Spent a rainy morning at extremely scenic Mt. Fuji – Hakone – Izu National Park area. Stopped at the Owakudani boiling volcano valley, where sulfurous fumes rise from crevices in the rocks. It's also a popular hot springs area & eggs boiled in the hot springs are said to prolong one's life. They're readily available for sale but who wants to live to a 100 years?
(Booking our trip to Hakone/Mt. Fuji at the hotel was my choice as I wasn't sure if my family will not be so tired after our long flight from Sydney via Seoul. It was cheaper to book in the net I think.Our flight from Sydney took 14 hours all together including just barely an hour for connections from Seoul Incheon Airport to NArita.)
The Gray Line tour was not so full but the tour guide, Masayuki was very funny so it turned out to be a fun day trip!The motorcoach was comfy and clean as most of the transport we used on our travels around Tokyo.
Mt. Fuji is the most popular and most revered mountain in Japan due to its almost perfect cone shape and height/size.
Here's some info from google:
Did you know ... Mt. Fuji is a VOLCANO! The last eruption began in November 1707.It's been dormant since February 1707. Elevation from the top is 3,776 meters . or 2.34 miles above sea level at the top.Generally, the temperature at the top is about 18-20 degrees F (about 10 degrees C) cooler than at the 5th station, and 36-40 degrees F (about 20 degrees C) cooler than at sea level.
We had stop-overs on the way at what looks like a shopping town for tourists and a reserve/park which still had some blocks of ice from the past winter. You can just imagine how cold it was there despite it being spring. Luckily we had our coats/jackets/scarves so we were fine! But sadly, we missed views of Mt. Fuji on the first station as it was too foggy that day. So we concentrated on Hakone which is less tha 100 kilometres from Tokyo.
Hakone, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, is a popular sightseeing area where visitors can enjoy natural beauty, colorful flowers blooming throughout the year and scenic views including Mount Fuji, Lake Ashi and Owakudani.
We had a cruise aboard a pirate boat at Lake Ashi. This was filled with lots of people and there were panoramic 360 views - mountains, lake, etc.
The Hakone ropeway was most exciting with a gondola ride for us! Of course the ever- exciting and lovely views of Hakone National Park were enough to inspire and delight one's senses! The smell of sulfur will tantalise and the smoke from the crater will really make the name Valley of Hell stick!
Plenty of shopping opportunities- the main popular product are the magnificently made wooden trick boxes that locals produce here. We got two- one had 7 ways before you can open the box and hubby got one with 12 ways!
Hakone is one of the most popular inland tourist resorts in Japan. Wedged between Mount Fuji and the Izu Peninsula, it is a large region encircled by several forested mountains and has a beauty dramatically accented by deep glens and ravines. In the feudal era, Hakone was a very important checkpoint that safeguarded the security of Edo (now Tokyo) as the seat of the Shogunate.
Hakone is a very big region. You will probably need to spend a day or two here to complete the region. The hot-springs is very good here. Due to time contraints I only managed to take a short cruise at LAKE ASHI and take a cable car ride to MOUNT KOMAGATAKE
Hakone region is a recommended day trip if you are in Tokyo. However, I would highly recommend if you spend at least 1 night in the area. Hakone has beautiful natural scenery and lakes. On a clear day, you are able to see Mount Fuji. I particularly enjoy my trip to Hakone due to the contrast to Tokyo. The pace is slower and the scenery in worth all effort to get myself there. If you are staying in Shinjuku, my advise is to take the Odakyu express train to Hakone. Get the Hakone Freepass which will give you unlimited access throughout Hakone. For more information refer to: http://www.odakyu.jp/english/rc/index.html
We took a 2-day trip to Hakone. Using our JR Pass, we took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Odawara, then used the Hakone Freepass (we bought the 3,900 Yen ones, valid for 2 days, between Odawara and Hakone) to get to and around Hakone.
After reaching our ryoken, we left our bags there and headed for Owakudani via the Hakone Tozan Train, Cablecar and Ropeway. Owakudani is also known as "hell valley", and was formed by volcanic explosions before Christ. We could smell the sulphurous fumes even when we were travelling in the ropeway. The smoking volcano was a sight to behold.
Using the Freepass, we boarded the Sightseeing Cruise from Togendai to Moto-Hakone. The Cruise lasted for about an hour. The sightseeing cruise boats are modeled after European pirate ships of the 17th and 18th centuries. We stayed on the upper decks (no shelter!) throughout the cruise, which was actually very very cold, but the scenery we saw was worth braving the cold!
On our way to Hakone from Shinjuku, your train will stop at the town of Odawara where you must transfer a bus to Hakone. The town of Odawara is a pretty interesting town to visit. We did not plan Odawara into our itenary. Seeing the shops and stalls around the town upon reaching Odawara, we cannot resist to walk around the town, dragging our bags with us for 3 hours. If you have the time to spare, I would recommend to spend a day venturing around Odawara. I believe is worth the effort from the short time we spend in Odawara. A peaceful town to venture.
Hot springs are not unique to Japan, but it is certainly a unique experience, especially if you're going to a traditional ryokan!
Hakone is a hot spring area, and you can either drive there (~ 2 hours from Tokyo) or take the Romance Car.
There are plenty of hot springs to choose from, and you can either do a day trip, or have a overnight/weekend stay at the ryokans, which are traditional Japanese inns.
Best thing to do is to set off early in the morning to beat the crowds and traffic jams, then arrive in time for a kaiseki lunch (set lunch with many small dishes), and then spend the afternoon relaxing in the hot mineral waters.
When you check into the ryokan, most will provide a simple robe (yukata) and you should change into that before leaving the room.
After you get to the bathing area, leave your yukata and other belongings in a locker, then make sure you scrub yourself clean at the showers before you jump into the water. This is absolutely necessary as a courtesy to fellow bathers. Some inns provide toiletries at the shower area, but you should bring your own just in case, or if you prefer your own stuff. FYI, the shower area usually comes with little stools for you to sit while you shower.
Most inns will have an indoor and outdoor spring, but whatever it is you fancy, remember there is a code of etiquette.
One, the little square towel is for you to cover your face or place on top of your head while sitting in the water, but don't put it anywhere else in an attempt to cover your modesty.
Two, do not stare!
At Owakudani, we bought the specialty product - "Black Eggs". These eggs were cooked in the hot springs and tasted real yummy! It was said that eating one egg would extend one's lifespan by several years.
The eggs are sold in packages of 5 each, costs 500 Yen per pack. Best eaten hot!
Hakone Shrine is loacted at the foot of Mount Hakone, along the shores of Lake Ashi. The shrine buildings are hidden in the forest. The torii gates stand in the lake. This shrine is one of the most well known attraction of Hakone, and pictures of its torii gate in the lake, together with Mt Fuji as the backdrop, are used in lots of tourism materials.
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