Views of Mount Fuji
Between Mount Fuji and the Izu Peninsula, the touristic area of Hakone overflows with charm. With a range of natural sites, museums and onsen, mountainous Hakone is discovered and rediscovered through an excursion, or a weekend. So close to Tokyo, yet so far from its frenetic atmosphere.
Shinjuku Station, on a Saturday spring morning. As always, the crowds, and the same hustle and bustle in one of Tokyo's busisest stations. The Japanese and foreign tourists are getting ready to escape from the capital, heading for the Hakone region, which is so popular for its many attractions and the change of scenery it provides. Picture-postcard Hakone attracts visitors by the millions throughout the year, especially in summer, to admire the idyllic views of valleys and a certain Mount Fuji. It is no surprise at all that Hakone remains the favorite summer holiday destination for Tokyoites. Everyone leaves the skyscrapers of Tokyo to reach the heights of the mountains, the timeless skyscrapers of a region. A reconstitued checkpoint, Seshisho Shiryokan near Gora, is a faint reminder that this region was previously the gateway to Tokyo, formerly known as Edo.
"Greetings from Hakone"
Nestled within Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone is built around its transport network, which is an attraction in itself. Taking the Hakone round course in an anti-clockwise direction, firstly head north: from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto, then Miyanoshita and Gora. The whole journey takes about three hours by train from Tokyo. Already,the valleys can be seen below. Here, the harmony of Gora Koen Garden delights strollers and children, while art lovers admire the futuristic building of Pola Museum of Art, and the beautiful impressionist and contemporary pieces that it contains. On the Hakone Tozan Line at Chokoku no Mori, the Open Air Museum presents works by Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Niki de Saint-Phalle, combining art and nature.
Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi
The train stops and the funicular replaces it. The cars ascend then descend into Owakudani, a volcanic site. A potential stop for a quick. Surrounded by volcanic fumes, Owakudani offers the chance to relish on some black eggs, eggs boiled in sulfur-rich water. A Hakone attraction if ever there was one.
The cable car continues its journey to reach Togendai, north of Lake Ashi. Here, shuttle boats and pirate boats allow you to discover the vermilion torii of Hakone Jinja , its mirror image breaking the still surface of the water and with it, the reflection of Fuji-san and its eternal snow. The river reflects Mount Fuji from its base to its summit, from its forests to the clouds that roof the tallest mountain in Japan. The clock is ticking, and the cable car must continue its journey. It stops on the south bank, near Hakone-machi or Moto-Hakone, the two main towns of the lake. From here you can catch a train to Tokyo, via Hakone-Yumoto and Odawara. Alternatively, spend a few extra days in a ryokan and soak in the natural beauty that is Hakone, from one of its many popular hot springs. Hakone is traveled across like passing scenery, like a memory.