御殿場市, Gotemba-shi (sometimes Gotenba), is a city located on the southeastern flank of Mt. Fuji in Shizuoka, Japan. As of 2008, the city has an estimated population of 88,054 and the density of 452 persons per km². The total area is 194.63 km². It's not a huge city, but it's also not in the middle of nowhere. It's in a good location, right at the base of Mount Fuji, with great access to lots of other areas nearby as well. The weather in Gotemba is mild and pleasant. It is a few degrees cooler in the summer than nearby Numazu, and snows in the winter, but isn't unbearable. The offical site for the city of Gotemba is here.
Things to do in Gotemba Edit
If you Google Gotemba the most you'll probably find out about it is that there is a military base here, it is one of the starting points for climbing Mt. Fuji in the summer, it is a main point on the Tomei Expressway, and there's an Outlet Mall here. Gotemba itself mostly seems to be a stopping point for people on their way to other places, but it has it's charms.
The Heiwa Peace Park is a nearby walk from the Tomei Expressway and gives you a nice overhead view of the city. The monument there is said to house some of Buddha's ashes. There's also a nice walkway lined with goddess statues and a koi pond with a small waterfall by the shrine. The cherry blossoms were in full view this past March and the Peace Park was a great place to view them from. It's a short trek up a hilly road to get to the park, but if you manage to go at a time it's not packed with tour buses, it's a nice serene place to walk around.
The Premium Outlet Malls can be a nice break from living in a foreign country. Almost all the stores are international or western brands so it really feels like being back in your own country at times. Even though almost all the stores are discounted, when brands like Vivienne Westwood and Armani are 70% off, things still cost hundreds of dollars. There are a few reasonable stores like a Gap and Franc Franc, and a new wing just opened recently that included a Cold Stone Creamery. The food court doesn't have a ton of options, but there are a few restaurants mixed in amongst the shops you can eat at. For some reason, people love to bring their dogs to the Outlets, and most of them are usually wearing clothes, so it's a good place to people watch. There are free shuttle buses three times an hour from the Hakone side of Gotemba Station. Gotemba Premium Outlet Mall
There's not much nightlife in Gotemba. Most stores close around 9 pm, and it tends to quiet down a lot in the evenings. There are a few club-type places, and a karaoke bar here and there, but you won't be out all night on the town here.
Getting out of Gotemba Edit
Gotemba is about an hour and a half from Tokyo using the Asagiri Limited Express train, which costs a little less than Y3,000 per person. The local trains cost a little less than Y2,000 per person, but the ride will take you about three hours and mostly likely a transfer in Kozu. There are also buses to Shinjuku station from Gotemba station that cost about Y1,500 and take around two hours, depending on traffic.
Numazu is probably the closest large town to Gotemba. It's a 30 minute ride on the Gotemba Line and costs Y400 to get there. From Numazu you can transfer to a number of other lines to get to many other places. Atami has a nice big beach and is famous for a lot of hot spring resorts, there are many small towns on the Izu Penninsula that can be fun to explore, and from Mishima you can catch the Shinkansen going to a lot of farther places like Osaka and Kyoto. Numazu has a lot of arcades, a movie theater (Gotemba actually has a movie theater too, but it never looks open..), a wide variety of restaurants, and some larger chain stores, like a sporting good store. Pay attention to when the last train leaves Numazu for Gotemba though (11:07 pm), because a taxi back to Gotemba will cost you almost Y10,000 and take an hour.
The Hakone area is also a short bus ride (about an hour) from Gotemba Station. Hakone is famous for it's active sulphuric areas, as well as Lake Ashi, the historic Old Tokaido Checkpoint, a number of museums housing famous artwork (such as Picasso and Monet), and a hot spring theme park called Yunessun. It's a popular tourist destination and a very pretty area.