I woke up early and left the hostel around on my way to Hakone. I took a local train bound for Tokyo station, from there I switched to the Shinkansen for Odawara station.I’m so glad I brought my 22” size luggage because I didn’t have to worry about it not fitting on the overheard compartment or sitting in the back of the train to place my luggage.
Hakone Open Air Museum
I arrived in Odawara station and bought the Hakone 2-day free pass for 3900 yen, which is valid for 2 consecutive days.There is also a 3-day Hakone free pass.It is also worth noting that you can save more money by buying the pass at Odawara station if you have the JR pass as opposed to Shinjuku station, otherwise if you don’t have the JR pass and you are coming from the Tokyo area, then buying from Shinjuku is a bargain itself also.The Hakone free pass allows unlimited rides during those consecutive days using the designated trains, selected buses, cable car, cable ropeway ride, and the sightseeing boat.Part of the fun of Hakone is riding those modes of transportations to get around.
I decided to take some pictures of Odawara station after I bought my Hakone free pass, before boarding the train bound for Hakone-Yumoto, when I realized that I couldn’t find my passport, JR rail pass, and the Hakone free pass, along with $1000 in cash.
Cable ropeway ride
I kept all of that in a zippered pouch.I took it out after I bought my pass.I started to panic, went back to the office where I bought the pass from, it wasn’t there.I went to the Lost and Found office, the person that worked there didn’t speak any English, but he knew the word passport, and saw the look of panic and concern in my eyes.So he called someone who could speak English to translate.After 5 minutes of describing the last time I saw that zippered pouch and what it looked like, someone found it.They turned it in to the office.I was so relieved that someone found it.And it really just goes to show how safe Japan is.If I was in the USA and I lost those documents with that amount of cash, that thing would have been gone.
Owakudani's sulfuric fumes.
That’s one more reason why I really like Japan, the people are friendly, the country is really safe, and people are courteous enough to turn in what I lost.Thank you whoever you are that turned it in. If you're a cute single girl, I'd be more than happy to treat you out for dinner to show my gratitude and appreciation ;P
After I arrived at the Hakone-Yumoto train station, I went to the luggage forwarding center 50 feet away from where the train stopped, paid 700 yen to have my luggage sent to the ryokan onsen where I will be staying in for the night.I boarded the Tozan railway for some scenic and gorgeous views of the Hakone mountains and valley.I’m from central California where it is practically a desert with barely any vegetations growing.
Hakone Open Air Museum
Therefore it was really nice to see an area heavily covered in green vegetations and trees, I find it really relaxing and soothing looking at those instead of looking at brown dirt and dead weeds.I stopped prior to Gora to visit the Hakone Open Air museum which is an open area with the beautiful Hakone mountain backdrop.The open outdoor museum itself has a lot of sculptures, artworks, buildings laid out in an open grass field.Inside the buildings you can find paintings and other form of arts.One of the main attractions of the open air museum is the Picasso pavilion, which isa 2-story building featuring a large collection of Pablo Picasso’s work.I knew Picasso is one of the most talented artist that ever lived, what I didn’t know was how awesome he was in other art forms as well.His works ranged from paintings, pottery, sculpture, mosaic art, drawings and much more.I spent nearly 2 hours in the open air museum.I took the Tozan train on my way to Gora.
As soon as I arrived in Gora station, the cablecar uphill bound for Sounzan was waiting.
Lake Ashinoko boat ride
The cablecar ride was extremely slow, and the seats were a bit cramped, but the ride only lasted for about 10 minutes, and it is not as bad as I make it out to be.From there I boarded the cable ropeway with 6 other people which was headed for Owakudani.It was such a windy day, and I could hear the wind making whistling sounds as it hit the car that we were in.I’m beginning to sound redundant here, either that or I’m just running out of adjectives to use, but the ride and the views were spectacularly super amazing coupled that with the views of the forested mountains in the background.I’ve never experienced anything or seen anything like that in my life before.I was extremely happy, and it was only my 4th full day in Japan with 10 more days left in this adventure. The car passed over a mountain and as it descended I could see a mountain with no trees or vegetations at all.
I saw some fumes coming out of it and some yellow stains on the soil.I was looking at Owakudani.The yellow stains on the soil were sulfur.Owakudani is an area that was created after MountHakone’slast volcanic explosion 3000 years ago.Supposedly you can see views of Mount Fuji on a clear day, but it was patchy windy and cloudy day when I visited.
I stopped by Owakudani, went outside the station and the wind was blowing my hair all over the place.It’s all cool though, it’s not like I’m trying to impress a cute Japanese girl.
Boat ride across Lake Ashinoko.
I walked about 15 minutes stopping occasionally to take pictures and video record towards the sulfuric fumes and bubbling volcanic water.Apparently they sell hardboiled eggs, 5 for 500 yen.I was so hungry that I bought some black eggs and ate it on the table provided outside.It came with some salt, so I salted the eggs to give it some flavor and then I ate it.The sulfur itself is what turns the egg black, and if you eat the eggs, it is suppose to prolong your life by 7 years.Only way to find out is to eat it, and I ate it.On my way back to Owakudani station, I stopped by one of the local restaurants and ate some noodle soup which was the specialty in Owakudani.The soup itself was heated with a really hot black stone that looked like one of those hardboiled eggs that I ate earlier. After the waitress poured the soup into that bowl with the black stone, she told me to close the lidand wait 3 minutes.It’s just like eating cup-noodles.But it tasted really good and filled me up.I left Owakudani around 145 pm and boarded the cable ropeway again for Togendai to ride the Hakone sightseeing boat through LakeAshinoko.
View from my room.
Mount Fuji could be seen in the distance with its snow covered peak covered in clouds.I didn’t really expect to see Mount Fuji today, but I’m very fortunate that I did.
The clouds started clearing up by the time the boat left from Togendai around .As the boat cruised along LakeAshi, the automated English guide from the boat speakers would give information about the surrounding area and the sites that could be seen.
Inside Mikawaya ryokan
I really enjoyed the boat ride, but it went by so fast, maybe 20 minutes or so, give or take.The boat docked at Hakone-Machi.It was already nearing , and I had to check in to the ryokan onsen at .I visited the Hakone checkpoint museum briefly, and I really wanted to visit the cedar avenue as well as the area leading to the red torii gate by the lake.But I was running out of time.I boarded the bus on my way to Mikawaya Ryokan, and arrived 10 minutes later at my stop.
Check-in at Mikawaya ryokan was a breeze, the innkeeper lady walked me to my room, she spoke English really well, occasionally stopping by where the onsen baths were and going over the rules and etiquette.
I opted for a standard Japanese style room, and when I arrived found my luggage on the tatami floor.The room was decent size, it was big enough for me, and the views of the surrounding mountains outside the window were so beautiful.On the table was green tea and a small a Japanese cracker snack.It was so good and refreshing.The tea is one of the best that I’ve ever had. The room had a small fridge with beer, water, soda, and other drinks, as well as a sink, and the high tech Japanese toilet. I unpacked, charged my electronics, and put on the yukata robe provided.This is one of the pricier ryokans around the area, but it was worth it.I’m thinking I was the only lone traveler staying there for the night.This ryokan seemed like a good getaway for couples or honeymooners.If I ever get married, I’ll definitely stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan again.
The building itself had that old traditional architecture, and in front of the ryokan is a really beautiful garden.
Sadly I never had time to visit the garden itself.It was almost dinner time.Kaiseki, a traditional mutlicourse Japanesemeal was served in my room.The attendant told me they will serve dinner around 530 pm, so I didn’t really have time to check out the onsen bath before then.Breakfast was also served in my room.
Dinner itself was so delicious, I can’t even describe what they served, but I had some sashimi, soup with what appears to be fishballs with vegetables, plum wine, dried fish and shrimp.They also had some pickled fruit and vegetables, as well as fish and tempura served with hot green tea.And the steamed white rice was provided was more than enough.I ate all of it and felt really good afterwards.Prior to visiting Japan, I spent a good amount of time practicing how to use chopsticks, although not as good as the locals, I was amazed how easily I was able to use it and pick up my food.
Meiji style bath.
Practice makes perfect.I thought I was done with dinner until my attendant brought in dessert.After about 1 hour of eating dinner, I was really stuffed and full.I sat on the chair by the window, and drank the remainder of the green tea.I had the window open, and the breeze felt so cool and refreshing.The clouds were setting in, and it felt as though it was going to rain.After the futon bed was laid out on the floor I decided to check out their onsen bath.
I went to visit the large indoor public bath.Inside were some open cabinets to place the clothes in using the provided basket tray.The ryokan provides 1 large towel, and 1 small washcloth in the room.The only thing you really need to bring inside the onsen bath is the washcloth.But before you soak in the onsen you have to wash yourself first in the bathing area.They have soaps and shampoo provided.
Large indoor bath
They have a small stool to sit on and a small bucket to put water in when you wash yourself.After I took my bath, I dipped slowly in the onsen.The water was comfortably hot, and I was the only one in that onsen.The other guy who was there decided to try out the outdoor onsen.I relaxed for about 10 minutes before getting out and took another bath and tried their outdoor onsen bath after the other guy left.I went outside and it felt so good, the night was very cool and starting to become cold.So when I soaked in the onsen, it felt really nice.I stayed in for about 10 minutes before calling it a night.
I went back to my room, opened a large Asahi dry ice cold bottled beer, and went to the balcony in my room and just enjoyed the nighttime mountain scenery.Afterwards I went to bed which was so soft and comfortable, and the blanket felt so good.I watched some Japanese television on their lcd flat panel TV before falling asleep around 10 or 11.
I woke up close to and decided to try out their Meiji style onsen bath.This bath area was smaller, but as usual felt really nice.I went back to my room and had breakfast before checking out around 930 am.Mikawaya ryokan only accepts cash as a form of payment. It was raining outside and I had some time before the bus arrived at a stop near the ryokan. I decided to buy some souvenirs at their shop, and one of the innkeepers asked me where I was heading next.I told them I was going to Takayama.I asked them what was the best way to get back to the Hakone-Yumoto station, they told me take the bus directly to Odawara station, which saved me the hassle of transferring to a train in Hakone-Yumoto station bound for Odawara.And it was completely covered by the Hakone free pass.
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