Deciding to hit two birds with one stone, we headed to Hakone for a day trip, so we can see Mt Fuji and enjoy the hot springs there. But alas, after many hours of travel, we only saw the sides of Mt Fuji because of the fog. The hot springs however were open and totally made the hours and hours of travel worth it. After the initial embarrassment of nudity, it was purely heaven. I especially enjoyed the feeling of enclosing warmth getting in again once I’ve cooled off in the breezy air. I totally recommend finding an outdoors hot spring with a good view. We went to the Hotel Green Plaza Hakone, which has hot springs with a view of Mt Fuji on a good day and includes poolside sake.
Obviously, photography is not my strong suit. I’m much better with the details. So here is a brief itinerary. The easiest way to get to Hakone is the Odakyu train at Shinjuku station, which will take you directly there in 1.5 hours with no transfers. The bullet train is also available but transfers are needed. Be sure to buy the Hakone pass. It costs 5000 yen, but is totally worth it because you will use it very frequently. Once you arrive at the Hakone station, you can take a 45 minute bus ride to Moto Hakone, where you can grab lunch and buy some souvenirs. Remember to check out their secret wooden boxes there. It doesn’t look like a very elegant home decoration at first glance, but it is a traditional Japanese craft exclusive to Hakone and the intricate woodwork is fascinating. Oh and show the restaurant your Hakone pass. You might get 10% off!
Next you can take the pirate ship to cruise Lake Ashi. There’s a temple along the way, and there’s a red gate in the middle of the lake to indicate it, which you should take note of. On a nice day, you can also see Mt Fuji. As to why there’s a pirate ship in the middle of the lake, it is beyond me. But maybe you can ask the guy in the pirate costume walking around taking pictures with people if you go.
Once you reach the other side, you can take the rope way uphill again. For me, that was the most enjoyable part of my trip after the hot springs. The Hotel Green Plaza is located at the first stop of the Ropeway. After that brief detour, we continued our way up the hill on the rope way, passing Owakudani. You can stop for a tour if you want and eat a black egg which supposedly extends your life by 7 years, but for us a picture was enough. Next came the cable car ride downhill to Gora. They claim it’s scenic with flowers, but I really didn’t see much but shrubs. From Gora, we took the local train back to the Hakone station back to the city. That was a very long and painfully slow 45 minute ride. If you still have the energy by then, the open air museum is one stop away. But alas, we were pooped and slept on the ride along with the Japanese school girls sitting opposite us.
If you have the time, I highly recommend staying a night. Because all those rides in one day really is quite grueling!