We’ve now spent three jet lagged days in Hakone, a hot-spring mountain area south-west of Tokyo. The ryokan, Hakone Suimeisou, that I booked for our stay was just a 5 min walk from the train station in Hakone-Yumoto. With a wonderful view of the river, I don’t think you’ll find a ryokan (traditional japanese hotel) with a better location. As with all ryokans, it was a bit pricey but the room we got was very nice, the staff friendly and helpful and both dinner and breakfast was excellent!
Suimeisou also has a public onsen for both indoor and outdoor bathing. Men and women bathe separately but if you’re staying at the ryokan as a couple, I recommend booking the private outdoor onsen for 2000¥/50 min. Relaxing in the warm water is such a great way of starting the day that we rented the private onsen every morning before breakfast.
After having spent our first night in Japan, we set out to do some sightseeing! We began our journey by taking the train to Gora. The train climbs the mountains painstakingly slow but going any faster on these winding tracks doesn’t seem to e a good idea. It never ceases to amaze me how people can build things in remote areas like this one. But more importantly, just who thought of it? and why?
From Gora, there’s a cable car going up the steep hill to Sounzan where a rope way takes visitors the last way up to the top of Owakudani. The Owakudani station is sometimes closed off due to toxic volcanic gases but luckily not when we were there. As we got out, we felt the chilly air that smelled of sulphur. At this point, I really wished I had brought a sweater along, but as the sun peeked out of the clouds it felt a bit better.
The “main attraction” at Owakudani are the black eggs that are boiled in the milky white onsen water. The water is very rich in sulphur and some unknown reaction causes the white egg shells to turn pitch black when being boiled. I find it a bit funny that they boil eggs here since the sulphur smell reminds me of rotten eggs :)
We walked up the hill to where they cook the eggs and as we walked, we noticed the tiny, tiny rope way that was carrying a basket of black eggs down to the rope way station (for people). At the top, we bought 5 eggs for 500¥ they were absolutely delicious! As a matching dessert for our black egg lunch, we bought some black ice cream! It was equally delicious but of course I ended up covering half my face in black goo :).
Full of new gained energy we set out to, instead of taking the rope way down to the other side of the mountain, take the hiking trail down. It was a nice walk among trees and bushes that were a bit special to the area. Not all plants are able to survive in a volcanic area like this but these plants have adapted.
After the peaceful walk down to Togendai, we reached the school-kids-infested and not-so-peaceful harbour for the sightseeing pirate ships. Yes you heard me, PIRATE SHIPS! Sure, they were a bit gimmicky but me and the school kids loved it all the same. It is said that you should be able to see mount Fuji from here but we couldn’t see anything even though we kept our eyes peeled open the entire trip. It must have been too cloudy that day :(
When we arrived at Hakone-machi, on the other side of lake Ashi, we went for a walk to Moto Hakone in search of the cedar avenue. At first we thought we had missed it and spend some time feeling utterly confused but let me tell you this, one simply does not lose a bunch of insanely large and tall trees. When we were tired and started to lose all hope of ever finding them, they were right in front of us.
From Moto Hakone, we took the bus back to Hakone-Yumoto where we arrived just in time to enjoy a quick nap before dinner.