Last Sunday, I checked another long-time “to-do” item off my list with a ride on the “Sweets Car” of the Fuji View Express. The train runs on the Fujikyu (FujiQ) Railway, and connects Ōtsuki station with Mt. Fuji Station and other points in the Fuji Five Lakes region of Yamanashi Prefecture.
The “Sweets Plan” ticket (which includes both the base fare and the express ticket fare, as well as the special sweets and drinks) covers passage from Ōtsuki to one of Mt. Fuji, Fujikyu Highland, or Kawaguchiko Stations; given my other plans for the day, I opted to end my ride at Mt. Fuji station.
I’d seen the train before, when traveling to and from the Fuji Five Lakes region on hiking trips; I’d even read about the “Sweets Plan” tickets–but since they have to be reserved at least three days in advance, are only available on certain trains, and often sell out several weeks in advance, I’d never found an appropriate combination of a clear enough forecast and available tickets . . . until now. Early last week, I noticed the forecast for Sunday was clear (which is important, since taking the “Fuji View Express” on a cloudy day is a bit counterproductive) and decided to take the leap.
You don’t have to buy the sweets plan to ride in Car 1, though a special first-class surcharge does apply to ride there.
When I boarded, a uniformed attendant led me to my seat (more accurately, my table; thanks to social distancing, I had one entirely to myself) and presented me with the souvenir ticket shown above.
Car 1 is really cool, and looks nothing like a standard train; instead, it’s designed to look and function more like a neat little restaurant on wheels–with latticed windows at the front so you can see the driver and the view out the front of the train.
The sweets were ready and waiting at my seat when I arrived.
The reverse side of the souvenir ticket has a diagram of the seating inside the special car – I sat in seat 1F, and 1E was empty, so I had the entire table to myself.
The white box contains the “on board sweets” and the orange gift bag contains the “take home sweets” – all of which are included in the ticket price. The ticket also includes unlimited hot or cold drinks from the menu on the table–I opted for hot coffee, followed by chilled Yamanashi apple juice.
The menu on the sweets plan changes seasonally, and isn’t available online, so I was pretty excited to see what was in the box. There was a menu at my seat, which also described the various treats in the box and bag. As it happened, I totally lucked out:
The two “on board” sweets for Winter 2022 were a fresh strawberry tart (right above) and a yuzu gelee (yuzu jelly). Strawberry and yuzu are two of my absolute favorite flavors, so this was an absolute homerun where I’m concerned.
(Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, sometimes–unfortunately and inaccurately–translated into English as “citron.” While both are a type of citrus fruit that bears a passing resemblance to a lemon, yuzu and citron are actually entirely different fruits. Yuzu [Citrus ichangensis × Citrus reticulata] is native to Japan, China, and Korea; it’s sour, and has a flavor somewhere between lemon and lime, with floral notes.)
Shortly after leaving the station, the attendant came through the car with an explanation board and stopped at each table to tell us we would soon be passing under a section of the new Maglev Shinkansen (bullet train) tracks. Japan’s first maglev train line will connect Shinagawa Station (in south Tokyo) with Nagoya; later, the track will be extended to Osaka. Right now, it takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes to travel from Shinagawa to Osaka by shinkansen. The maglev will cover the distance in 67 minutes.
It was cool to see the tracks, and the rural scenery was nice–but every one of us on the train was waiting for the “main event” – the moment when we rounded a curve in the tracks and Mt. Fuji came into view.
Although the day was clear, there were just enough clouds in the sky that I was a little concerned about actually seeing Fuji. Japan’s highest peak stands alone at the southern end of the Kantō plain, and like all large mountains (particularly those that stand alone, and high above the surrounding landscape) Fujisan makes her own weather; it’s not uncommon for the summit to be wreathed in clouds even when the skies are entirely clear, so I had my fingers crossed for a decent view.
Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.
The pictures above don’t actually do it justice; the mountain looked much closer in real life than it does in photos–but at least these pictures give you a hint as to how cool it was. The views were great, despite the scattered clouds.
I have to wonder whether the driver ever gets tired of this amazing view. I don’t think I would.
The ride from Ōtsuki to Mt. Fuji station takes about 45 minutes. As the train approached the station, I checked out the “take home” sweets, and discovered yet another pair of delights: a chocolate Madeline and a yuzu financier. I decided to save them for later in the week, when they’d make a great treat and remind me of this excellent trip.
I disembarked at Mt. Fuji Station and headed for the bus stop, where I planned to start the second phase of the afternoon’s adventure. As it turned out, things didn’t go precisely as planned (or even close to it)–but that’s a story for another day.