We’re cheking in from the train again! We’re on the shinkansen to Hakone. On the way we were even treated to a view on Mount Fuji. So, why are we headed to Hakone?
Hakone region is famous for its mineral hot springs and baths, its views of Mount Fuji, open-air museums and an interesting challenge called the Hakone Circle.
That involves visiting the most famous places of interest in the region by using all available modes of public transportation in one day. We had a whole free day to spend there ourselves and decided to take the challenge and even added a visit to the open-air museum and the most famous local spa – Yunessun.
We dedicated the afternoon and evening beforehand to familiarizing ourselves with the region, which of course included getting lost, rapid unbalancing in the rainy alleys and a visit to an Italian restaurant. In the evening we even got picked up by a chauffeur from our hotel for free. If you ever ask someone from Japan how to get home, you will always end up with a roof over your head!
We arrived at Gora Train Station early in the morning by bus and then took a cable car to Sounzan Station.
Then we took another cable car to Ōwakudani to visit Hakone’s geology museum and the mountain that provided hot mineral water and sulphuric vapours. We walked amongst rocks that smelled of rotten eggs and large steam clouds that made it look like a forest fire was raging somewhere. All this is a result of the last local volcanic eruption, which happened only 3000 years ago. Apart from the steam everywhere, you can see its results in the profiles of the nearby mountains and the formation of Lake Ashi. We even found some black boiled eggs, which sold very quickly. That’s what they get for not celebrating Easter. =)
From there we kept on to the next stop – Ubako Station. Normally you’d be able to see Fuji from there, but the weather wasn’t cooperating and the clouds deftly hid that gorgeous white mountain top.
Since there wasn’t really a point to stop, we continued to the last stop of the cable line, namely Togendai Station. We got on a small boat and crossed Ashi Lake to Hakone-machi Village. The boat resembled a modernized pirate ship and offered various activities to tourists, but we found the surrounding nature far more captivating. Let the pictures speak for themselves…
|Looks like people here eat corn on the cob as well. =)|
Next we walked to the neighboring village, Moto-Hakone. On the way there we visited a museum that exhibits old traditions and recreates Hakone-machi as it used to be generations ago. From here you could see any invaders that attacked through the lake.
We also strolled through the gardens, which served to beautify this guard outpost. Probably why the building with the best view of the lake was called “House for Viewing the Lake”.
Up some beautiful stairs and across a small bridge is the entrance to Moto-Hakone. The famed Cedar Tree Alley soon transitions into the village’s main street, full of little shops and restaurants.
We had finished the aforementioned challenge, and it was only lunchtime. God, we’re fast and furious!
|Cedar Tree Alley|
We needed to recharge, by which we mean eat. Interestingly, we had to put our names on a list and wait to be called up before we could eat. Apparently we picked the most popular restaurant there, as the list just kept growing and people seemed content to wait.
To really, honestly complete the challenge, we had to take a bus to Hakone-Yumoto Station and from there take an antique train to Gora Station, which was our starting point. On the other hand we wanted to make the most out of our visit, and it’s not like we haven’t used all kinds of trains in Japan, so we let the bus take us all the way to the open-air museum. It started to rain, so we started our tour hidden away under our umbrellas.
Sculptures of all kinds both greeted and sent us off among the green alleyways. Artists from all over the world had come to showcase their imagination. We understood some, others eluded us, some were funny, others were boring; step by step we got to the first place with a roof – a pavilion dedicated to Picasso, containing works of his and quite a bit of info on his life and creations. Our umbrellas we stowed away in special umbrella bags. =)
By then the rain had mostly abated. It was the perfect time and place to wash our feet. I’m not joking, the museum offers a free foot spa. Very cool! =)
After that it was time for a real spa, and this is an area of Japanese expertise. The place was huge – the front desk, the cloakroom, the locker room and showers, the spa itself. The building was divided into two, and there were pools outside as well. Here’s some visual documentation:
|A pool and a jacuzzi, right next to a cafe|
|Wine bath =)|
|Green tea bath|
|A walk way on rocks filled with warm water – meant to massage your feet|
|A pool among the rocks|
In the end, the Hakone Circle challenge proved relaxing!
So, do you like spas? Which would you like to visit most – wine, green tea, or sake? 🍶 🍷 🍺