Visible from many parts of Hakone.
This post documents our two-day side trip during our week long trip to Tokyo in the summer of 2010. Part 1
of this series describes the highlights of our sojourn in Tokyo while Part 2
describes our climb of Mt Fuji.
Prior to our arrival in Japan, I had booked a room at the excellent Moto-Hakone Guest House
, and I also bought the Hakone Free Pass for JPY5500 on arrival at Narita. Both turned out to the excellent purchases; the guest house was friendly, homely and great value for money, and the Pass allowed unlimited rides within the Hakone area plus one return trip between Shinjuku and the Hakone area.
Leaving Shinjuku around noon on Thursday, we took the local train to the town of Odawara. From there, we took a bus to Moto-Hakone on the shores of Lake Ashi. Getting to the guest house was a breeze thanks to the detailed instructions, complete with pictures, on the guest house's website. Arriving around 4pm, the friendly proprietor told us to hustle out to dinner immediately as only the Italian restaurant was open and they would close before 5pm. With that, we headed into town - about a 15 minute walk - and
had an excellent salad, pizza and ice cream. After dinner, we strolled along the shore of Lake Ashi enjoying the cool evening - a wonderful respite from the heat in Tokyo - before heading back and turning in early.
On Friday, we set out early to begin our mixed-mode circuit around Hakone. First up: a Pirate Ship running the length of Lake Ashi from Moto-Hakone to Togendai. This was a kitschy but fun experience. En route, we were treated to views of misty Lake Ashi. Disembarking in Togendai, we wandered around the lake shore a bit before embarking on the ropeway to Owakudani. Owakudani is best known for its steaming vents spewing sulfurous fumes which turn eggshells black when eggs are placed in them to be hardboiled. These eggs are reputed to add seven years to your life. Jeff went to buy two packs thinking they each contained one egg, but it turns out each bag contained five eggs. We gave some eggs away and then ended up taking the rest back to the guest house with us, which turned out to be a lifesaver. More on that later. Oh, and Jeff used a squat toilet for the very
Jeff and Hello Kitty, Owakudani
This is Hello Kitty's tribute to the black shelled eggs of Owakudani, complete with a crack!
first time here. He was quite traumatized by the experience. Haha!
After strolling around Owakudani, we jumped onto the ropeway again to Sounzan, where we transferred onto the cable car to Gora, a pleasant little town where we stopped for a simple lunch of soba in soup.
Next up was the Tozan train which winds through the forest. En route, we got off at the stop for the Hakone Open Air Museum but we decided to give it a miss as it started raining. Jumping back on the train, we enjoyed the ride through all the greenery until we reached Hakone-Yumoto Station. There, we transferred onto a bus to take us to Tenzen Onsen.
As Jeff and I were both onsen virgins, we took special care to research the pre-bathing rituals prior to our arrival so as not to offend, knowing that as foreigners all eyes would be on us. Tenzen is a beautiful outdoor spa with numerous pools of varying temperatures. Upon paying our entrance fee, we were both given a small towel and locker keys. Changing out of our clothes, we went to the shower area first and sat on the little stools to douse
ourselves before heading out to the pools. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours in Tenzen before taking the bus back to Moto-Hakone.
We arrived in Moto-Hakone around 5pm only to realize that no restaurants were open! This was a surprise considering it was Friday. Fortunately for us, the 7-Eleven was open. Anyone who has been to a Japanese 7-Eleven will know that they sell good fresh food. Jeff bought cold soba and I bought a noodle bowl with veggies which needed only hot water to be added. After walking back to the guest house in the heavy rain, I added hot water to the noodles and threw in the leftover hard boiled eggs from Owakudani. What a morale booster this was! Sated and full, we enjoyed the free wifi and eventually fell asleep to the sound of the raindrops.
The next morning, everything was crisp and clear after the rain, and the views of Mount Fuji were fantastic. We strolled around Moto-Hakone, including the famed cedar forest, before jumping onto the bus to take us to the train station from whence we would return to Shinjuku to resume our Tokyo adventure.
Moto-Hakone Guest House is great value for money in a great location close to Lake Ashi. The proprietor speaks fluent English. Highly recommended.
The Hakone Free Pass can be purchased at Narita Airport along with your Narita Express ticket and your subway card.
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