We're sitting in the back of a local bus heading towards Lake Motosu with snow-capped Mount Fuji occasionally making an appearance outside our windows. The driver, a diminutive Japanese man in his forties, fixes his attention on the road despite our audible "Oohs," and "Ahhs," and non-stop camera clicks. It's been some 30 minutes since we've left Kawaguchiko Station, a well-known gateway for the exploration of Mount Fuji and its five surrounding lakes. Unlike most tourists, our destination today is the lesser-known Lake Shoji, the smallest of the five but arguably the most attractive.
Like most of the world's natural wonders, Mount Fuji requires first-hand experience to truly grasp its majestic beauty, and while most guidebooks will tell you the obvious and to stick around the popular areas of Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Yamanaka, a visit to Mount Fuji can only be enhanced by a trip to Lake Shoji.
Located to the northwest of Mt Fuji, between lakes Sai and Motosu, Lake Shoji lies within the sprawling Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park which, as the name suggests, covers several tourist attractions in and around Fuji-Goko (the Fuji Five Lake region), Hakone, the Izu Peninsula and the Izu Islands. The bus driver catches our eyes in the rear-view mirror, calling out "Shoji-ko!" We get off and find ourselves in the embrace of multi-hued hillside forest, springtime cherry blossoms and a dainty lake glistening in the late morning sun, showing off a reflection of the Kodaki Fuji (Mt Fuji holding a child _ so named because Mt Fuji looks like it is holding Mt Omuro in its arm).
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