Exploring Hakone was on the cards for our second day in this mountainous destination. After day 1 in Gora, and a good nights sleep, we had a wonderful traditional breakfast to start the day off. The breakfasts in Japan are completely different to the ones we’re used to in the western parts of the world. Mainly fish, rice and miso and then sweet omelette and other items like pickles, ginger, potato salad and lettuce are added to make the meal look interesting. Although very different from our usual eggs and bacon, this was an extremely healthy protein rich alternative and rather delicious.
In walking distance from our hotel, the Hakone Gora Karakara Onsen hotel is the Hakone Open Air Museum. Having a passion for art and studying it at school and university, I was excited to take a walk among some incredible statues in this museum. Much to our surprise, there was a separate pavilion of Picasso originals which was a dream come true to see. Being originals, we were not allowed to photograph any of his work but it was just awe-inspiring standing in front of works like his etchings of “la Repas Frugal” and “Joie Maternelle” and so many others paintings and sculptures, illustrations and ceramics.
Here were some other favorites I really liked from other artists (scroll over the pictures to see titles and artist names):
After strolling around the museum soaking up the sun and talented artists’ pieces we got back onto the Hakone Tozan Train up to Gora station where we caught the Hakone Tozan Cable Car which was exhilarating! The car literally being pulled by cables took us up such a steep path. This is where I mentioned in my previous post about the alternative to walking up and down the steep mountain side.
Getting to the top, one can usually catch the Hakone Rope Way from this point (Sounzan) all the way to Togendai-Ko pier where Lake Ashi starts but because of the volcanic activity at the time, we had to catch the bus up certain parts to Ubako, witnessing the mountain steaming through the ground all the way up to where we were then able to catch the rope way.
At Togendai-ko (pier) we showed our Hakone Free Passes and were able to hop onto the pirate ship which idled across the lake. It was freezing outside on the deck but the scenery was just too breathtaking to sit inside the cabin.
From the first stop at Hakonemachi-ko we stayed on the ship to cruise up to Motohakone-ko which is a very scenic part of the southern Hakone area. We stopped off at a wonderful little bakery called Bakery and Table to warm up. Delicious sweet and savory delights got the senses going, the smell of freshly baked bread and pastries in the air is just such a comforting scent!
Walking along the lake was wonderful. Fresh, cold air keeping us awake all the way up to the shrine that is quite the tourist attraction. Entering the shrine area, we walked through avenues of giant cedar trees. Some were as old as 400 years. Absolutely mesmerizing! This Hakone-Jinja Shrine is just magnificent. I think the history of all the trees surrounding it made this sighting even more special.
We couldn’t stay too long wandering around this beautiful area as we needed to head home. Definitely worth visiting though, it has so much history and is so peaceful.
From the Motohakone-ko pier, we took the Hakone Tozan back up to the Hakone-Yumoto station where we had a little time to ourselves. We walked up and down the river alongside the train tracks with the Sakura blooming, watching a heron patiently waiting for its evening meal.
From here we caught the Romance-car back to Shinjuku to get home. Completely exhausted after our busy trip away, we enjoyed the comfort of this train, especially with it traveling straight through all the stations where the local train would usually stop.
Have a look at www.hakonenavi.jp to assist with maps and ideas as well as timetables. I am definitely going to be going back to Hakone, I think it will be near the Lake next time and hopefully when all the Hydrangea flowers are out in Summer or in the Autumn – these two seasons will make Hakone look ‘postcard-like’.