Some of you might find it a little surprising that Mount Fuji ranks third on most lists of Japan's top tourist destinations, trailing only Tokyo and Kyoto. After all, how do you really balance a single mountain to two of the world's most amazing cities?
Well, try spending some time at Hoshinoya Fuji before dismissing that comparison: a luxury resort that'll both satisfy your wanderlust and make you feel like you have the World Heritage-designated peak all for yourself, it draws discerning travellers with the promise of a hassle-free 'glamping' experience.
One of the several upscale facilities lorded over by Hoshino Resort, a leading Japanese operator of resorts and hotels, Hoshinoya Fuji sits on the slope of a hill overlooking Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi prefecture.
Opened in October 2015, it's famed for introducing Japan to glamping (glamorous camping). Removing the need to clean up, get a fire going, worry about freezing your butt off and so on, Hoshinoya Fuji frees you to pamper yourself in the midst of nature while enjoying all the comforts of camping.
At the reception
To get there, jump on a bus to Kawaguchiko Station – approximately a two-hour ride from Shinjuku’s Busta bus terminal – and catch a cab to Hoshinoya’s reception. Pro tip: be ready to tell the taxi driver your name, as he or she needs to pass it on to the hotel in advance.
When you check in at the minimalist reception, you'll need to choose one of the backpacks on the wall, all filled with outdoor essentials, before heading out into the woods.
The backpack contains a bottle, headlight, binoculars, portable cushion, down blanket and an area map
What makes Hoshinoya’s resorts stand out is that they're all designed to help you get as far away from daily life as possible. The hotels aren't accessible by public transportation or even by your own car. Hotel vehicles pick up guests at the reception and take them to their rooms – none of which are ever equipped with TVs. At Hoshinoya Fuji, you'll be driven up the hill to your room in an SUV.
The resort's rooms, known as cabins, stand on the hill inside a national park. All cabins face south, giving you perfect views of the mountain beyond the lake from the huge floor-to-ceiling window. The minimal, mostly white interior is intended to maximise the beauty of Japan’s most sacred peak.
Cabins on the hillside
Once you've left your bags at the cabin, it's time for a mountain stroll. In addition to the stuff in your backpack, you'll have access to rain boots and amazingly warm coats, preventing any weather-related misfortunes and ensuring that your time outside will always be 'glamorous'.
From the cabins, you can hike through a red pine forest to the front lobby and main restaurant, behind which lies the Cloud Terrace. This camper's oasis is where to sip herbal tea and enjoy snacks and books by the campfire.
You can also check out the many attractions sprinkled around the woods or just stroll around in the beautiful surrounds, either on your own or guided by the resident Glamping Masters. Hoshinoya also offers a range of additional activities, such as horseback riding around the foot of the mountain or an early-morning canoeing session on Lake Kawaguchi. Make sure to try one of these in order to make the most of your stay.
A total failure – we never could chop the firewood properly...
The Cloud Terrace
Being free to have it your way is one of the best parts of any camping experience. So even at dinner time, guests at Hoshinoya Fuji are offered three entirely different dining options.
Those who enjoy the communal buzz of a campsite can head to the dining hall, which has a barbecue station in the middle, while guests looking for something more intimate can try their hand at Dutch oven cooking with their own private chef on the Cloud Terrace.
For complete privacy, you can even choose an outdoor dining experience in the comfort of your cabin. Due to the poor weather on our visit (no, not because we're spoiled urbanites), we chose to eat at the main dining hall, and enjoyed abundant mountain delicacies combined with domestic wines.
Six kinds of wine-compatible appetisers
Grilled deer with mashed potatoes, seasoned with gravy sauce and cassis mustard
The Mt Fuji dessert
When night falls, you can choose to catch a music performance or an outdoor screening of a classic film, which can be combined with a sip of Japanese whisky before bedtime.
And there's plenty to look forward to the next morning, too. Wake up early for the above-mentioned canoeing trip before heading back to your cabin for some boxed breakfast on the terrace. Those posh enough to stay for multiple nights can join a pizza workshop as well.
A healthy boxed breakfast on the cabin's terrace, the seats of which turn into a kotatsu during chilly season
No matter when you visit, there'll be natural beauty to look forward to – something that makes this glamping heaven attractive year-round. It's Mt Fuji like you've never experienced her before: wild and majestic, but convenient, relaxing and truly luxurious.