Hakone – Beautiful Mt Fuji

30 10 2009

Hakone is the gateway to Mt Fuji, one of the nicest places in Japan so be sure to spend at least 2 days in Hakone so that you can cover most of the sights there.

I got the Hakone Free Pass (cost 5,000 yen), which covers all the transportation in Hakone (including the train ride from Shinjuku station in Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto station by the Odakyu line). However, note that this pass does not include a seat reservation and the train ride from Shinjuku to Hakone takes more than 2 hours. Therefore, I would suggest topping up 870 yen for the “Romance Car” train from Shinjuku station to Hakone-Yumoto station which has a reserved seat and takes only 1.5 hours.

From Hakone-Yumoto, the Hakone Tozan Train takes a leisurely 40 minutes to cover the 15-kilometer distance to Gora which I have chosen to stay. Details of the Hakone Free Pass can be found in the attached link.

If you are intending to visit Mt Fui itself, get the Fuji-Hakone Free Pass instead.

My accommodation is Gora is the Gora Ichi No Yu ryokan. It is a simple but nice ryokan and the food served there is pretty good. But the downside of this ryokan is that it is located on a hill top, which is a tiring 20 minutes walk from the Gora station.

Suggested itinerary:
1) From Gora Station, took the Hakone Tozan Cablecar to Sounzan. Thereafter change to the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani. Make a short stop at Owakudani to visit the hell valley and eat the “black egg”. Here, you would also be able to catch a good view of Mt Fuji if the weather is clear. Shopping wise, I noted that the shop nearer to the station is cheaper than the rest so if you want to buy things, buy from there. I had my lunch in the 2nd shop which sells the black ramen (the taste is great and cheap)! Otherwise, if you are going on a budget, there is a food court in the 3rd shop where you can get cheaper food and drinks.

2) From Owakudani, I continued my journey to Lake Ashi via the Hakone Ropeway to Togendai. At Lake Ashi, do take a cruise on a pirate ship to tour the lake.
3) I choose to alight from the cruise at Hakonemachi-ko. From there, it is a 15 minutes walk to the historical Hakone checkpoint museum and followed by a walk along the old Takaido Road which is lined with centuries old cedars. There is a bus back to Gora.

4) From Gora, take the  Hakone Tozan Train to Chokuko No Mori Station to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. The Hakone Freepass would give a discount for the entrance fee (discounted price of 1,400 yen). This museum showcases many interesting sculptures on its spacious grounds with beautiful views of the surrounding valley and mountains. Besides the sculptures, the museum features various indoor galleries, including a sizable Picasso Collection, consisting of paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramic creations. There is also a hot spring foot bath in the museum. Do bring your own towel (or you can purchase a towel for 100 yen at the hot spring).

5) After the museum, you can take a bus to the Gotemba Premium Outlet (around 1 hour journey) where one can indulge in shopping. It is not really that cheap in the outlet but the discounted items are worth checking out. Also, from the outlet, you would be able to view Mt Fuji on clear days.