After Kyoto, we made our way to Hakone, a township that lies on the banks of Lake Ashinoko and in the midst of the volcanic area surrounding Mount Fuji.
We didn’t follow the common route between Kyoto and Hakone; which resulted in us struggling to find the correct bus stop and eventually boarding a bus full of elderly locals and not a single tourist.
Once we reached Hakone, we realised I had booked a hotel on the opposite side of the lake, which led us to take another (near empty) bus. We were scratching our heads, wondering if we were on the right bus, when the driver suddenly pulled over and pointed out the window. There stood Fuji-San, Japan’s iconic volcano, in all its glory.
It is quite difficult to see the volcano from Hakone as clouds often block the view, but we were once again lucky!
By the time we’d travelled from Kyoto and checked-in at the hotel it was 4 pm and to our surprise everything was about to close!
Jeff and I jumped into the Hakone ropeway (cable car) hoping to get magnificent views of Fuji and Lake Ashi. Unfortunately, most of the ropeway was closed due to volcanic activity and we were only able to ride 5 minutes to the first stop. That meant we only got a view of the lake and nothing else…
Once we were done with the cable car we realised that everything was closed. Everything. Even the restaurants! So we headed back to the hotel and asked them about dinner. They directed us to the only open restaurant in the area.
We finished our dinner fairly early and with nothing else to do, decided to take a dip in the hotel’s hot springs (onsen).
These were the real thing, with the water coming straight from the Owakudani Volcanic geyser. Hakone is famed for high quality hot springs with different water sources and various mineral contents. The Japanese have a strong onsen culture and believe it has various healing properties.
Many westerners are put off by the fact that swimming costumes are forbidden and one must enter the baths in the nude, however I strongly recommend giving it a try, it’s an amazing experience. Don’t worry, the baths are not mixed gender and nobody gives you a second look!
All in all, we were quite disappointed at the end of the day, thankfully the view of Fuji San and the hot springs cheered us up a bit.
I’d like to point out that Hakone has various villages and we stayed far from the main tourist area, this is why everything closed so early.