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Exploring the Hakone area, minus views of Mt Fuji


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large_5550_14319998528816.jpgSwitchback train.
It was another early start with the alarm for 0600 for a shower, breakfast and packing up after 5 nights at the Tsukiji Business Ban Hotel. I left at 0700 and got to Shinjuku Station rather quickly but as it was a collection of different stations (different rail companies and then the metro), I spent considerable time finding the office and departure point for the bus to Hakone [Hakone-travel-guide-280113]. I reckon the instructions given had been a bit misleading and I eventually found it.

It was 0810 by the time I got my ticket and the next bus to Hakone was 0830 which could drop me off at Sengoku about 5 minutes from my hotel. The alternative was to wait till 0900 for one that could drop me outside my hotel. I chose the former.

The journey was on the motorway for around 2h followed by about 20 minutes on roads in the Hakone region.large_5550_14319998594683.jpgLargely brown scenery at this time of year.The weather had deteriorated along the way.

I hopped off at Sengoku and after a wrong turn (which was fruitful as I found the ATM to get more money), I found my hotel. I dropped my pack there, grabbed some dumplings from a nearby café and started my afternoon exploring the Hakone area.

I started by taking a bus downhill to Hakone-Yumoto; it wasn’t a short ride and it was windy. The rain got heavier. When I got to Hakone-Yumoto, it was too wet to explore so I hopped on the switchback train to Gora.

The switchback train consists of two carriages. It takes its name from the nature of the tracks … it zigzags up its hilly route but doesn’t switches back at some stops, ie. the front becomes the back and the back becomes the front.

The route itself wasn’t too beautiful at this time of year. The sakura had gone and the leaves weren’t out.large_5550_14319998663698.jpgCable car.I didn’t have any pink nor green but only the greyish brown of bare branches on the mountains slopes.

Upon reaching Gora, I wandered around briefly before hopping on the cable car (funicular railway in some countries) to Sounzan where I changed immediately to a rope-car (gondola or cable car in some countries). That took me to high up to Owakudani [Owakudani-travel-guide-1328809] where I could stop to explore the volcanic area before continuing to its final stop at Togendai.

The weather had kinda fined up enough to fully explore the volcanic streams, pools and vents. It hadn't fined up enough to get even a glimpse of Mount Fuji [Mount-Fuji-travel-guide-1336977], which is supposed to be the highlight of visiting this area.large_5550_1431999874475.jpgRopeway.I could get a glimpse of the water, which I guess must have been Lake Ashi.

Having just been to White Island in New Zealand only weeks before, the volcanic area was pale in comparison. I explored it fully but quickly, covering all the areas that were permitted. High winds started and I thought I’d better make my way back to the rope-car.

To my surprise, the rope-car was still operating. Unfortunately, they closed it within minutes of me joining the queue. There was no refund for the unused portion of the expensive ticket and had to pay for a separate bus ticket back down to the lake. I waited for the bus indoors in the souvenir shop for as long as I could. When I eventually had to queue up, it was in the cold gale.

Down from the mountain on the shores of Lake Ashi, all was calm and sunny.large_5550_14319998815206.jpgLargely brown scenery at this time of year.I had enough of bad weather this trip both in Nikko [Nikko-travel-guide-283488] and the Hakone area. It was time for me to head back to the hotel and wait for dinner and a hot soak after.

The Hakone Mount View hotel turned out to be an excellent choice as it was a hotel set up to give a ryokan feel. It had an onsen and diners would eat in smaller dining rooms of about 8 tables instead of one large hall of 40(?) tables for the entire hotel. The corridors were all dark and atmospheric with piped in koto music. My single room including sumptuous dinner and breakfast cost me less than JPY13000.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Japan

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