Thursday, November 24, 2011

Japan Day 5: Into the Wilds via Bullet Train! The Hakone Circuit in One Day

Fall Colors above Hakone, Japan
Blog Entry #54: Japan Day 5: Into the Wilds via Bullet Train!  The Hakone Circuit in One Day

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The view we went in search of...
For our final day in Japan, Pat and I decided to use our Japan Rail Pass to travel to the Hakone region, on the outskirts of Mt. Fuji, in hopes of getting another view of Fuji and to enjoy the mountainous region not far from Yokohama.
In the course of making the circuit, we traveled by foot, subway, bullet train, regular train, narrow-gauged switchback train, funicular, cable-car, boat, and bus – a day of travel that I really think could only be done in Japan with its amazing public transportation system!
Narrow gauge train in Hakone
Pat thought his back could hold up for one more day, so we left the ship early and had reached the town of Hakone by 9:00 am, where our circuit began. 
A fellow traveller
The Funicular train
We boarded the narrow gauge switchback train for a 40-minute ride up the valley and mountainside from Hakone to Gora – with breathtaking views of fall colors in the steep mountain valley.

The Cable Car "Ropeway" up to Owakudani
Fall Colors on the Mountainside from the Cable Car
Japanese Maple in the wild

Once we got to Gora we climbed to the top of the ridge by funicular to the summit of Soun-zan, and then by cable car to the volcanic hot spring fields of Owakudani – entering into thick clouds at the summit that precluded any views of Fuji, but did add a very mystical air to our travels.

What we thought we'd see...
.... And what we actually saw!
Hot springs at Owakudani
At Owakudani hot springs
At Owakudani we ventured out onto the Owakudani_Kojiri Nature Trail to see (and smell!) the volcanic hot spring activity up close. 
Eating Hot Springs Hard-boiled Eggs
A traditional treat for travelers here is to eat hard-boiled eggs with their shells turned black from boiling in the sulfurous waters (at 500 yen – over $6 – for 5 eggs, we simply watched others eat their eggs). 
Cable Car Conductors in front of Mt. Fuji

Then the cablecar took us down the other side of the mountain to the 
Our Pirate Ship on Ahino-ko Lake
lovely Ahino-ko Lake, where faux pirate ships ferried us down the lake.  

When the weather is clear, there are lovely views of Mt. Fuji from the lake; I took photos of the posters in the station to remind us of what we would have seen had the fall clouds not enclosed us! 

What we hoped we'd see on Ahino-ko Lake...
.... And what we saw!

After our final lunch of rice curry and noodle soup in the lakeside town of Hakone-machi, we made our way back to Yokohama via boat, train, bullet train, and subway, arriving a good hour before our on-ship time of 6:00 pm. 
Schoolkids waiting to board the Pirate Ship on Ahino-ko Lake
It was a fun, if somewhat hurried day through several parts of Japan’s lovely mountain country – and accomplished entirely by public transportation!
Traditional Drummers on the Pier in Yokohama
Drummers on Yokohama Pier
Home Sweet Home in Yokohama
As a final gift to us at departure, a group of traditional Japanese drummers gathered on the pier next to our ship at 8:00 pm and serenaded us with several minutes of vigorous drumming, with the beautiful skyline of Yokohama forming the backdrop.  By midnight we were pulling out of Yokohama, heading east for our 18-day trip across the Pacific.  Next stop: Thanksgiving Day on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Yokohama Skyline at Night from the Pier 
Japanese Maples above Hakone, Japan

1 comment:

  1. I have so enjoyed your blogs from Japan. My family lived in Yokahama from 1948-52 and much of your writing and pictures is somewhat familiar especially the nature scenes and the place names. We must have traveled a lot when I was there tho I was too young to have specific memories. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving - a bit of US culture to add to the global stew. Good sailing. Jean