See Mount Fuji, explore a bat cave, and visit a thatched-roof village that rivals Shirakawa-go.
- Lake Saiko Ice Festival 2020 Dates: Jan. 25 to Feb. 16
Nenba and the Saiko Healing Village
The Nenba district of the lake is home to Saiko Iyashi no Sato, a craft village with thatched-roof farmhouses. In this “Healing Village,” each house is devoted to a different craft, with workshops like soba-making available. In the winter, you can drink amazake (a sweet drink made from fermented rice) over a sunken hearth.
Although the sight of Mount Fuji and other mountains make a lovely backdrop, the village itself is all kinds of beautiful. It’s just a short walk to the westernmost tip of Lake Saiko, where you ‘ll have the best view of Fuji across the water. If you can’t make it to Shirakawa-go in central Gifu, which is a more popular tourist destination to see these traditional houses, Saiko Iyashi no Sato is the next best thing.
Saiko Bat Cave and Jukai Nature Trail
The Saiko Bat Cave is the largest of three caves near Lake Saiko. Its low-ceilinged tunnels and floors formed by lava make it feel otherworldly. Continuous preservation efforts are underway to restore the cave’s bat colony, leaving it closed every year from Dec. 1 to March 19.
At the cave’s information center, visitors can arrange a guided nature tour of Aokigahara Jukai, the “Sea of Trees.” Additionally, across the parking lot is the entrance to the Jukai Nature Trail. The other two caves are on the opposite side of the forest.
Wind and ice caves
Descending into Fugaku Wind Cave, you will move past a reservoir of illuminated ice. Icicles can be found all year long—even in summer! The cave was a natural refrigerator used to store eggs and silkworms during the Edo and Meiji periods.
Like its sister cave, the Narusawa Ice Cave was also a natural icebox. It features beautiful, narrow lava tunnels formed more than a century ago. It’s a tight squeeze, but you can walk the entire path (sideways).
Speaking of ice, the Lake Saiko Ice Festival is an option if you’re planning a visit in winter. From late January through mid-February at the Saiko Wild Bird Forest Park, visitors can marvel at ice sculptures and 10-meter-high frost-covered trees known as juhyou.
The ice is illuminated at night and the festival coincides with weekend fireworks at nearby Lake Kawaguchiko.
Want more winter fun? Check out our list of the Top 10 Snow and Ice Festivals in Japan!