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Hakone, Japan

Hakone (箱根; [1]) is a mountainous area west of Tokyo in Japan. The Hakone checkpoint on the historical Tokaido road marks the beginning of the Kanto region.

By train

The fastest and most expensive method of reaching Hakone from Tokyo is to take a Tokaido Shinkansen Kodama (こだま) train from Tokyo to Odawara, then transfer to the Hakone-Tozan Line for the run to Hakone-Yumoto (trains operated by Odakyu Railway). The one-way ride lasts one hour with a good connection, and costs ¥3430... but if you use the Japan Rail Pass, you need only to pay ¥300 for the Hakone-Tozan line.

Be aware that the JR East Rail Pass does not provide acess to the Tokaido Shinkansen and to make use of this pass you will need to ride the regular Tokaido Main Line to Odawara. From Tokyo, a convenient choice that is valid with the JR East Pass is the "Odoriko" limited express train service. These trains have bigger windows and better seating than the regular commuter trains, and seat reservations can be made. As of March 2007, there are at least four daily runs, arriving in Odawara one hour later; there may also be additional runs on certain days. All trains make a pickup stop at Yokohama, while a few also stop at Shinagawa and Kawasaki stations.

The affordable method of reaching Hakone from Tokyo is to take the Odakyu Odawara Line from Shinjuku station. The fastest train on the Odakyu Line is the Hakone (はこね) Limited Express train (特急 tokkyū), which runs twice an hour for most of the day. The 85-minute journey makes only two stops enroute and costs ¥2020. Note that some trains, called Super Hakone (スーパーはこね), use newer train equipment, while evening rush hour runs from Shinjuku are called Home Way (ホームウェイ). The slower Odakyu express train (急行 kyūkō) runs twice an hour at a cost of only ¥1150, reaching Hakone in two hours.

Rail connections can be made at Odawara from Nagoya (2 1/2 hrs), Kyoto (3 hrs) and other locations throughout Japan.
[edit] Get around

Modes of transport in the Hakone region are many and varied. Your options include:

* The scenic Hakone-Tozan Line mountain railway from Odawara to Gora via Hakone-Yumoto
* The Hakone-Tozan Cablecar up the mountainside from Gora to Sounzan
* The Hakone Ropeway from Sounzan down to Togendai on Lake Ashinoko via the boiling sulphur pits of Owakudani (section is closed for construction and shuttle buses are available)
* The Hakone Sightseeing Ships, decked out like Disneyland versions of pirate ships, sailing across the lake from Togendai to Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi
* And positively dull in comparison, the Odakyu Bus back to Hakone-Yumoto or Odawara

(Bear in mind that portions of the above circuit may close for a short period of time in the winter for maintenance. Shuttle buses replace the closed services.)

Most people opt for the Odakyu Hakone Free Pass, which includes a return trip from Shinjuku and allows unlimited use of all of the above forms of transport for several days. In addition, pass holders can receive discounts at many hot springs, museums, restaurants, and other locations by showing their pass.

The 2-day Weekday Pass is a particularly good deal at ¥4700 from Shinjuku, ¥3410 from Odawara, allowing travel Monday through Thursday. The Weekday Pass is not sold during summer and holiday periods. The regular 3-day Free Pass is ¥5500 from Shinjuku and ¥4130 from Odawara.

If you have a Free Pass or Weekday Pass from Shinjuku Station, you can use the Hakone Limited Express train by paying a surcharge of ¥870 each way.
[edit] See
Something's cooking at Owakudani
Something's cooking at Owakudani

The volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, centered around Lake Ashinoko, is a popular tourist attraction well known for its onsen (hot springs) and its views of Mount Fuji.

* The Great Boiling Valley (大涌谷 Ōwakudani) is a volcanic hot spot full of sulphurous springs. Owakudani can be reached by cablecar from Sounzan and the lake.

* Hakone Jinja Shrine, nestled on the south shore of the lake, close to Moto-Hakone, is a picturesque Shinto shrine with torii gates in water.

* Lake Ashinoko offers beautiful views of Mount Fuji but only on a clear day. As many tourists have found out, a visit to Lake Ashinoko does not guarantee a view of the mountain. The lake is crisscrossed by cartoonishly decorated "pirate ships".

* Hakone Open Air Museum displays a wide variety of sculptures and artwork within a beautiful parkland setting. Includes a Picasso exhibition (paintings and pottery).

[edit] Do

No trip to Hakone would be complete without a dip at a Japanese hot spring (onsen). If you're staying overnight, your lodgings may include bathing facilities, but if not many hotels open up their baths to visitors for around ¥500 or so.

* Tenzan Tōjigō (天山湯治郷), Hakone-Yumoto, Chaya 208, [2]. Large, popular hot spring operation with indoor and outdoor baths, sauna, etc. Free shuttle bus from outside the bus station. Open 11 AM-8 PM daily. ¥1000/630 adult/child.

[edit] Eat

* Try the black jewel eggs (黒玉子) at Owakudani. Boiled on site, their shells are a mottled black due to a chemical reaction with the sulphurous water, but the inside is quite tasty. According to Japanese legend, every one you eat will add seven years to your life. 6 eggs (and hence 42 years) will set you back just ¥500.

[edit] Sleep

Hakone has many onsen ryokan, traditional Japanese inns featuring hot springs. Facilities vary widely, although prices are generally somewhat elevated (especially on weekends) due to the proximity of Tokyo.

* Kappa-tengoku Minshuku (tel. 0460-56121, 2 minutes on foot from Hakone-Yumoto station) is a well-located if slightly crumbling cheap inn featuring large open-air baths on the roof. Rates as low as 3300. Meals are optional and run 1470 for dinner and 840 for breakfast.

* Fuji Hakone Guest House 912 Sengokuhara, Hakone, Kanagawa. Tel 0460-46577, Fax 0460-46578, email: hakone-@pop21.odn.ne.jp. This is a very well located guest house popular with both Japanese and foreigners. The staff can speak English. Comfortable Japanese style rooms and breakfast are available as is a natural hot spring bath. Room rates are reasonable and the owners, Mr and Mrs Takahashi, are happy to offer signtseeing advice.

permalink written by  garisti on April 1, 2008 from Hakone, Japan
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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