So I got up at the crack of dawn (5.30am) to set off to Hakone and make the most of the day trip to what I’ve been told is one of the most beautiful areas of Japan. I had prepacked the night before so the moment my alarm hit I was out the door. It started off badly and got progressively worse from there. For some reason a train I’ve taken at least 20 times now decided not to continue on to Ueno and instead I found myself freezing cold waiting for a return train to Kita-Senju. That delay sucked, and it was just enough to help the crowds of train goers start to build up enough that my morning was no longer a breeze. This was made worse when I got to Tokyo station and was told the JR Ticket activation kiosk didn’t open until 7.30 am…wonderful. I was wondering why two American ladies were standing in the corner with all their stuff planning out their future itineraries and it became abundantly clear that they too expected that particular kiosk to be going early and often (every other bloody kiosk and information desk was manned). So we got to chatting and exchanged ideas as to what to do with our trips and before we knew it 7.30 rolled around. This was when I found out that I’d left my passport at the hostel and I was unable to activate my JR Pass without it (I never take my passport with me when I leave the hostel). That just pushed me to the edge and I was one more disappointment away from throwing in the towel on Hakone and just milling around the suburbs of Tokyo for my final day. I decided to hop on the Chuo line and head to Shinjuku in order to reach Hakone via the Odakyu rail (the other option to JR). This was a brilliant idea but by now I was a bit frustrated and tired and I may have had a mini mental tantrum when I couldn’t quite locate where to go upon arriving. A big thank you to the kindly information centre lady who pointed me in the right direction…twice.
Once on board it was a simple matter of sleeping till I was out of Tokyo and then marvelling at the view of Mt Fuji. The closer to Hakone you get the more mountainous it gets and the more impressive it all becomes. I managed to stay awake for the remainder of the entire trip, but it wasn’t easy.
Now I should say this before I begin my description of the Hakone area…please plan your adventure before heading there!!! I did not due to frustration and the fact it had already been delayed by noisy South Americans, and bad weather and it ended up costing me way more than it needed to. Upon arriving in Hakone (if you took the non-romance car option) you need to transfer to a new line that takes you from Odawara to Gora where the real beauty begins. You wind your way through the mountains slowly making your way up and into the town of Gora. You can take a bus the entire way if you so choose, but I can now say that’d be a mistake considering how much fun the tram up the hill was.
Once you reach the top it’s time to take the cable car. This was the absolute highlight for me, but if you’re afraid of heights and swaying two and fro then I would suggest maybe the bus is for you. You slowly make your way up higher and higher till you fly over the crest where you’re met by volcanic steam and this gigantic volcanic valley that just shouts awesome back at you. With 360 degree views of the Hakone countryside and spectacular views of the mountain I would say it’s a don’t miss moment!
The cable car stops at a few stations letting you take your time if you so choose to inspect it further and see all the museums spread out over different stations. I chose to motor on knowing I had a lot to cover in the day and a bag to pack tonight.
After that scenic wonder you get to cable back down the other side towards Lake Ashi which is another beautiful highlight. The only thing lacking was Mt Fuji (which on a clear day is RIGHT THERE) due to heavy cloud cover on the Mountain (even though we were clear).
The lake itself is beautiful and should you choose to (can bus it, again, remember everything has a bus alternative) you can sail via Pirate ship across the late to one of two different ports. It’s FREAKING COLD right now so maybe time it for a better season because even though I love the cold and the Germans I met are used to colder…we were not happy campers. The views are truly lovely though…
After reaching the last of the ports I took the bus back to Odawara station because I was under a time crunch. Just remember that if you do decide to give this lovely area of Japan a visit you should definitely visit an Onsen (traditional Japanese hotspring) because they’re meant to be the best – unfortunately I had things to take care of back in Tokyo so it was bus and train home. It’s fairly straight forward, just catch the express back to Shinjuku and make your way home from there.
All in all if you discount the horrible start it was a great day. I am a little upset that because it’s winter that a lot of the foliage has died and I missed out on Hakone’s true beauty. I’ve just been told by a new friend that it sounds like I missed it by a matter of a fortnight as it must have only just lost it’s Autumn beauty. Definitely give this a go, but if you can try to aim for Summer/Spring/Autumn and really get an eyeful of what beauty nature has to offer.