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a VirtualTourist member


Shiraito Falls bus route. possible round trip around Mt. fuji?


I am travelling to japan late august (yes i'm a little afraid for the hot weather, but i couldn't plan another date because of my job).

First of all, my trip will be mostly based on photography. Culture/Architecture both old and modern/landscapes/nature. I'm taking with me a 5dII and 50d with 50 1.8 and 24 ts-e 3.5 and 70-200 F4 with compact tripod.

First i will be visiting Kyoto for 4 days, photographing culture/temples/geishas in gion etc. I planned to visit Osaka for one (one of those 4) day because someone recommended me.

Then after 4 days, i have one day before my 5 day stay in Tokyo, which will be completely dedicated to modern architecture (nightscapes/long exposures) and markets (fish). Ofcourse there's also time reserved for some shopping there.

Anyway, to get back to that one day. I love to photograph some landscapes as well. And the ***aito falls attracted me as Lake Yamanaka to photograph Mt. Fuji. Now to visit the Shiraito falls there's only documentation on a bus travelling from Karuizawa St. which takes 30 minutes. That's not so long but when i check google maps, it's quite a distance. I was wondering if i could stay at a hotel close to the lake mentioned (Lake Yamanaka) and travel from there by bus to the Shiraito Falls. (i know there is a road going from the lake to the falls, the 138 and 139 called the fuji panorama line) I don't know if there's a direct connection between those POI, but i sure hope so. I would really like to spend that one day photographing both the waterfalls and Mt. Fuji from a lake with a great view, together with an easy accessible hotel nearby. I don't want to hike for hours! After that i hope my batteries are fully charged to visit Tokyo (which isn't that far from Mt. fuji anymore).

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. I would really love to hear your suggestions.

Thanks in advance,


p.s. I have absolutely no skills in japanese language.

20 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Kyoto

The Karuizawa Prince Hotel is located by the nearest station (Karuizawa) to Shiraito Falls:

This one is also in the town:

I'm not sure about getting a direct bus from the lake to the falls, though.

If you want to stay by the lake, I found these hotels:

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Hello [VT member a40e1],

First of all thank you [VT member a40e1] your question. Today i found out that there are two Shiraito falls. One southwest to Mt. Fuji and one close to Karuizawa station.
The one close to Karuizawa station is the one i meant, and had myself confused with the ones southwest of Mt. Fuji which are much closer to the lake.

To be honest, i would also like to combine this day with the Kamakura buddha statue. I was hoping for an easy and quick connection between those places. Train and bus connection preferred.

Thanks [VT member a40e1] the hotel information.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Hello Fugu,

Yes i wans't planning to walk around like a papparazzi closing in on geishas/meiko's but asking gently. Although some non-posed authentic spontaneuous shots would be welcome as well.

As for your suggestion to skip Osaka, i understand your comment that it has similarities with Tokyo. But the suggestion you had has catles/temples (yes they are old/authentic and original) which i will be seeing alot in Kyoto. I planned my trip in Kyoto for only 4 days because i don't want to spend visiting castles and temples all the time. And to me, no offence, after a while.. they are becoming just another temple/castle. I do like the history class, but not too much.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member

I might have contradicted myself, yes that's what you get when you do it all in 10 days. There's a lot i want to photograph. I have made a map on google maps with all POI i want to visit. Most of the things i want to see are in kyoto and tokyo. The only thing left out was nature scenes, of mt. fuji and waterfalls, of which the shiraito falls are the most beautiful. That's why i thought i could spend that one day & night between my stay in kyoto and tokyo already on the way to tokyo and spend it near mt. fuji to photograph some great panorama's of that iconic mountain. Combined with that, i would have loved to see those waterfalls as well.

The reason i wanted to go to osaka for one day is the following advice i had which sounded pretty interesting to me:

Osaka is a lot different than Tokyo. It's rougher and not ashamed of it's gaudiness. The former Osaka region governor and current mayor Hashimoto (an interesting and controversial politician, some refer to his politics as "Hashism") said "There is no other city as vulgar and obscene as Osaka. We should celebrate the image and welcome the development of casinos and red-light districts to attract people."

With that quote in mind, Osaka is also the comedy capital of Japan (most young comedians come here to work on their routines) so you know the people will be a bit different.

It all comes together in the center at the Dotombori river. You may have seen this area used as the back drop of the Michael Douglas movie "Black Rain". Here are google images to give you an idea of the wonderful mess:

Even more interesting is Shin Sekai, which means "new world". It was new world 100 years ago, but is now very old world and very unique. A crumbling but proud place that refuses to modernize.
My images:
and from Shin Sekai through to Tennoji:

If it's all too much, Osaka castle is a great place. Apart from the actual castle itself, the park draws all sorts of people and is one of my favorite places to go people watching.shooting:

Anyway, hope this gives you some ideas.
" end quote

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Kyoto

Hm... Travel from Kamakura to Shiraito Falls is not super convenient. The fastest way is to go back to Tokyo from Kamakura and then switch to the Shinkansen Asama to reach Karuizawa Station. It takes under 3 hours. If you don't spend much time in Kamakura (aka: only go to Kotokuin Temple to see the Buddha) it seems possible but it will be a busy day and you'll really need to be aware of the time to catch the bus to the falls. You can hike there, but it doesn't seem a good idea to try that if you are going to try and do Kamakura.

For photography in Osaka, I'd say Namba is the best area, especially if your purpose is to capture some interesting city life. Dotombori, Amerika-mura, etc. are all there and have a different feel from Tokyo. Umeda is okay, but I think if you want atmosphere, Namba is best. Shinsekai could also be good, although that area has a LARGE homeless population. They may disappear in the daytime but at night it's crowded with homeles...

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Kyoto

If you cannot visit Karuizawa but want to see a waterfall, Minoo just north of Osaka has a waterfall. I must admit though, that although I've not been to Shiraito Falls, I have a strong feeling that Shiraito Falls would be both more impressive and more interesting for photography and experiencing nature than Minoo.

I only mention Minoo because it is convenient. It's NICE but the path leading to it is a very easy paved walk for the lazy citizens of Osaka to "experience nature". lol The walk is scenic but it doesn't completely feel like you're experiencing nature. Certainly not in the same way that Shiraito appears to be. I don't want to make Minoo sound bad, though. Here are some pictures to get a better idea of what Mino Falls is like:
[original VT link]

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Thanks for your answer.

So Kamakura is not an option to combine with the falls. I might do that on my 5 day stay in Tokyo then. But that leaves the falls and mt fuji @ Lake Yamanaka combined to do in one day. The falls are not necessarily to be visited early or late, so my thoughts are to go to the falls after we checked in our hotel. I really want to book a hotel close to mt. fuji and have spotted a lovely hotel @ Lake Ashinoko close to the Hakone Shrine, not sure if the view from that lake is as beautiful as from Lake Yamanaka. then when we return, photograph Mt Fuji from the lake at Sunset, and before we check out our hotel shoot the same scene with sunset (or just after).

Thanks again, especially on your info on Osaka!


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tokyo

I probably understand your contradictions a bit more. :) You want to take it all in but not to the point of getting sick of it.

As you know, Kyoto is a beautiful city with lots of old temples and shrines. You'll love taking photos there so I won't tell you what to and what not to see. :)

Osaka is a completely different beast to Tokyo. It is a wonderful city where you have to EAT. Dotonbori is the heart of Osaka where all the craziness happens. Take photos in the day but go back at night for the real action. If you head north of the river you will be in the red light district. A little dangerous due to the taxis and cars running up and down the streets but it provides a good view. Shinsekai is also cool, but I was let down myself. It does have that old school charm but it was pretty quick to get in, take a few photos, and get out.

In Tokyo, there are a lot of great places for modern architecture. My favourite spots would have to be Zojoji near Tokyo Tower. You can get a temple with Tokyo Tower. You can also go to Kameido but it is a bit farther and get photos of a temple with Tokyo Sky Tree. Not really recommended though. Asakusa on the Sumida River is famous for photos of Tokyo Sky Tree. If you go to the fish market, make sure you walk south to the Sumida River. Walk north along the river and you'll find some great shots of the bridges in the city. Nihonbashi is the most important bridge in Tokyo. Be sure to visit that spot too. For the night views, my favourite shot of Shibuya is from Tsutaya at Shibuya Crossing. When you get out of the JR Station, go to the Hachiko exit and you are at Shibuya Crossing. Head across the street to Starbucks and up to the second floor. Take a few photos from the Starbucks. In Shinjuku, go to the west exit and towards the L-Tower. Keep going to the north side of the L-tower and there will be a pedestrian overpass. If you go there at night, you will get a very great shot of Kabukicho and Shinjuku lights at night. It is a similar shot to one when Bill Murray is entering Tokyo in "Lost in Translation".

To answer the main question, I doubt you can do Shirato Falls and Lake Yamanaka in that one day you wanted. It is possible, especially with a JR Pass, but you might have to rush a little. You do have to go through Tokyo to get to Karuizawa, I think. You can take a bus from Odawara to get to Fujiyoshida, what looks to be the closest town to Lake Yamanaka. Not too familiar with that area though. If you want to go to Kamakura at the same time, I'd suggest going to Kamakura, then take the train up to Karuizawa and spend a night there. If you have time, try to go to Shirato Falls, or do it the next day before heading to Tokyo.

Hope you have fun.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

sorry, the last was photographing mt. fuji at sunrise ofcourse.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Hi [VT member 13be85],

Thanks [VT member 13be85] your info. I will read your reply when i get home from work.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Hi Dru,

Now i have some more time to read your reply. The information you provided is very helpful, thanks for that. I'm wondering about your photo's now :)

I'm still not sure what to do with the falls. Mt. Fuji and the falls are so attracting since i have seen so many great photo's taken of it.

Let me show you what i'm trying to achieve as for looks/style/story:

Great colors, compositions storytelling:

Not japan, but amazing nightscapes which i am hoping to achieve:

Odaiba bridge (my hotel is less than 1 mile away)

Objects i have on my list so far:

Kyoto >>
Monkey Park
Tenryu-Ji Temple
Arashiyama bamboo forest
Nijo castle
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Nishiki Market
Sanjusangendo Hall
Gion Corner
Yasaka Shrine
Japan Kyōto-fu (old roman aquaduct)
Fushimi Inari taisha

Osaka >>
Umeda Sky Building
Hanshin Expressway (highway right trough building)
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
National Bunraku Theatre

Tokyo >>
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Shinjuku Sumitomo Building
Yasukuni Dori
Yoyogi Park
Tokyo Tower
Imperial Palace
Kokyo Higashi Gyoen
Ryōgoku Kokugikan
Sony Building
Yurikamome line
都道316号線 (crossing with pedestrian bridges over roads for nightscapes)
Nakagin Capsule tower
Tsukiji fish market
Odaiba bridge (rainbow bridge)
Shiokaze Koen (gundam statue)

Now what is missing from all these POI is some nature landscapes.
I was hoping for atleast an image like this for mt. fuji:
or this

And atleast an image like this for the falls:


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tokyo

Your list of places to visit is pretty extensive and looks like a lot of fun. Japan has a lot of great modern buildings along with a lot of old ones. If you want to see some of my photos, check out my blog and follow the categories such as Japan. While a lot of the photos are not my best ones, it shows a few of the places you mentioned. I usually put photos that explain the story for each post.

In terms of Mt. Fuji, I'm afraid to say that the snow covered shots will be non-existent at the time you arrive. It will be pretty bare of snow at the top. You might consider a night time shot as it is the peak travel season up Mt. Fuji. You can often see a trail of lights from mid-way all the way to the top if you are close enough. It is the thousands of people making their way up the trails. I haven't seen it myself but I'm sure you can find photos like it on the internet. As I mentioned before, I haven't been to either place but I hope you can make it there. If you want nature and don't want to venture too far, you may consider going to Nikko or Hakone instead. Nikko has Kegon Falls, which is one of the most famous waterfalls in Japan. It isn't as interesting as Shirato, but still nice. Plus you have the temple in the forest which some people love. Hakone is also good and you might be able to see Mt. Fuji.

Just an extra note, be aware that Mt. Fuji is a very fickle mountain. It can be sunny in Tokyo but cloudy around Mt. Fuji. It is best to be as flexible as possible and go only when the forecast calls for nothing but sun in the region. If there is a cloud mark or any chance of cloudiness, chances are Mt. Fuji won't be so nice. It might help with a small ring of clouds around the top but you need some luck for it. Thankfully, August is one of the best times to go as the weather tends to be good.

Just a few comments on what you want to see:

Tsutenkaku: Easy to do this with Tennoji in a morning or afternoon. I'd suggest just walking around Shinsekai and taking up the atmosphere. The tower itself is not interesting in my view but everything else in the area is. Note that the southern area is modeled after New York (grid like streets) and the northern area is more like Paris (circular style streets). It's still pretty small.
Hanshin Expressway: This might be tough to get as I couldn't find a good vantage point for photos.

Tokyo Metro Government: Great views but the windows are sometimes dirty. Be sure to walk around the main public spaces around the towers themselves. There are public works of art around the buildings. The entire west side of Shinjuku is full of interesting buildings that were built in the 60s.
Yasukuni Dori: It is a very long street... If you mean Shinjuku, I mentioned going to the L-tower in the west side. That's the best place to get a photo of the street. All other photos are pretty standard though. If you go to Yasukuni Shrine, it is a very lovely place and depending on the exact time, there might be some activities in the area leading to the shrine. Really nice to visit.
Yoyogi Park: Go on a weekend afternoon. If you go on a weekday, the cool people won't be there.
Imperial Palace: Don't go on a Monday as the gardens are closed on Mondays. Otherwise, go wild.
Sensoji: Be sure to go to the areas next to the main temple itself. Most people just walk through the shopping arcade to get to the temple then leave. Be sure to go left when you reach the temple to see some of the smaller temples.
Ryogoku: The sumo stadium is nice but the Edo Museum is cooler, but you are already going there. If you have time, consider going to the Yasuda Gardens located north of the sumo stadium. It is small but very beautiful, and free.
Sony Building: The Sony Building is pretty boring if you ask me. Walk up the street to Ginza 4-chome the main intersection. Walk up and down Chuo-dori which is the main street as they have a lot of cool shops. Look for the DeBeers building too which is very cool. Tough to photograph if you ask me but looking at it is great.
Capsule Tower: Very quick and easy to go there. Hard to take photos. I'd suggest starting this with a trip to Tsukiji in the morning, the Sumida River as well before walking here and checking out Shiodome in the afternoon. Shiodome will have a lot of interesting things to see for you.
Odaiba: Rainbow bridge is nice. Best photos are on the Odaiba side. If you want photos of Odaiba, walk up the bridge a little and you'll get the best shots of Odaiba. Shiokaze park no longer has the Gundam. It was moved to Shizuoka last year for the summer but I heard that it will be back in Odaiba this year. I have to look into it but there is no information about it yet.
Yurikamome Line: This is pretty nice for a tour of Odaiba but not much else. It can be difficult to get pictures of it. If you want train photos, I'd suggest Tokyo Station for the variety. If you want photos of trains moving, Shinjuku is pretty good. A favourite spot of mine is near the Takashimaya Department Store. This is a pedestrian bridge that goes over the tracks. There are lots of other places to get train photos but most of them are along the Yamanote Line.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Very interesting read once again. Lots of helpful info. Also liked reading your blog.

About Mt. Fuji, i was planning on doing some sunset images and some with reflections in a lake (hopefully that day will be clear). Nice tip on that night shot with the light trails, didn't think of that.

As for the falls, i think i found a way to go from Lake Ashinoko (which has a great hotel to stay) by bus to Mishima, there take the JR train to Fujinomya and from Fujinomya station there is a bus going to the falls according to their website ( which takes 30 min. I sure hope that the way back is as easy as getting there.
Total travel time would not take more than 2 hours which is acceptable to do.
Then when returning to the hotel i could do some sunset shots of Mt. Fuji.

As for osaka, the expressway.. you're right. I have been looking on google streetview over and over and couldn't find a great spot either. The photo's i have seen are from people that were allowed to shoot photo's from nearby tall buildings. So i'm not sure if i will go there.

As for Tokyo, the Sony building has nothing to do with photography, just that it is my favourite brand, and aside from my camera, all my hi-fi equipment is sony :) Have visited the sony center in berlin as well, just to see it.
The capsule tower didn't seem an easy job to take great images either, but this building is so exceptional that i must see it. Shiodome at the afternoon sounds interesting. It's close to my hotel, so that will be nice to hang around :) The yurikamome line is some special project i want to do. Since it doesn't have a driver and a large window at the front it's absolutely magical to do long exposures from the front window. Not sure if you have seen these before, but they really made me book my hotel close to this line so i could do several rounds with this train both daytime as nighttime ( It's really sad to hear that the gundam is gone from odaiba, i was surely hoping for some great shots of this statue.

Thanks again, you have been really helpful.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member

That's probably the same hotel as i'm staying in, and probably one of the primary reasons why i booked it.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tokyo

Just another FYI, here is the bus schedule, in Japanese, to Shiraito Falls:

Note, the bus leaves Fujinomiya Station at 7:50, 9:20, 13:20, and 15:20. Only 4 buses a day.

Return buses depart at 10:38, 12:42, 14:32, and 18:52.

I would highly recommend being on the bus back to Fujinomiya by 14:32 if you want a chance to see the sunset at Ashinoko. Might be a very early day of being at Fujinomiya by 9:20 latest and returning within 4 hours.

As for the Sony Building, I know what you mean. I work very close to the Sony Building and head there from time to time to see what is new. Be sure to check out the stair case next to the elevators going from the first floor to the basement. Just start walking and you'll know what I mean. If it is a normal experience, you are either on the wrong staircase or something is really wrong... :D

Those Yurikamome shots look great. Wish I had the know how to do it. I'm just a hobbiest at best.

PS: Thanks for the compliment on the blog. Hope you keep reading it.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

@Fugu: I'm staying at the same hotel.

@dru46: Thanks for the bus schedule. I only need max 2 hours at the falls. So if i take the 9:20 bus to the falls i could take the 12:42 bus back and be in time for the sunset shot. But i could also do the sunset shot the day i'm arriving at my hotel, and next morning leave the bags at the hotel, travel to the falls and return to pick up the bags and leave for Tokyo. I'm looking forward to cheking out the staircase you talked about @ sony building.

The shots on the yurikamome line is actually pretty easy. The only thing you need is making sure you have a space in front of the window, make sure you can secure your camera to have it steady (by using a small tripod) and having it as close to the window as possible (at best you have a rubber flexible lens hood that can touch the glass to prevent glare). Then you make sure you will use a high/small aperture let's say F8 to F11 so your shutter speeds take longer, let's say 4 or 5 seconds. And just fire away. The shots look difficult, but they are not.

Will keep reading your blog from time to time, it's very nice to see people actually taking time to write all this interesting stuff for others to read.



answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tokyo

Actually, I can understand what you say but I always confuse things when it comes to taking pictures. I have an old Canon Rebel XT. I want to upgrade to the Kiss X5, the latest entry level DSLR. I still use the auto functions most of the time. I worry that if I start to study it too much it will no longer be a fun hobby and become "work" for me. Would love to try that someday but for now, I'm still very happy to just take what amounts to better than point and shoot photos. :)

Just a bit more FYI, I was curious about Shiraito Falls and found a good blog post on how to get there and what to do:
Perhaps you found it yourself. I think getting there is the tough part as you probably have to buy a ticket. Getting back shouldn't be as difficult as it will either be a lot easier by paying the bus driver or since you got there, it should be easier to return. :) If you do go there and the next day you are going to Tokyo, do consider using lockers at Mishima. If you have a JR Pass, you can go in and out of the stations. If your luggage isn't too big, you should be able to use the lockers. However, if you have luggage for the plane... you are right and you should use the hotel. You could always check the station before you go to Ashinoko too just to be sure. :)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tokyo

I have some good news for you. The Gundam is actually back in Odaiba and is scheduled to be open to the public later this month. From what I can tell, it is on permanent display now at a new shopping complex called DiverCity. A play on the two words to mean diversity. It will have a full floor devoted to Gundam. It is near the original display location of the Gundam but it will now be at the entrance of the new mall. Here is some info from different blogs:

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Great blog post, and makes the journey easier to visualise. Yes buying a ticket... hehe. I wonder how that will go. Let's hope not too much hand and foot signals :) But i think if i have written down the japanese name for shiraito falls and show my wallet they'll understand probably. Do i need to buy my ticket from the busdriver himself, or do i need to buy my ticket from the ticket office? In the blog there's an image of a ticket office, but looks like it's no longer in use. (And just for placing information).

I will need to leave my stuff at the hotel if i decide to visit the falls the next day because i have a fairly large suitcase. I rather do it at the day before my night stay, and do some mt. fuji photography on the next morning so i won't be that far away from my hotel which makes it easier to go to Tokyo, but it really depends on how late i will be leaving Kyoto.

I do have a shinkansen rail pass that will still be valid the day i leave kyoto.
Still have to find out which other trains i will be able to use with that pass. (There's still alot to figure out for me :))

Can't thank you enough for all this info.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Great news about the gundam, i skipped your post about it. I'm looking forward checking it out for sure.

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