The Narita Express railway service will run all the way to Mount Fuji starting this summer, offering travelers a potential way to skip the capital and its congested railway interchanges. The distinctive red and black N’ex cars currently link the Tokyo area to Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture. Under the new plan, East Japan Railway Co. and Fujikyuko Co. will be able to shuttle passengers much further, via JR and Fujikyuko lines, to Kawaguchiko Station in Yamanashi Prefecture, the nearest stop to the mountain.
The train will operate on weekends and national holidays, when it will make one return trip per day. The ride will take 3½ hours and will cost about ¥7,000 one way. It will operate between July 26 and Sept. 28. It is scheduled to depart Narita Airport Station at 9:15 a.m. and arrive at Kawaguchiko at 12:43 p.m. The return ride to Narita Airport Station departs Kawaguchiko Station at 2:13 p.m.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Mount Fuji has been rising since UNESCO designated the 3,776-meter volcano, which straddles Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, a World Heritage site in June 2013. The number of foreign visitors to Yamanashi Prefecture rose by more than a third to 483,000 last year from the year before. The results of a prefectural government survey suggest that about half of those visitors were attracted by Mount Fuji’s designation as a World Heritage site.
While there are bus services that operate between central Tokyo and Kawaguchiko, JR East says travelers going from Narita Airport Station to Kawaguchiko Station by train currently need to take the Narita Express to JR Shinjuku Station and make a connection onto the JR Chuo Line, often with hefty luggage in tow. They then take a train to Otsuki Station and change to the Fujikyuko Line to Kawaguchiko.
The new service will provide easy access to must-see sites, said Hiroko Arai, a spokeswoman for Fujikyuko Co. “Kawaguchiko Station is the nearest train station to Mount Fuji, and from there you can take various buses to sites such as Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Saiko, gondola lifts, lake cruise-boat quays, and Sengen Shrine, which forms part of the World Heritage designation,” she said. “I recommend visiting any of the five lakes.”
Arai said Tokyo residents can benefit from the new train service as well, since it includes stops at JR Tokyo, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tachikawa and Hachioji stations. The service requires reservations. Tickets go on sale a month beforehand and are available from booking offices and from JR East’s Ekinet website.
Originally published on www.japantimes.com