Hakone is a really nice and tranquil place to visit. I do have to admit that it was not on my list of places I wanted to see whilst in Japan however. During my December Kingdom of Bahrain Trip, my brother, sister-in-law and I spoke about a future Japan visit and they made it happen. We had a great time together and much of that was thanks to my brother, William, for planning the activities for this trip. We spent a few days in Hakone for my sister-in-law’s birthday and had a great time.
Hakone is located in Kanagawa Prefecture, which is about 60 miles west of Tokyo and it is a very popular go-to place for those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are plenty of really nice things to see and do in this enjoyable mountainous get-away.
The best way to travel to and around Hakone is with the 4,000円 Hakone Free Pass, many stations in this region sell this particular pass but we bought ours at Odawara Station, which is also the last station before reaching Hakone. The pass gets you full access to the Hakone rope-ways, cable cars, buses, train line and the pirate ships! Getting around Hakone is pretty easy but keep in mind that it is a small town with an early curfew so plan accordingly. The majority of our transportation time was spent on the buses and cable cars.
Our first activity included riding one of the many pirate ships that cross Lake Ashino. Mt.Fuji is said to be visible from here on a clear day, but unfortunately for us, it was not clear enough to get a good view, despite it being mid-summer. Still, we saw a fare share of scenic views plus a bonus surprise:
Even if you aren’t a fan of this 1995 hit anime series, you may know that Evagelion was set in Hakone. It was a very popular anime series that featured giant robots and was based around some good story telling and intriguing characters to match. To my delight, many Evangelion easter-eggs were scattered around Hakone. If you are a fan of the Evangelion Anime series, standing in front of Lake Ashi will definitely inspire some nice thoughts. The Evangelion vending machines sell collector’s coffee cans, which I couldn’t pass up. You can also find an Evangelion store within the main city area. The store merchandise was a bit pricey though I did pick up a couple of nice souvenirs.
After leaving the Evangelion store we went to Amazake Chaya (sweet sake tea house). This full functioning tea house has been serving its customers since the Edo period (1603-1868). It offers its guests a variety of sake, including of course, amazake, and a couple of different types of mochi (rice cakes). The place and the sweets were a very nice treat. We then made our way back to the inn where we were staying at since we had to keep the strict curfew in mind.
Hakone is known for the many hot spring resorts found all over, the most popular is the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun. It’s a bathhouse complex that features many traditional and modern style hot springs. We opted out of going to this particular place since it wouldn’t fit our busy itinerary. We stayed at a very nice Ryokan (Japanese hotel), which provided an awesome Japanese dinner and breakfast for the extent of our trip. We also took advantage of the bathhouses at the Ryokan, the public bathhouses are open to all guest but you can a pay an extra 10,000円 for a private hot spring too. This Ryokan’s hot spring was from the natural gora spring in the area. It was a very relaxing and awesome way to end the night.
We had plans to go up to the Owakudani, an active volcanic geyser. However, the harsh volcanic gases prevented us from visiting and we had to abandon that idea. It was unfortunate since a real nice view of Mt.Fuji is said to be visible on a clear day. But even more disappointing was missing out on the opportunity to try out the kuro-tamago (black eggs), which are eggs boiled in the sulfuric hot spring on site. The eggs turn black from the sulfuric water and gain a foul odor, but these black eggs are said to be tasty and Japanese claim eating the eggs will produce life longevity. We missed our chance and I was totally bummed, but hey, what can you do!
We changed up our itinerary and headed for the really cool Open Air Museum. This place was very nice.
The Hakone Open Air Museum has a lot of artwork displaced all over its vast open space. It also includes an awesome Picasso Exhibition that showcases many of his paintings, pottery and details about his personal life as an artist. Expect to pay about 1,600円 for the entrance fee to the whole park, you get a slight discount if you purchased the Hakone Free Pass. If visiting Hakone, this place is a must.
The last place we visited was at my sister-in-laws request, though I have to admit, I enjoyed it too. We went to the Le Petit Prince Museum.
Le Petit Prince Museum is an interactive museum that tells a story through various exhibits, films , french town space and garden. The entrance fee is 1,600円, there is also a restaurant and souvenir shop within the museums grounds to enjoy.
All in all Hakone is a very nice place to visit. Buses and cable cars serve as the best means of transport for the general public, just be sure to keep mind of the evening curfew as to avoid any problems. There is plenty more to see and do in this hot spring resort town but we had to leave early the following morning to catch the bullet train to our next destination: Hiroshima Trip: Part I. Happy Travels!