Hakone is another popular scenic spot just outside (less than 100km) of Tokyo. We left early morning from Shinjuku station – the transport in Tokyo is so good for these nearby places making weekend trips from the city centre so easy and convenient . It was raining when we arrived at our first stop – the Hakone Museum of Art ( 箱根美術館, Hakone Bijutsukan). The building itself was situated in the middle of a garden full of foliage in spectacular autumn colours.
We also visited Owakudani (大涌谷) which the area around the crater of Mt Hakone, a volcano which erupted some 3000 years ago. Similar to New Zealand, volcanic activity means an abundance in sulfuric smells and bubbling hot pools.
A famous specialty here is the ‘black egg’, which is essentially just a hard-boiled egg but boiled in the natural hot spring water from the crater. They say that eating one will extend your life by 7 years.
A great thing about mountains in Japan is that most of them have rope ways built-in – you don’t really need to do much ‘hiking’ but take the rope way up, such a great way to see the surroundings!
We took a pirate ship (no kidding, that’s what it looked like!) to get to Hakone Checkpoint (箱根関所, Hakone Sekisho), a little complex consisting of gates, fences and housing for officers along the shore of Lake Ashi. Back in the Edo period this was an important checkpoint to control traffic along the Tokaido (東海道), the highway which linked Tokyo and Kyoto. The current buildings are a reconstruction from 2007.
November is a great month to visit as the colourful leaves are really stunning.
More information including major attractions in Hakone can be found here.