Totally rain-soaked, but still mildly pleased with myself, I left Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko for Hakone. Hakone is a small, somewhat mountainous area about two hours from Fuji by bus, known for its many hot springs (or onsen). I got dropped off at Gora Station, which happens to be the place where both the train and the local cable car begin. Just like with Lake Kawaguchiko, it felt very picturesque, what with the abundance of nature and the quaint train tracks running alongside the road.
The train tracks at Gora Station
The first thing I wanted to do after checking into my hostel, Hakone Guest House Gaku, was grab some dinner and check out the town. But bizarrely, basically nothing in Hakone is open after 7pm, so I ended grabbing some cheap finger food at a nearby bar, and resigned myself to sightseeing the next day instead.
The next morning, the first thing I did was check out Hakone’s famous Open Air Museum, which features an amazing selection of statues, gardens, and artwork overlooking the valleys below the town and the various mountains beyond it, as well as a central tower filled with stained glass.
Hakone Open Air Museum’s spiral tower of stained glass
One of the other interesting things to do in Hakone is to take a series of two cable cars all the way to Lake Ashi, the second of which lasts around half an hour. Unfortunately, the second cable car was closed due to volcanic activity in the area it passed over, so I had to take a substitute bus.
However, the lake was worth the trip. I took a boat that looked like an old pirate ship all the way around the lake, with a stop-off at a shrine on the far side known for its torii (gate) that overlooks the water. There was actually a long line to take pictures at the gate, but no one needs to know that 😉
Lake Ashi’s “Torii of Peace”
After a long day of walking and sailing, I checked into a new hostel in Hakone, Emblem Flow, which had a built in onsen! Niiiiice and relaxing.
Surprise! After Hakone and Lake Ashi, I actually did return to Tokyo for a day, to facilitate my travels to Kyoto. Since it was a very short period I’ll just throw it in this post.
I checked into the Samurai Hostel, in the Asakusa district - famous for its shopping street that leads to Senso-ji Temple. Even though I was tired from all the trekking around the countryside that I had done, I steeled myself to wake up early and check out the temple while there was no one there.
Totally worth it.
Senso-ji Temple in the early morning
And that’s that! From that point, I was finished with that area of Japan. I definitely would have loved to spend longer, but Kyoto was calling!
Want more? Check out an overview of my Japan trip here!