One of the things on my Dad’s wish list while visiting Japan was to see some mountains. We contemplated several areas and decided on Hakone which is quite near Mt Fuji and only a few hours away by train. Hakone and it’s surrounding area is a gorgeous mountainous region. It has its own separate railway that winds it’s way through the mountains as well as an inclined cable car, suspended ropeway car, boats and buses.
The area is quite touristy, though not at all like what you would expect to find in the US with junk shops and familiar fast foods at every corner. The Japanese seem to do tourism differently. I suppose it is because they are catering to mostly other Japanese people. We found some of the differences to be mostly in quality and quantity. A few gift shops that sold mostly specialty foods. Restaurants were few and a little on the expensive side. If I had known I would have bought lunch sandwich in Gora or before our boat ride to Hakone. Drink machines, like everywhere in Japan, were plentiful.
I’ve created a map of our day for you to get an overview of the area. I may need to zoom in to see the individual areas in Hakone.
As you can already see there are many modes of transportation in the area. The railway offers a two day (and three day) pass that can be purchased at the station in Odiwara or in Tokyo. The 3900 yen “Hakone Free Pass” was well worth the money. Without it you would have to stop at each stop to purchase a new paper ticket as most I noticed didn’t have the option for using a Suica or Pasmo transit card.
On the Hakone Tozan Railway. Turning the train around at the first switchback you can see the picturesque bridge that we just passed over.
At this time of year the hydrangeas are in bloom. All along the track there are thousands of blooms.
At our second switchback and spotted a bunny just resting in the grass.
The mountain train ended in Gora. Our next mode of transport was the inclined cable car.
The end of the cable car in Sounzan. From here we transferred to the “ropeway” and things got interesting. We could already tell by people getting on the train that the weather was getting a little rainy.
The fog and rain really did make it feel like something out of a movie, Jurassic Park perhaps.
And I have a special treat for you. A video!
The station at the top of the mountain was covered in fog. Even the inside of the building had fog in it. We did make it to our next stop dry but bought rain cover things for the boat ride.
View from the ropeway platform. Our ship awaiting us.
The interior was amazingly detailed. Yes, those are guns along the wall. We were one of the first in line so the place filled up quite a bit especially since most wanted to be inside out of the rain. Even further forward, through that little door in the center of the photo, was the first class section. Downstairs there was a little place serving coffee and drinks. Quite the “cruise” across the lake.
Once off I went up to the upper deck and had a look around. The fog on the water was beautiful and eerie.
A torii gate at the base of Mt Hakone. I would love to see the shrine but the weather only got worse.
Once in Hakone we took shelter in a local restaurant, it’s to the left of the bus stop. We ate quite a big lunch. It wasn’t clear how to order a single dish and so I ended up with a meal set instead.
After our lunch we went on a little walk in the rain trying to find directions to an evergreen path that looked pretty interesting. We kept being told to walk there. In normal weather we would have but in rain we gave up and hopped on a bus.
We made a brief stop at an art museum in search of a moss garden in the area. Turns out it wasn’t the right art museum, there are several in the area including an open air sculpture one as well. At last found the right museum, Hakone Museum of Art. The wandering to find it was well worth it and the weather created a perfect mood for the place. I only wish they had a stone bench to sit and contemplate.
Hakone Museum of Art grounds map. (Source)
See the red tree in the background? Isn’t it gorgeous!
Thinking this one might be print worthy…
In the garden there was a tea house where you could experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Also the museum’s founder’s house has been moved there (photo below).
Oh look! It’s me!
And that about sums up our adventure. Our ride home was fairly uneventful, though we did take a different route from Odiwara station.
If you are planning a trip to Hakone we found Japan-Guide.com to have some useful information as well.