found to view it is Kawaguchiko (Kawaguchi Lake). Kawaguchiko is also the most popular among the Fuji Five Lakes. This is because it has a more developed infrastructure and buses which run year-round.
A few options exist to get you to this great town: By bus, train, and car. But which one is right for you?
We will expand on each method and give you the pros and cons to know which suits you best.
Fare: 1,750 – 2,100 yen per person
Travel Time: 2 hrs
- Cheapest option.
- Usually faster than the train, unless there is traffic.
- Allows for some small and large luggage.
- Easy to book.
- Offered as part of many tour packages.
- Slow if caught in traffic.
- Operates seasonally.
Highway buses are not only the cheapest but also the most straightforward option by far. They’re reliable.
And unlike regular trains, you are guaranteed a seat for the entire trip.
There are several bus companies which run to Kawaguchiko from Tokyo, and they all offer the same price.
The average fare from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko is around 1,750 – 2,100 yen per person one-way and takes about 2 hours.
Major Bus Terminals in Tokyo with Service to Kawaguchiko
Depending on which area you are staying in Tokyo, you can take the direct bus to Kawaguchiko Station from:
- Tokyo Station – Yaesu South Exit
- Shinjuku Station – Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal
- Shibuya Station – Shibuya Expressway Bus Terminal
I recommend taking the bus from Shinjuku Station or Tokyo Station as their Expressway Bus Terminals are the easiest to find.
Bus from Tokyo Station to Kawaguchiko Station
From Tokyo Station, follow the Yaesu South Exit signs. At the exit, turn right to go to the Bus Expressway Terminal. There is always bus stop staff around. So, if you are confused, don’t be afraid to ask where to depart for Kawaguchiko.
Bus from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station
From Shinjuku Station, follow the signs towards the South Exit or New South Exit. Then follow signs towards Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal. From there, you can purchase your bus tickets at the ticket machines, which costs around 1,750 yen per adult.
Bus from Shibuya Station to Kawaguchiko Station
From Shibuya Station, look for signs towards Tamagawa Exit, which is near the KEIO Line ticket gates. From Tamagawa Exit look for the escalator going up to Shibuya Mark City’s 3rd floor. Then take another escalator up to reach the 4th floor. Follow the signs to Avenue Exit where you can see signs towards the 5th floor, and that’s where you’ll find the bus terminal.A ‘WEE’ NOTE It’s worth mentioning that although it is a 2-hour ride to Kawaguchiko, buses will not stop anywhere for pee breaks or stretching. It is an uninterrupted ride. But this is because all buses that leave from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko are all equipped with a toilet.
How to Book Bus Tickets in Advance
Peak season begins during the cherry blossom season and non-working week-long holidays, such as Golden Week.
Depending on the bus company, bus prices may also shoot up to 3,600 yen from the regular price of 1,750 yen.
So be sure to make advance bookings if you plan to travel on these days.
Option 1: Kosoku Bus. I recommend Kosokubus.com to book your bus tickets as they are the cheapest highway bus company. The significant advantage here is that you can book your tickets up to 3 months in advance, to better prepare your Japan travel itinerary. Kosoku Bus bound for Kawaguchiko only departs from Shibuya Station.
Option 2: Highway-Buses.jp. This website is a KEIO Bus company website. Their buses to Kawaguchiko depart from both Shinjuku and Shibuya Expressway Bus Terminals. You can also reserve your tickets online through highway-buses.jp. Fortunately, their website is in English for advance reservations.
Option 3: Japanbusesonline.com. This website operates with Fujikyuko and Fuji Express Bus Companies. Their buses depart from Tokyo Station Yaesu South Exit to Kawaguchiko.AUTHOR’S NOTE Going to the bus terminal in Shibuya Station is very confusing. If the bus is departing from Shibuya Station, then I recommend you try going to the Bus Terminal on the 5th Floor of Mark City the day before your departure. That way you are already familiar with how to get to the Bus Terminal for the day of your departure. SAVE MONEY AND TIME TIPFor those of you looking for a hassle-free day-trip, the best option is to book a tour package which includes a bus transportation to and from Kawaguchiko.
- (Slightly) a cheaper option for JR Pass holders.
- Less luggage space.
- No guaranteed seat.
- Crowded during certain times of day and holidays.
- Need to switch trains.
Travel by train is a bit more complicated due to having to change train lines a few times.
This is also a slightly more expensive option with an average price of 4,510 yen per person one-way for people who do not possess a JR Pass.
Traveling by a regular train is also more difficult if you have a lot of luggage since the train can be quite crowded.
But what is the easiest way to reach Kawaguchiko by train?
How to Take the Train from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station (The Easiest Way)
From Shinjuku Station, take the JR Chuo Line-Limited Express for Kofu and exit at Otsuki Station.
From Otsuki Station, change line to the Fujikyuko Line bound for Kawaguchiko Station.
Note that the train from Otsuki Station to Kawaguchiko Station is not covered by JR Pass. So, you will need to buy a ticket from Otsuki Station to Kawaguchiko Station about 1,140 yen.
The total train ride is about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Car Rental Price: Starts from 4,000 yen per day
Travel Time: 1 hr 20 min (depending on the traffic)
- Usually with the most luggage space.
- More opportunities to drive around Kawaguchiko and other Fuji Five Lakes on your own.
- Save more money and time if traveling as a family or as a group.
- Convenient and comfortable.
- May take time to get used to roads.
For those of you visiting with international drivers’ licenses, or expats who also own vehicles, renting a car could be the right option for you, too.
Why Self-Drive Around Kawaguchiko
The cities and towns around Mt. Fuji are rural (well, Japanese rural), so most people get around these places by car.
Buses, while available and a viable option, run on a schedule with 30-45 minutes to even an hour (if peak season) between them.
So renting a car will not only give you the convenience to explore as many sightseeing destinations in Kawaguchiko as possible, but it will also save you a lot of time.
Driving also allows you to visit off-the-beaten-path places surrounding Kawaguchiko.
Parking Lots of Attractions are (usually) Free
Free parking is a rarity in urban Japan. So, this is a nice added bonus here.
How to Book Car Rental for Kawaguchiko
Option 1: Web-Rentacar.com. Web-Rentacar is part of WBF Holdings, one of the largest travel agencies in Japan. Since they work directly with local car rental companies, they offer affordable rental options; around 4,000 – 5,000 yen a day. We’ve used their service before, and the process went smoothly.
Option 2: ToCoo! Car Rental. ToCoo! is another excellent car rental website in Japan. Their website interface is straightforward to navigate too. However, when comparing prices, they appear to be more expensive than Web-Rentacar.com, with prices starting at 5,500 yen per day.
Option 3: Kayak or Expedia Car Rental: These websites are known for booking hotel and car rentals quickly. However, I recommend these as your last option due to the price difference. The prices are actually pretty similar to ToCoo! Car Rental. Starting at 60 USD a day.
Few Points to Consider When Renting a Car
1. Consider renting an ETC for Toll Discounts
Tolls are something to consider while traveling on the highways, and Japan has some pretty ridiculous fees for their roads.
Expect to pay between 3,500 – 4,500 yen in tolls one way. That said, if you’re going with a large group, then these costs can be very manageable.
Fortunately, most car rentals in Japan come equipped with ETC (Electronic Toll Collector) cards for use on the highways, which allows you to skip the line at highway toll booths and you’ll get a discounted toll.
The ETC will record which booths you use and will enable you to pay upon returning the car. (For reference, ETC cards are like an E-ZPass in the US).
2. Do car rentals in Japan have English GPS?
As for how to actually drive from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko, most rental cars should come with a reliable GPS programmable with your language of choice. But, if all else fails, Google Maps is very reliable in Japan.
The GPS will also give you options on which routes have the cheapest tolls. But less expensive fees may also mean substantially longer travel times. You’ll just need to decide for yourself if saving $10 in tolls worth adding 30-60 minutes to your travel time.
Describing the route without knowledge of Kanji (or your actual starting point) would take up most of the page. So, if for some reason you’re traveling without any GPS, I suggest thoroughly planning your trip beforehand, as Japanese roads don’t have street names as they do in most western countries. So you’ll likely be navigating off of a combination of landmarks and signs which are often written in Kanji and Romanji.
3. Do I have to return the car with a full tank?
As with any rental company, you must return the car with a full tank. Gas in Japan is quite expensive though. So, that is something else to consider. If you want to save, consider renting a car that’s fuel efficient.
Of all the options mentioned, traveling by car is your best bet if you’re looking to visit the Kawaguchiko area.
Final Verdict and Recommendations
As I said at this start of this article, the method of travel is really based entirely around what you’re looking to do in the area.
If you’re on the cheap and don’t have a JR Pass or not eligible for it, the best and fastest option is by bus or by joining the fully-guided Mt. Fuji Tour.
However, if you the money to splurge and want to make the most out of Mt. Fuji sightseeing, then car rental is the best option. Along with that, top with an overnight stay.
As for the train option, I really only recommend this if you’re trying to make the most out of your JR Pass, or if it’s a part of a package tour. That said, remember that the JR Pass doesn’t cover the Fujikyuko line.
If you’re looking for more information for what to actually do when you reach the Fuji area, take a look at some of our other articles, links down below! Enjoy your trip!
 The Fuji Five Lakes Region (Fujigoko). (2018, December 14). Retrieved from https://www.yamanashi-kankou.jp/english/english003.html