Hakone Western Slope
Hakone Nishizaka(Western Slope) is the section of Tokaido trail between Hakone Checkpoint and Mishima Taisha Shrine. Usually hikers use western slope as a downhill trail from Hakone Checkpoint to Mishima because uphill trail from Mishima has some steep slopes. One of the most popular stops-by of this trail is Yamanaka Castle (Yamanaka Fort) with artistic moat structure.
The most popular feature of this trail is recently reconstructed stone pavement. And ichirizuka milestones are well preserved. Also views of Mt. Fuji, Hakone peaks and Izu mountains are also great. Western slope takes about 5 hours downhill more than 6 hours uphill not including the time to visit Yamanaka Fort.
- Hiking and Walking
- Historical Travel
Lake Ashi was formed when Mount Hakone last erupted around 3000 years ago. I have seen spectacular pictures of Lake Ashi with Mount Fuji in the background, though we could not see Mount Fuji from the lake at all during our cloudy day visit.
We boarded a pirate ship at Togendai on the shores of Lake Ashi and went for a lovely sail to Kojiri. This journey is covered by the Hakone free pass. The scenery was beautiful, especially the touches of autumnal colours that were beginning to appear in the forests around the lake.
Mount Fuji is symbolic of Japan. Our original purpose in going to Hakone was to see it. We did catch a glimpse of it from Owakudani but only fleetingly. On a clear day the view of it must be amazing.
I have actually seen Mount Fuji more clearly from a train than from Hakone, but it is all a matter of luck and Hakone has lots more to offer than just views of Mount Fuji anyway.
Owakudani is one of the stops on the Hakone Ropeway from Sounzan to Togendai.
Owakudani is a volcanic area and as you are travelling by ropeway above it you will see billows of white sulphurous smoke rising from the charred earth below.
Owakudani centres around a crater which was formed when Mount Hakone last erupted around 3000 years ago. This area has hot springs and hot rivers. You can buy eggs that have been boiled in the volcanic springs here. Each egg is supposed to prolong your life by seven years.
Owakudani also has good views of Mount Fuji on clear days. It was from here we caught our only glimpse of Mount Fuji before it disappeared behind cloud for the rest of the day.
There are several hiking trails which start from here but we did not have time to do any of them.
- Hiking and Walking
The Hakone Open Air Museum
I'm not usually a fan of museums, but I cannot recommend this one highly enough. We loved it. The museum is located a short walk from Chokoku No Mori - the second last station on the Hakone Toznan Railway.
The reason the museum is so wonderful is its sculptures are exhibited outside in beautiful natural settings, so you have wonderful works of art, trees, plants, mountain scenery, during our trip the first hints of autumn. Absolutely spectacular.
The sculptures were very varied in style - some of them quite unusual. I loved the one of someone who seemed to have dropped out of the sky onto a field below. I loved the Henry Moore's.
As well as the outdoor areas, there are indoor galleries, including one devoted to Picasso.
The museum is open from 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30) every day.
Admission costs 1600 yen (1400 yen with the Hakone Free Pass, 1500 yen with online discount coupon)
- Arts and Culture
Hakone Shrine lies just a short stroll from Moto-Hakone on the southern shore of Lake Ashi. The water gate of this Shinto Shrine is one of the iconic emblems of Hakone and Lake Ashi. Some sources describe the shrine as being founded in 506 AD, while others state it was originally founded in 757 AD, but moved to the present location in 1667. The shrine has a large festival each year in in the peak of summer, on August 1st.
Part of this shrine is located on the summit of Mt Komagatake.
Estimates indicate that millions of people visit this shrine each year. This number is aided by its easy accessibility from the very busy tourist boats on Lake Ashi.
Mount Komagatake, or Komagatake-san, is one of the tallest peaks around Lake Ashi. The height at the peak is 1357 meters, about 630 meters above Lake Ashi.
The Izu Hakone Railway Company operates the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway, taking passengers from Lake Ashi to the peak for 640 Yen one way or 1080 Yen round trip. The journey takes 7 minutes to travel just 1.8 kilometers, but the rope way raises you 590 meters in elevation. The line began operations in 1963.
Izu Hakone Railway Company also operated a railway on the east side of Komagatake-san from 1957 to 2005.
Lake Ashi, also known as Ashinoko, is the focus of the Hakone area, connecting major points of interest and offering a setting for some great photos. The lake lies in the caldera of an ancient volcano, with some steep hills around the shore in most directions.
The lake surface is a 723 meters above sea level, and the average depth of the lake is 15 meters. The lake's length is about 6.5 kilometers, and the width at its widest point, just 2.4 kilometers.
The lake's shore is full of fishermen, some on the piers, some wading in the water, and some in small boats. Though they usually catch just smaller fish, there are rumors of huge lake monsters, similar to the Loch Ness Monster, in lake Ashi.
Moto-Hakone is one of two towns on the shores of Lake Ashi. Moto-Hakone is home to the Hakone Shrine, the former imperial detached palace, one of the ports for the Lake Ashi Cruise ships, as well as numerous hotels and restaurants. Moto Hakone is also home to a bus terminal connecting the Hakone area to Odawara, and it is the terminus of several roads to Odawara.
The entrances to Moto-Hakone are marked by two huge red torii gates.
Odawara is a coastal town that marks one of the major gateways to Hakone. From Odawara, many people choose to take the Hakone Train to the Hakone Cablecar to the Hakone Ropeway, then switching to a boat down Lake Ashi and finally bus from Hakone back to Odawara.
Odawara is also connected to Hakone via three significant roads: the scenic Toyo Tires Turnpike, Route 1 (Hakone Shindo), and the historic Tokaido Route (Route 732).
Odawara's main tourist site is the Odawara Castle. Originally constructed around 1447 in the Kamakura Period, it was rebuilt in 1706 after an earthquake, and was finally dismantled by the Meiji government in 1872. The castle was rebuilt in 1960 of earthquake-resistant concrete, but many complain that the design is not historically accurate due to the addition of the observation deck for tourists.
Onshi-Hakone Koen Park
Onshi-Hakone Koen is a park that occupies a small peninsula that protrudes into the southern end of Lake Ashi between the towns of Hakone and Moto-Hakone. The area that is now the park was established as a imperial villa in 1884, as a detached palace and and lodging for entertaining royal guests. The main buildings of the palace were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and never rebuilt. In 1946, the post-war government turned the land over to the prefectural government and it became a public park.
Today the park has several trails that lead visitors around the coast and to the observation building. Many of the trails run along the water and offer great views of the lake and Mount Fuji in the distance.
Entry is free, but parking is a few hundred yen per car.
Other names: Mount Kanmurigadake
When you visit Owakudani Valley in Hakone, you will see this pointed peak. This peak is called Mount Kanmurigatake, 1409m (4623ft) in elevation. There is no direct route from Owakudani to climb this mountain peak. You need to walk the climbing route which leads to Mount Kamiyama, the highest peak of Hakone, and then the sub-route to Kanmuridake is parted way.
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Making Owakudni's Black Eggs
Owakudani's famous black eggs are steamed in the mountain's hot sulfur springs. I saw them for sale for 500 Yen per 5 eggs in the visitors center, but I didn't put much though into how they made thousands of these eggs to feed all of the tourists.
Later I took the short hike up the side of the mountain to the steam vents and was able to witness the making of the black eggs. At the end of the trail there is a square sulfur pool with rectangular metal containers nearby. Inside these metal containers, workers are able to steam thousands of eggs at once in the hot sulfur steam. When finished, a worker removed the metal baskets of eggs and loads them onto a cart, then transfers the cart to a miniature gondola to ship the eggs down the mountain to the visitors centers.
Here is my video of the eggs being removed from the hot steam: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/vv/81bd/
Owakudani Sulfer Hot Springs
Owakudani, which translates to "Great Boiling Valley," is a 3,000 year old volcanic crater on the side of Mount Hakone. The site features volcanic features such as steam vents, sulfur pools, and hot streams.
Owakudani can be reached by car, or by ropeway from Gora or Lake Ashi. Once at the top of the mountain next to the crater, there are several building housing visitors centers, gift shops, restaurants, a museum, and snack bars. There are some overlooks offering fantastic views of Owakudani and Mount Fuju, trails to steam vents and streams, and most famous, Owakudani black eggs.
The black eggs are steamed in the sulfurous volcanic pools, and the shells turn black to do the chemical reactions of the water with hydrogen sulfide (H2S), resulting in black iron sulfide.
Hakone Detached Palace
Hakone Detached Palace, also known as an imperial villa, was built in 1886 was a summer house for the emperor and his family, as well as a place for their guests to relax, particularly foreign dignitaries. The palace was originally far bigger than what remains today, and it was built in both a classical Western and a traditional Japanese architectural style. The wooden Japanese side of the palace was destroyed in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the 1930 Northern Ito Earthquake. World War II interrupted reconstruction plans, and the land and remaining facilities were given to Kanagawa Prefecture in 1946 and opened as a public park.
Today, the remaining building is called the Lakeside Observation Building, and much of it is open to the public. The lower floor has a small museum containing displays about the detached palace. The second floor has a small cafe and the observation deck overlooking Lake Ashi.