Japan has a lot of iconic sights (Golden Pavilion, Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Shibuya Scramble) but few are more instantly recognizable than the view of a snow-capped Mt Fuji from the viewpoint just behind the red and white trimmed Chureito Pagoda. Yet for such a famous panorama, it took a lot to track down the actual pagoda, both online and in person.
First of all, the Chureito Pagoda is part of the larger Arakura Sengen Shrine, which is NOT easily searchable on google maps. The pagoda was only added to the ancient shrine in 1963, as a symbol of peace and does not appear on any signs in the area. To top it off, when you do finally reach the shrine, you need to climb 400 steps to reach the pagoda. There IS a narrow road that runs to the top of the hill where the pagoda and there are about five parking spots for small cars but don’t even dream of attempting to use them in cherry blossom season. In the winter, you can try your luck if you really don’t feel like tackling the stairs.
The best views of the mountain and the pagoda come from the viewpoint just above the pagoda. From here, you can also follow trails that lead up the mountain, where a handful of viewpoints also offer stunning mountain views (though with no pagoda). We visited on a clear Saturday in January, and while the skies stayed blue for the entire day, Mt Fuji DID cloud over not too long after we descended from the pagoda. I would advise trying to time your visit for before 11am, if possible.
Drivers will want to follow signs for Arakurayama Park and Viewpoint. Those coming by train are actually inn luck, as there seems to be good signage from the Shimo-Yoshida train station at the bottom of the hill. The shrine itself is probably about a 15 minute walk from the station, with the pagoda a further 400 steps up the hill.