RoadTrip | Discovering the soul of Japan in a Land Rover

Land rover and mount fuji
Land rover and mount fuji

Without a cloud in the sky Mount Fuji revealed herself in all her splendour, and we stopped every so often to fully appreciate the sight.

It was a bright, sunny day in Japan as we left the bustle of central Tokyo. Through the windows of our Discovery, the white-capped peak of Mount Fuji was easily discernible – appearing and disappearing in the distance as we passed the tall building lining the wide, smooth highway.

With every shape and size of Japanese vehicle cramming the road, our convoy of Land Rovers were conspicuous – even in the traffic. You see, we were in special edition versions of the Discovery, launched specifically to mark the first Rugby World Cup to be hosted in Asia.

READ | Rugby World Cup 2019 | Here are some of the cars driven by team captains

The vehicles, each fittingly finished in brilliant Fuji-White with a black exterior pack (dark alloy wheels, grille, and skirts trimmings) as standard, were further differentiated by red and white colours on the side vents and tailgate – a homage to the rugby-colours of Japan (although initially, I mistook it for English colours …).

Land Rover mount fuji

                                                                        Image: Richard Blake/Land Rover

Another appropriate touch inside the plush cabin of our unique 3.0-litre V6 diesel HSE model was the Rugby World Cup logo featured on the rotary gear selector. With only fifty made available, this Disco may become quite sought after in future.

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Following the E1 motorway, we were by now passing through Yokohama, where the final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup was to be decided the next day. With England playing South Africa, it could not have been scripted better for Land Rover – as the quintessential English brand has a long heritage in both countries.

Fuji, in all her beauty

Accompanied by the soft rumble of the 190kW six-cylinder diesel engine, we travelled past the rice paddies dotting the flat Kanagawa district before slicing through the mountainous Hakone area towards Fujinomiya. Here we turned off, and with Fuji-san still following our progress we found our way to the imposing Hakone Shinto Shrine on the shores of the picturesque Lake Ashi.

Land rover and mount fuji

                                                                        Image: Richard Blake/Land Rover

The bright orange Torii’s (entrances) and red-coloured temples of the shrine stood in contrast with the lush green of the surrounding forest and luminescent blue lake.

Some scholars believe it was Shinto, an ethnic faith of the Japanese, that bestowed Fuji her name – taken from the name fu-shi (not dead) due to the smoke rising from the peak of the mountain, as described in ancient feudal lore.

Many other explanations and interpretations exist but as a Sanreizan (holy mountain) it is commonly accepted Fuji is home to the 'tree blossom blooming princess' Sakuya-Hime, the symbol of delicate earthly life and deity of all volcanoes. It is also believed she will keep Fuji from erupting.

Land rover and mount fuji

                                                                     Image: Richard Blake/Land Rover

From Hakone, we turned on to the spectacular Ashinoko Skyline road, 10.7km of pure driving heaven with spectacular views of the snow-capped mountain and the lake below. Without a cloud in the sky, Mount Fuji revealed herself in all her splendour, and we stopped every so often to fully appreciate the sight.

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Here we joined the famed Hakone Skyline twisting through the mountains high above Shizuoka. It is a toll road (the current price of entry is around R100) but worth every cent. The last time I did this stretch of motoring nirvana was in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, and boy, was it fun!

Oh, there is a musical section, too – a 320-metre-long portion of road where the tyres relay the notes of a song from a popular anime TV series when you drive over it… Only in Japan. Anyway, it is bucket stuff, and if you want to drive it, all kinds of fast JDM cars are for hire…

land rover mount fuji

                                                                          Image: Richard Blake/Land Rover

This time, however, the tranquillity created by the splendour of the surroundings called for a relaxing cruise, and with its standard air suspension the big, yet agile Disco proved perfect for this. At sensible speeds, it glided through the corners but revealed predictable understeer when you started to push.

Glamping, Japanese style

From the Hakone Skyline, we turned onto Route 401 towards Gotemba. This touge (mountain pass in Japanese) is narrow, twisty, and rough in places – a great test for ride and handling. With its sumptuous ride quality and sure-footed conduct in the bumpy corners, I was very happy to be in a Disco on this piece of tarmac…

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Shortly after negotiating the Nagao Pass, we again stopped at another scenic spot next to Lake Ashinoko with a stunning sight of a majestic-looking Mount Fuji in the background. From there we took the road winding around Lake Kawaguchi to the exclusive Hoshinoya Fuji resort in the Akamatsu forest.

Land rover and mount fuji

                                                                       Image: Richard Blake/Land Rover

Here we were treated to the Japanese version of glamping, including preparing some food dishes around a campfire in the woodlands and enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest while watching a beautiful sunset over Fuji.

After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we left for Tokyo – full of fresh reminiscences from our encounter with Fuji, a dwelling place of deities and ancestors.

It also signalled a fitting finale to the involvement of Land Rover in the Rugby World Cup this year, with the manufacturer supplying 275 vehicles, including Discovery, Discovery Sport, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Velar, and Evoque, to support the fantastic event.

However, not even displaying the new Defender in the Yokohama stadium could prevent the ’Bokke from beating England in the final…

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