Hakone – Come for the views, stay for the onsen!
If you ever need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life in Tokyo or Yokohama, Hakone is the place to go. Famous for its natural beauty and hot spring (onsen) inns, Hakone is about an hour’s journey by train. Perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway.
For my itinerary, I got the Hakone Free Pass and followed the popular Hakone Round Course (details in the Japan Guide website) stopping at the places that seem interesting.
Owakudani was an interesting stop – an active volcanic area with so much sulfurous fumes going around I felt like I was back in my school chemistry lab. That is not fog or steam in the photo. It’s the fumes I speak of.
I stayed the night in a hot spring inn by Lake Ashinoko. It was a rainy and gloomy weekend with temperatures cold enough that I had the misty breath effect. So it was just pure, pure bliss when I got into the inn’s hot spring for a dip.
The next morning, I took some time walking along the lake. The weather was was still dark and gloomy. There was thick fog clouding the mountains which really created a mythical and surreal kinda atmosphere. The downside is Mt. Fuji gets hidden as well under all that fog.
Amid the blur and fogginess, I spotted this man in his boat doing some fishing. It was the perfect recipe for a moody photograph.
At noon, I took a boat across the lake. Actually they look more like pirate ships. I’m surprised popular manga/anime franchise One Piece has not tried to cash in on this (or have they?).
My last stop was Hakone Shrine. A beautiful shrine surrounded by lush forestry facing Lake Ashi. It would have been a peaceful place if not for the throngs of tourists.
Overall, I think Hakone is a tad touristy but a great destination to escape from the concrete jungles of Tokyo. Though if you’re looking for views of Mt. Fuji, I’d prefer going to Lake Kawaguchi instead.