Three Days in Hakone, Japan: Hakone Free Pass
Last April, I had the pleasure of visiting Japan twice for two different weekends. Originally, I just planned to see Kyoto and Tokyo with my mom, but after getting some serious inspiration from Neko Box, I booked a cheap flight back to Tokyo in order to visit the sleepy lake town of Hakone.
I arrived late at night and slept for a few hours in Shinjuku, then headed to Tokyo Station early in the morning to catch the first train west. I purchased a Hakone Free Pass which would cover all of my travel other than the major train ride. As you'll soon see, I made great use of that card.
After arriving in Hakone Station I darted right to the Hakone Touzan Rail. This is a switch back train which means we were going up the mountain in a zig zag fashion, changing directions ever few minutes. The views from the train window were inspiring to say the least!
At the summit we then hopped on the funicular which took us up the much steeper part of the mountain. We weren't done yet though, the final part of the journey involved cable cars that took us right over the heart of a volcano. No big deal, right?
The volcano is still active and before getting on the cable cars we were given special cloths to put over our mouths to block out the smell. It was pretty nasty up once we finally landed at the volcano's mouth. There we could try ice cream made with volcano ash (to be honest, it was just vanilla) and eggs hard boiled in the sulphuric waters. These eggs were absolutely delicious and I was lucky I bought them because Hakone had the least amount of convenience stores I've ever seen in a Japanese town (and I've been to some pretty rural spots!) They were a great snack for me the entire weekend.
Did I mention each egg is supposed to add 7 years to your life? There's that perk too.
After snacking, I took the cable car all the way down to the tip of Lake Ashi, where I would find my hotel. The hotel was mildly terrifying. I'd put money on the fact that the designer decorated the place to look exactly like The Shining, and I didn't see another guest until the morning for the breakfast buffet (were they paid actors to make me feel more safe? we will never know)
I walked to the lake to observe the small town, since most of the hotels are located closer to Hakone Station which was now about an hour's public transportation away from me. I grabbed some ice cream at the gift shop then headed back to the hotel to take advantage of my room's bath tub (how I wish my apartment had one in Seoul!) When I looked out the window to take in the sunset I literally gasped when I saw a huge shadow that had been hidden behind clouds the entire day. Mt Fuji was directly outside my bedroom window. I can't even begin to describe how intimidating but peaceful it was. When it faded into the dark, I fell asleep.
The next morning I woke up, grabbed some breakfast at the breakfast buffet, and hopped on the bus. My destination: Hakone Shrine. This shrine was mind blowing and was filled with people walking their dogs, taking photos with friends, and paying their respects. I wandered for an hour or so then walked to the eastern edge of Lake Ashi where there was much more going on!
I walked around the town a bit then popped into Bakery & Table to read, have a little lunch, and write a bunch of postcards! It was a pretty windy and chilly day so I spent a few hours people watching and munching on their amazing baked goods. Eventually I moved on to Onshihakone Park. I was amazed to find that the cherry blossoms were still out, since my mom and I thought we saw the last of them in Tokyo a few weekends before. The grounds are impressive and give you an amazing view of Fuji (if the sky is clear) and the lake below.
To end my adventure for the day, I boarded one of Hakone's famous pirate ships. We set sail just before sunset and boy, did golden hour look good on Hakone! It was a stunning ride! I grabbed another ice cream for dinner (I'm an adult) and hit the hay.
My last half day was spent exploring the proper town around Hakone Station before getting on my train back to Haneda Airport. I had a cheese tart, some coffee, fish cake, and onigiri before I said my goodbyes. I hope to be back one day to experience this all again, and I hope you can visit Hakone too! Thanks for coming along :)