Continuing on from my Tokyo post…Day 3 marked our arrival in Hakone, Japan. Hakone is famous for its relaxing onsen (Japanese hotsprings) and close proximity to the sacred Mt. Fuji. We needed some downtime after all the commuting and chaos of urban Tokyo. Hakone proved to be the exact oasis we were hoping for.
Type of Trip: Self Planned – Part II: Hakone (2 days, after Tokyo)
Hotel: Mount View Hakone – ryokan with private onsen (cash only), booked through Hotels.com
Transport: JR Railpass (Tokyo Station to Odawara on Shinkansen Bullet Train)
- DAY 1: Arrive in Hakone in mid-afternoon
- Commute: First, we took the bullet train from Tokyo Station using our JR Railpass. We got off at the Odawara stop (~45 min). From there, exit the station to the bus stop (on the East side). Take the Tozan Bus Route (“T”) to the “Sengokuhara-bunka-center-mae” stop (~1 hour). It cost us around $10 USD. The buses are easy to navigate and the stops are shown in English in the front. If you are going to Hakone for 2-3 days total…I highly recommend getting the Hakone FreePass at the Odawara station. This would cover that part of your transit (bus) and you will use it again for the tour loop.
- Ryokan – we reserved a Superior Twin room with a Tatami area (make sure to order the breakfast and dinner for at least one night – the “half board” option!). The room was gorgeous and simple. A separate big-claw bath in the room and traditional Japanese sleeping arrangements. When you check in, they provide you with traditional Yukata (a casual kimono) to wear during your stay. When you get the “half-board”, you also get one free private bath session for your room (45 min, great for couples). Most go nude in the onsen…the water was SO hot, but completely relaxing! The hotel also has a public onsen for women only, men only and coed. You do not need a reservation for these and you can choose to go nude or with a swim suit. This was exactly what we needed after all the walking around Tokyo!
- After enjoying our private bath session, we got ready for our traditional kaiseki dinner in the hotel. I was not expecting how awesome it was! There were about 15 plates set up in front of each of our chairs, in a private dining room. You serve yourself, order sake as you please, and enjoy a traditional kaiseki meal. TRY EVERYTHING!
- DAY 2: Hakone Loop Tour – in search of Mt. Fuji. Pick a clear day so you can see it! We woke up to the earthquake in Fukushima, thankfully it didn’t result in the tsunami that was anticipated!
- Breakfast, like dinner, was epic. Another billion courses…including a crab claw miso soup that was boiled in front of us. So awesome and flavors I had never tried before!
- We purchased the Hakone Freepass (mentioned above) at a local stop near our ryokan. We bought the 2-day for 4,000 YEN. It covers all of your day’s transportation and comes with a comprehensive bus map that is easy to follow. From there, we hopped on the bus to Gora (where the loop begins). LOOP
- We loved the loop adventure…four modes of transportation in one day (bus, cable car, ropeway, and boat). The first epic views of Mount Fuji arrived on the ropeway. You are inside a gondola…try to sit on the right side of the car (right side if you are facing uphill).
- We ate black hardboiled eggs in Owakudani (where the ropeway drops you off). This volcanic site was interesting but we didn’t find it appealing to stay long.
- Pirate ship across Lake Ashi to end the loop – sit on the top level. It gets crowded but the views aren’t anything new. We found it a great time to chill out, instead of fighting the crowds of tourists with cameras. 🙂 The Fall foliage is simply gorgeous.
- The bus took us back to the ryokan and we had a late lunch at the Petite Prince (french restaurant). We were craving some bread after days of fish and Japanese fare.
- DAY 3: Depart Hakone…on to Kyoto!