I finally did it this year after two misses. Missed it in 2010, because my father-in-law was in a losing battle to cancer. Missed it in 2011, because I found the website too late to register. In 2012 I went to the trouble of registering early, and staying the night before in Kawaguchi-ko.
Did I mention that I got not one view of Fuji due to rain and clouds? It was an ongoing joke for cyclists and volunteers to point where Fuji might be.
7000y was a bit spendy, and same again for hotel, but it raises money for helper-dogs, and was Japanese in its efficiency and hospitality, even if Japanese efficiency can be rigid to the point of inefficiency, should initial conditions change... But in Japan you can be assured at least one stop will have teenage girls handing out food and water, dressed like AKB48!
I started late, since there was no reason for me to race it, so have no idea what the juicers on dentist-bikes looked like at the front. There was more carbon ridden than any other material, even if I passed many such.
I was glad of the bike I had in ways expected and unexpected and am going to keep it, which surprised me. Why?
- it handles perfectly downhill at 60km on wet roads, and that is something
- clip-on fenders are not such a bad idea anyway, when your bike has to go in and out of 'rinkou-bukuro'
- my low climbing triple allows me to sit and spin on long climbs, which is a nice option
It still needs the new fork with better tire clearance as wet tires pick up road grit, and with just a 2mm clearance that makes a hell of a noise, and some resistance.
The Gotemba stop was at the new 'Shizuoka Bike Station' which has amenities for cyclists commuting or other, including a shower! Lots of road-grit from the rain, and the fact that the Japanese cyclists eschew fenders in this rainy country (wtf?).
I can recommend it, but not going by train like I did. The Fuji-Kyuko line, which is the end of your trip to Kawaguchi-ko, is a poorly organized pain in the ass tourist-line, and schlepping a bike-bag through the lines to it the worst exertion I had. The start is also too early to arrive by train on the day. Most riders went by car, and there is plenty of parking. It was more like N.America than Japan in that way... You can avoid going the night before, but then you need to arrive before 6 to get your package. But if you go the night before there is nothing to do in Kawaguchi-ko at all. Silly there is no mail-out option. It should start and finish in Gotemba.
Glad I did (most) of it, but a one-time thing.