History of Oshino Hakkai
Oshino Hakkai (忍野八海) is a touristy set of eight ponds in Oshino, a small village in the Fuji Five Lake region, located between Lake Kawaguchiko and Lake Yamanakako on the site of a former sixth lake that dried out several hundred years ago. The word Hakkai means “Eight Seas” which refers to the eight pools of water that serve as the main attraction of Oshino Hakkai.
The eight ponds are fed by snowmelt from the slopes of nearby Mount Fuji that filters down the mountain through porous layers of lava for over 80 years, resulting in very clear spring water which is considered as sacred water and revered by the locals. Bridges and pathways lead around and over these tranquil ponds.
These eight ponds (Deguchi, Okama, Sokonashi, Choushi, Waku, Nigori, Kagami, and Shoubu) are the beautiful byproduct of historic eruptions and intense volcanic activity. Some of them are inhabited by koi fishes. Several are fed by an underground reservoir and are renowned for their mineral-rich spring water. In fact, the water in Waku Pond is so clear and clean that in 1985, the Ministry of the Environment ranked it among some of the nation’s best spring water. Go try the water and even bottle some to take home with you when you visit the area. Bottles are available at a low cost if you need one.
Near the ponds, water has been diverted to come up through a ‘fountain’ of sorts. There is a sign challenging you to hold your hand in the water for 30 seconds without removing it, accomplish this feat and you will have good luck.
The ponds are quite deep and have interesting freshwater plant life and large fish that make a visit to the ponds almost like visiting an aquarium. Although the ponds have been developed into tourist attractions and can become quite crowded with visitors, they have a pleasant atmosphere as long as you do not expect untouched nature.
As well as the ponds with purely transparent spring water, the visitor can enjoy the sight designed as a traditional Japanese village with thatched roof houses with water wheels and beautiful gardens with the magnificent view of Mt. Fuji.
The site is also a popular destination for cherry blossom viewing, and usually the best viewing time takes from early to mid-April. Another very famous spot for sakura viewing around Mt. Fuji is the Shinnasho river near Oshino Hakkai that offers stunning views of cherry blossoms, Mt.Fuji and the river. There is also a cute, little bridge 'daimon-bashi', on the river, that offers lovely views of the sakura. This place is hugely popular among photographers.
There is a gift shop that seems as large as the village itself. It sells a wide variety of gifts, souvenirs, and snacks adorned with Mt. Fuji motifs. Trinkets celebrating the eight ponds are also on sale.
A small coffee and ice cream stall is also located in the area where local specialties such as tofu topped with local miso infused pickles, and kusamochi—a green pounded rice cake made with mugwort (an aromatic plant grown in the area)—are served. The rice cake is also filled with sweet red bean paste, a delicious variation to the common Japanese treat.
You will find many restaurants, souvenir shops and food vendors around the ponds which sell vegetables, sweets, pickles, crafts and other local products. Some operate small outdoor grills to attract shoppers with the alluring smells of roasted sweet potato and toasted rice crackers (osenbei).
A small open-air museum, the Hannoki Bayashi Shiryokan, surrounds Oshino Hakkai's largest pond and costs a small admission fee. It contains a traditional thatched roof farmhouse that can be viewed inside and displays various farming tools, household items, samurai armor and weapons.
Best time to visit Oshino Hakkai
This small village is a pretty retreat no matter what time of the year you visit. Maple trees–which turn a gorgeous amber in the autumn months (September to November)–can be found scattered around the area.
During winter (December to February), the roof of the snow makes you feel like you have just entered a certain scene in the fairy tale.