Imagine the snow capped tip of Mount Fuji glistening in the sun against a clear blue sky as you glide across Lake Ashi providing a jaw dropping and instagram worthy backdrop to all of your photos…
This is what we should have seen on our trip to Hakone, the nearest area in which to stay to take in the wondrous sight of Mount Fuji. However, we were a little unlucky with the weather which was overcast, cloudy and misty too – the dream combo for sightseeing. Yeh right. Despite this minor setback we still had a fantastic 24 hours visiting Hakone; seeing some of the Japanese countryside, staying in our first Ryokan and sampling our first hot spring onsen (a really hot bath to the rest of us but fricking awesome)!
If you are looking for an easy day trip from Tokyo or perhaps stretch to an overnight stay then Hakone is less than 2 hours away by train.
If you are anything like me you will love researching where you are going before you arrive to make sure you know where you’re going and what the best things to do are. However, even with my research I seemed to overlook the fact that Hakone is not a town it is an area. Therefore it is important to look into what town your hotel or ryokan is near as the Hakone area is vast.
My 3 top tips:
- Buy the ‘Hakone pass’, this is an absolute must as you can use it on the trains, buses, cable car and sightseeing ship. You have the choice of buying passes valid for either 2 or 3 days.
- Experience the Hakone Hot springs; along with views of Mount Fuji this is what you come here for. Try and book accommodation that has their own hot spring baths for their guests to use. You should know that these are public baths split into male and female sections and are usually the only places to bathe in the whole ryokan! For 24 hours I was soooo Japanese.
- Stay in a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese Inn, as this way you will experience the true authentic Japanese experience of bathing with randoms, all wearing a kimono and eating their traditional food.
From Tokyo you can take a bullet train to Odawara, which is around a 30 minute journey before taking the T-bus from outside the train station all the way to Minami-Onsen (where we were staying) or wherever your hotel is located. This bus journey took around 1 hour 15 minutes which was longer than we anticipated. We also found out after we had dragged our suitcases all this way there and back from Odawara station, that there is a luggage concierge service available. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
We were staying in a ryokan one stop from Togendai which is on Lake Ashi, where you take the cable cars and the sightseeing ship from.
The cable car takes you up the mountain to Owakudani, a volcanic alley of sulphur pits and hot springs. This is also where the infamous black eggs can be found and sampled. Be warned the sulphur pits give off a strong whiff of bad eggs…not the best setting for those wanting to actually eat them! Simon took one for the team and sampled these black eggs, which really aren’t as bad as they sound. They all have black shells but look and taste the same on the inside. The difference being that they are cooked in the sulphur pits…it’s not everyday you can say you ate eggs cooked in a volcano! Oh and the best bit they supposedly add 7 years onto your life! Eggcellent.
Being over 1,000 metres above sea level this is meant to be a great place for viewing the spectacle of Mount Fuji. Not for us. We unfortunately were treated to a thick cloud display hiding the snow capped Fuji-san from our sights.
From Togendai you can also take the sightseeing ship across Lake Ashi from one side to the other and back again. This is also meant to be fantastic for viewing Mount Fuji reflected on the water. However, I will have to take every one else’s word for that.
On the plus side we managed to find one of the best cheese and ham toasties this side of Asia. Sorry but I’m a real sucker for them. Anywhere. Anytime. Want to get involved? Head to Bakery and Table if you’re ever in the area of Motohakone-goten (one of the 3 stops on the sightseeing ship circuit). We had a wander around afterwards but due to the cold and last ship soon departing we didn’t have long but as far as we could see there wasn’t much else to do here.
Then it was back to the ryokan for a hot spring bath and some dinner.
Have you ever been to Hakone? If so, I would love to hear about where you stayed and your top tips.