On day 7 of our Japan trip we woke up in our Hakone Ryokan. After a delicious breakfast served in our room, we ventured out to see as much of the surrounding area as we could in a single day. We were only staying in Hakone for 2 nights, which meant we only had 1 full day to see the area.
Although we couldn’t see everything, I’d highly recommend our path:
- Take the tramway up to the top of the mountain.
- Take the ropeway from Hakone to Owakudani
- Explore Owakudani
- Continue on the ropeway to Lake Ashinoko
- Jump on a pirate ship to the other side of the lake
- Explore the Hakone Jinja shrine
- Have some smelt at a restaurant by the lake
- Catch a bus back to your hotel
That’s a FULL day. We woke up early to start and only got back after dark. Here are some of my favorite parts of the trip.
Owakudani – 大涌谷
Reachable by ropeway, Owakudani, “Great Boiling Valley”, is a small volcanic valley bursting with steam vents and boiling water. It’s also a stop on the ropeway, on the way to Lake Ashinoko, and worth exploring.
After you exit the ropeway, you’ll be hit by some tremendous, cold winds. These nearly blew us over and we weren’t prepared for the temperature. We continued on to the vents themselves, following the crowd. The eggs cooked in the sulfurous water turn black, but taste the same as any hard boiled eggs. They claim that each egg you eat adds 7 years to your life. At $5 for 35 years, that’s quite a deal.
We explored the area and the small shops dotting the path. If you’re in the mood for an “American Dog” (corn dog), this is the place. Otherwise, you can grab a Hakone beer or some local cider for later.
Lake Ashinoko – 芦ノ湖
The ropeway lets out right at Lake Ashinoko, where we jumped right on one of the two ships that traverses the lake. This picturesque but extremely crowded boat took us from the mostly uninhabited north side of the lake to the much more lively south side.
Unfortunately for us, it was a cloudy day when we were there. On a good day, you can see Mt. Fuji during this trip, but we were treated with fog and chilly mountain air instead. Despite that, the lake air was refreshing, and we were at the other side before we knew it.
The guide we read mentioning stopping for a quick lunch of lake smelt close by, which a number of restaurants along the lakeside serve. We found a small casual restaurant overlooking the lake and stopped in for a bite. The smelt had a similar taste to fresh fish sticks, but were tasty.
On the south end of Lake Ashinoko lies Hakone Jinja, a small Shinto shrine with a welcoming gate you can see from the water. We made the short walk over the ship through the tall Cyprus trees to the main entrance. The Shrine is small, but was worth the visit for the path alone.
We learned that the Hakone shrine is also a place for women to go to ask for a boyfriend. This might explain the groups of women we spotted in the Hakone area.
Back to the Hotel
All around the 570 Ashigarashimo District (the part of the city right on the water) there are bus stops that head up highway 1 back to Hakone. The buses swing by every few minutes and are part of the Hakone pass.
At the end of the day the buses are very full. For the best chance of getting on one, pick a bus stop at the far edge of town.
The next morning we packed up and headed into town to catch a tram to a train to faster train to a taxi to a hotel in Tokyo (whew).