When people refer to Hakone, it’s generally referring to the area around Hakone-Yumoto. It’s a good area to admire beautiful views of Mount Fuji. 🗻
After our two nights in Kamakura, we took the train to Odawara in the morning, there are quite a few delays on the limited express trains, but we still manage to make it early enough in Odawara. The train ride was super nice because we could see the Mount Fuji on the Tokaido train!
From Odawara, we bought our Hakone pass: it’s a special pass that lets you enjoy all the possible transportation around Hakone. We got lucky, we arrived first at the ticket booth, and a huge line formed behind us. After getting our tickets we quickly proceed to the train boarding area. There’s a castle in Odawara but it’s not that famous so we skip it.
Aaack peak season! This is also the start of our trip, meaning us carrying our 60L backpacks 🎒 around. Fortunately, in Hakone-Yumoto, where we’re going to stay, we found 500¥ lockers that were big enough for our backpacks. Again, it’s high season so it can be tricky to find big lockers available. (Check out this guide for luggage in Japan)
We’re now on the Hakone Tozan train for 40min, as it goes up the mountain. The train was packed and we didn’t have any seat, but we still enjoyed the view from the windows. At the final stop in Gora, 400m higher, the crowd of tourists move to the cable car. Here again, it’s very very packed. Fortunately, the trip this time is only about 10min.
Arriving at Sounzan, we discover that the ropeway is under maintenance so they dispatched buses to take us to Owakudani. The roads were very crowded due to the high season, but it was impressive to see the gas coming up from the ground in the forest mixed with the snow. It looks like the ropeway from Sounzan to Owakudani is now reopened but there’s a warning notice that people may not want to take it, because of the volcanic gas.
Owakudani was crazy-crowded and there was music coming out of big speakers. It felt a bit surreal, to see the Mount Fuji, the volcanic gas, the snow, and the crowd of people. There was the obligatory sulfur smell and we had to try the local black eggs. According to brochures, the black eggs taste different, but we couldn’t notice any difference. It was really interesting though! I wish they also sold regular eggs to compare.
We also tried the black ice cream, which I thought was black sesame, but it ended up being dyed vanilla. :X
We took the ropeway to Togendai but there was not much to do there except for the cruise that takes you to another view of the Mount Fuji. By the way, the Mount Fuji looks incredible. It’s really unique and I feel like no photo can match the real thing. It’s incredible to see that huge summit, standing alone in the background.
We arrive in time for the golden hour in Hakone. Our ryokan (Aura Tachibana) sends a minivan to pick us up at the tourist office near the station. We’re glad we don’t have to walk with our backpacks, even if the ryokan is just 15 minutes away! It’s a super cute town with a lot of luxurious ryokan around the river. 😍
We visit Gyokuren Shrine, a small shrine with a waterfall, just behind a ryokan, and Sounji temple, a peaceful temple with a cemetery. We return to our ryokan to get ready for dinner. If you’ve never stayed in a ryokan before, I highly recommend you try one, even if it can be a bit expensive.
Stay: Aura Tachibana
When we got out of the shuttle car, we were greeted by an employee who wanted to take our bags. I felt bad though because my backpack was so heavy 😬. She checked us in, we received hot green tea, and she explained the ryokan layout to us.
She then showed us to our room and explained how to wear the yukata. 👘 This is the usual experience checking-in in a ryokan. We chose to eat at 7 pm. We stayed in a traditional room so while we had dinner, the staff prepared our futon in the room.
The dinner was delicious. I liked that they had a small paper with all the dishes description in English so we could understand what we were eating. Everything was good, but I was not fond of the fish cakes. 🍥
We went to the baths after dinner. I was lucky to have the baths to myself! This ryokan has rooms with a private bath so other guests probably enjoyed it in their rooms.
The day after we had a traditional breakfast and the shuttle took us back to the station.