Otsuki selected the best ones and compiled a list of 12 peaks—some a comfortable hike up and others surpassing 2,000 meters—boasting beautiful views of Japan’s arguably most eminent symbol.
Of course, there’s more to do than explore trails. Otsuki offers glimpses into ancient Japan like ukiyo-e, delicious local food and spirits, hands-on experiences, and more. Getting to Otsuki Station is quick and easy from Tokyo, but renting a car or bicycle once you arrive will go a long way toward making your visit more enjoyable.
One exception is Mt. Iwadono and Maruyama Park, which you can get to in about 20 minutes on foot from the station. The park has gained fame as a great spot for sakura in the spring, but if you’re lucky and the skies are clear, make the climb up Mt. Iwadono (a castle with the same name once stood atop it) and you’ll be rewarded with an incredible shot of Mt. Fuji. In a sense, you can enjoy two signature facets of Japan in one special spot—Mt. Fuji and sakura cherry blossoms.
Treating Otsuki Station as the center of town, you can split the city into western and eastern sides—like the first and third quarters of the “big moon”—to roam the area. Let’s first head east.
Kominka Murataya has become a centerpiece of its own as a venue for cosplay and Japanese cultural experiences, such as trying on kimonos and the tea ceremony. There is also room for overnight stays if you want to take your time and summit several mountains in between cosplaying a samurai.
Getting to and from Kominka Murataya will take you past Saruhashi Bridge, a symbolic and longstanding—over 1,000 years according to legend—part of Otsuki immortalized in ukiyo-e paintings by Hiroshige and Hokusai. It is one of Japan’s Three Unusual Bridges and is still in use today, with children using it to go to and from school. Swing by the nearby shops to grab some locally made snacks or gifts to take home.
With a reservation, you can even take a short trip down the Katsura River below and see the bridge from the angle depicted in Hiroshige’s woodblock print.*
*The boat tour down the Katsura River has been temporarily suspended to stem the spread of COVID-19 and will resume operations when able.
If you are a connoisseur of what many profess goes best with Japanese food, i.e., sake, heading west will take you to the Sasaichi Sake Brewery. Next to the factory itself is the Shuyukan (“sake fun hall”), its shelves lined with the entirety of their catalog of wines and sake. Be careful though, because you are likely to lose track of time just perusing and wondering what to try* or buy. The brewery also recently opened its fully renovated SASAICHI KRAND CAFE adjacent to the Shuyukan, so stopping here for lunch is also a good option for a day plan. The dishes use the same clean, natural water as their award-winning sake.
*Do not drive if you wish to try any alcohol at the Shuyukan. Purchase what strikes your fancy and enjoy it once you return to your accommodations.
As you head back toward Otsuki Station, make a left onto Route 510 and drive up through the picturesque rural neighborhoods. A right-hand turn when you see the small blue sign will take you to the Shiraishi Glass Studio. Here, you can try your hand at glassblowing, with Shiraishi-san and his assistant guiding you through the steps with deft hands. Glassblowing tests your hand-eye (and -lung) coordination, but the next day, you’ll have your own mini version of Mt. Fuji to take home with you!