Japan 2014: Hakone

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.

Hakone map

Map of the Hakone area

(Image source)

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…

Tonosawa, Hakone

Statues in Tonosawa

These statues were just about the only interesting thing I found in Tonosawa, although perhaps I just didn’t walk far enough.

Tonosawa, Hakone

Tonosawa, Hakone

Tonosawa, Hakone

Tonosawa, Hakone

I didn’t see any convenience stores, but I did find these ancient-looking cup noodle vending machines…

Ancient vending machines

Ancient cup noodle vending machine

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.

Youraku

Youraku restaurant in Tonosawa

Youraku

Beautiful food at Youraku restaurant in Tonosawa

Tonosawa had some pretty parts…

Tonosawa, Hakone

A river in Tonosawa

But I was quite glad to move on to Gora. Except that, when I got there, down came the rain…

Gora  Station

Raining in Gora

I rode the cable car up the mountain to my hotel in Gora.

Cable Car

Hakone Tozan Cable Car

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…

Bored selfie

Bored selfie on the wrong side of the track

Hakone was quite atmospheric in the mist, and very quiet as I settled down for the night.

View from the Resorpia

Night night, Hakone…

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).

Taking the ropeway

Hakone Ropeway

It was spookily misty on the way up the mountain…

Taking the ropeway

Into the mist…

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

Owakudani

Owakudani

Owakudani

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.

Hello Kitty black egg at Owakudani

Hello Kitty black egg at Owakudani

Owakudani

Another kitty with a black egg

Owakudani

Another black egg

Black eggs at Owakudani

More eggs…

Owakudani

Mmm… they look so delicious… (>_<)

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.

Taking the ropeway

Back on the ropeway

If the weather had been nicer the views of Lake Ashi (芦ノ湖) would have been better, but it still looked pretty nice.

Taking the ropeway

Lake Ashi

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.

Taking the pirate ship

Pirates ahoy!

Taking the pirate ship

On the look-out

The cruise was fun, and the views weren’t bad.

Taking the pirate ship

Lake Ashi

Taking the pirate ship

Lone torii

Taking the pirate ship

Another pirate ship

Taking the pirate ship

Atmospheric Hakone

Taking the pirate ship

So red…

I was quite impressed with this massive torii gate as the boat approached Moto-Hakone.

Taking the pirate ship

Woah…

Hakone

Yeah, that’s really big…

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! 😉

12 thoughts on “Japan 2014: Hakone

  1. I hate the fact that you HAVE to buy 5 eggs, but I did. I ate almost all of them. Can never be bad if you try to prolong your life. *g*
    They’re yummy, but I couldn’t eat all 5, that’s too much. 😦

    The cat in the black egg is so cute. I didn’t see it last time I went to Hakone. I only saw the Hello Kitty one. 🙂

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  2. I was lucky enough to have clear skies when I went up by Ropeway to Owakudani so the view of Fuji-san was amazing. It was just myself and a group of Japanese pensioners in the gondola and when Fuji-san came into view they all stood up and started clapping – one of my favourite memories of Japan.

    I also ate all 5 eggs – one of my least favourite memories of Japan!

    This is a great series of posts – its really making me want to take another trip back to Japan soon.

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    • That is lucky, Paul! Sounds like you had a great time (apart from the eggs)! I’m glad you’re enjoying the series – there will be lots more, so please check back regularly or subscribe if you haven’t already! 🙂

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  3. I love Hakone! My husband and I visited last year in June and we were lucky to have perfect weather for touring. The clouds that seem to often surround Mount Fuji even parted so we could get a glimpse. We did eat the black eggs but I’ll admit, he ate most of them so maybe he got most of the benefit. ^_~ And I love the huge torii right on the water (as you can probably tell by my avatar)! I look forward to seeing where else you went!

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  4. Your sounds like it went better than mine. All I did was visit accommodation (didn’t even have time to do the loop) and it was pouring rain the day I arrived. I had to carry my luggage with me between meetings. When I got off the cable car to see the Resorpia I got on the wrong side and as I had a meeting and didn’t want to be late I walked back towards Gora to find a taxi. I didn’t find one but I did spent 30 minutes walking all the way around and arrived at the Resorpia late and dripping wet! My luggage was also wet…

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    • That doesn’t sound too different to my experience! I also spent a looooooooong time sitting on my luggage in Tonosawa wondering what on earth to do with myself. It’s hard to look inconspicuous when you’re a hot and sweaty foreigner trying to kill time!

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