Continuing my Japan adventure, after spending a couple of nights of Kyoto I headed to Hakone for a night. Hakone is somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now, and I can’t believe it was never on my list whilst living in Japan. One night there would probably have been enough if I hadn’t had some work to do, but in order to really explore the area two nights would have been better. Still, despite my lack of time, and despite the pretty bad weather, I managed to see the main sights and get a good taste of the town.
Hakone (箱根), part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (富士箱根伊豆国立公園), should be a really good spot from which to view Mount Fuji. Sadly I wasn’t that lucky. It was really drizzly and misty when I was there, and there was no chance of seeing the famous mountain.
In order to get to Hakone, the most common route it to take the shinkansen to Odawara Station and then use local trains and buses to get into Hakone and around town.The layout of Hakone is something that it took me a while to get my head around.
From Odawara, tourists typically take the train to Hakone Yumoto and then trains or buses around Hakone. On the day I arrived, 22nd May, I had to visit some accommodation in the Tonosawa area for work. I can’t say I was that keen on the area, but I think it would be a fine place to stay as a base for exploring Hakone. There wasn’t much to do there to pass the time though!
Exiting Tonosawa Station I met these little fellows…
These statues were just about the only interesting thing I found in Tonosawa, although perhaps I just didn’t walk far enough.
I didn’t see any convenience stores, but I did find these ancient-looking cup noodle vending machines…
I found one restaurant, so I stopped in for lunch. They only served one type of dish, which was fish-based. It was nice, but very expensive.
Tonosawa had some pretty parts…
But I was quite glad to move on to Gora. Except that, when I got there, down came the rain…
I rode the cable car up the mountain to my hotel in Gora.
Unfortunately that was when I made a classic error. I got out of the cable car on the wrong side and had to stand waiting for the cable car to come back down the mountain so I could nip through to the right side. (>_<) There was nothing to do but take silly selfies…
Hakone was quite atmospheric in the mist, and very quiet as I settled down for the night.
The next day was all about sightseeing. Starting in Gora, I took the cable car up to Sounzan, and then the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani (大涌谷).
It was spookily misty on the way up the mountain…
Owakudani is the area around a crater created during the last eruption of Mount Hakone (3,000 years ago). Part of the area is an active volcanic zone, with sulphurous fumes and natural hot springs. Sulphur you say? Yes, it stinks. The whole place smells very eggy, and it’s not pleasant.
Owakudani is famous for black eggs – eggs which are cooked in naturally hot water, with shells blackened by the sulphur. The eggs are said to prolong your life by seven years.
I didn’t try an egg as you could only buy them in packs of five, which seemed ridiculous as I was travelling alone. Instead, not overly impressed with Owakudani, I continued my journey and hopped back on the ropeway to Togendai.
If the weather had been nicer the views of Lake Ashi (芦ノ湖) would have been better, but it still looked pretty nice.
Amusingly, the overly optimistic announcement on the ropeway kept telling me how beautiful the view was and that I could see Mount Fuji!
Arriving at Togendai, I headed to the pier. There are pleasure cruises across Lake Ashi in ‘pirate boats’, and this was something I was definitely keen to do even though the weather was far from perfect.
The cruise was fun, and the views weren’t bad.
I was quite impressed with this massive torii gate as the boat approached Moto-Hakone.
When I reached Moto-Hakone I didn’t have that much time left. I wanted to see so many things: the Checkpoint (箱根関所) on the old Tokaido Road (東海道) and the Cedar Avenue and the Open Air Museum (箱根彫刻の森美術館) to name just two sights. But, as time was limited, I picked the one place I absolutely couldn’t leave without seeing…
…and if you want to know where that was, you’ll have to read the next post! 😉