In order to see Mt. Fuji, Alex and I decided to spend one night in the resort town of Hakone. It’s a small little town located in the Japanese countryside. Hakone is well-known for its hot springs and ryokans.
Getting around Hakone is both easy and scenic. We decided to spend a day touring Hakone on their public transportation system. You can purchase a Hakone Free Pass, which will give you unlimited access to the different modes of transport around the area. Most people use this pass to do the “circuit route”, which is what we did.
From the platform that we arrived on, we crossed to the other side of the same platform to jump on the Hakone Tozan Railway. Of course, we had to make a stop at the vending machines in the middle of the platform before crossing over to the red railway train.
The train took us through a hilly region before we stopped and transferred to the Hakone Tozan Cablecar. The cablecar took us to the top of hill, which then connects to the ropeway.
After getting off of the cablecar, we jumped on the ropeway, which takes you to Owakudani hot springs. On a clear day, the ropeway offers stunning views of Mt. Fuji. We were not so lucky.
The ropeway ends at Owakudani station, where you can walk around the hot springs, have some lunch, and even try black eggs!
You can’t go to Owakudani without trying the black eggs. These eggs are boiled and the sulfur from the hot springs turns the egg black. Legend has it that eating one will extend your life by seven years, and you can eat 2 1/2 eggs if you really wanted. I can’t tell you if it really works or not, but Japanese people can live very long lives, so I will try whatever they tell me to!
We also grabbed some lunch at the restaurant in Owakudani. While it’s not five star cuisine, I would recommend stopping here for food. There aren’t many other places to find food along the circuit, and this is a good “halfway” point anyway.
There is another ropeway which heads from Owakudani down to Lake Ashi, where you will take a pirate ship cruise. I’m not joking!
The “cruise” takes about 30 or 45 minutes, and can offer stunning views of Mt. Fuji during good weather. Nonetheless, it’s nice to just sit and relax on the lake for a bit.
The cruise let us off on the other side of the lake, where we hopped a bus back to the Hakone station and picked up our luggage from the storage lockers. We grabbed a bus to spend the evening at our Ryokan.
Don’t forget, this can all be achieved easily by purchasing a Hakone Free Pass. While taking five different modes of transportation may seem intimidating, it really is foolproof. The connections will be waiting right in front of you to transfer you to the next stop along the route. You don’t have to worry about using maps or getting lost.
I also want to note that we were able to do this in one day, starting in Tokyo! We left before 9am, and were able to complete the journey and check-in at our ryokan by 5:00pm. Of course, you could always stay a few nights in Hakone and spend an entire day enjoying the circuit at a more leisurely pace, but Hakone is still very do-able if you don’t have much time!