Thursday, December 2, 2010
view from our room at Kinnotake in Hakone
A trip to Hakone is a really great and easy trip right outside of Tokyo. You can see Mt. Fuji from many spots enjoy the plethora of hot springs which is the really big attraction to Hakone. You will see lots of Japanese tourists here for a relaxing soak in the hot springs. You can also stay in one of the many amazing ryokans in the area, take nature walks, ride a pirate ship on Lake Ashi, ride a funicular that is practically vertical and enjoy crazy ride on a toy train. If you buy the Hakone free-pass (it's not free) for about $50 USD it grants you a two-day pass which includes the Odakyu Romance car (this is a train that no one knows why it's called a romance car!) to Hakone and back to Tokyo from Shinjuku Station (other starting points available also). The pass also includes unlimited travel on 7 different means of transport including, Hakone Tozan train, Hakone Tozan cable car, Hakone Ropeway(funicular),Hakone sightseeing cruise (pirate ship on Lake Ashi), Hakone Tozan bus (this was great it left us everywhere we needed to go and was really close to the Ryokan), Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus, and Numazu Tozan Tokai Bus. In addition you are available for discounts at tons of attractions including hot springs. You can buy the pass at the Shinjuku station at the Odakyu counter .
This is the Toy train in Hakone which we did not ride because it goes over a ravine on crazy scary bridge that my partner was too freaked out to go on, but I know that the sights are really lovely from this view.
We took the Odakyu Romance car directly from Shinjuku station and it was a very comfortable ride. Since we weren't sure about the use of the free-pass, the location of our Ryokan, and we had massive suitcases we took a cab, which turned out for the best for us. It was a long and winding trip up a mountain with a very nice cab driver. Before I left the states I had a Kinnotake employee email me in kanji "please take me to Ryokan Kinnotake" with the address attached so all I had to do was show the cab driver. We arrived at Kinnotake, we were shown the grounds and our room all spectacular. There were communal hot spring facilities, a bar and lounge, a beautiful pond where there's a massage room. Our room was massive and we had a separate dining area. We had huge shower and hot spring. The whole bathroom wall facing the mountains was made of glass that opened up so you were outside! Amazing! The room was a small fortune for one night, about $850 USD! I will never be that extravagant again, way too much, that's almost the price of a plane ticket. But it was worth it for the one time.
Our Room, Mayu, in Kinotake
Our private-in-room hot spring.
Our dinner was an elaborate kaseki dinner and this is just a small portion. The white stuff in the middle with the green bits on top was a yam based goo, it was tasteless but super slimey and hard to eat. We had our dinner in our dining cocoon which was a tiny bit claustrophobic. Later that evening we hung out in the lounge and on the deck by the pond it was really lovely. Breakfast was also a very traditional Japanese meal with tofu, fish, rice and pickles.
The afternoon we arrived we went out to get a peak at Mt. Fuji from Lake Ashi, I went solo on the pirate boat my partner gets sea sick. Fuji was being illusive that afternoon so I was able to only see a tip but the ride on the lake was magical with the surrounding mountains. While I was on my free pirate ride my partner took a little nature walk on the grounds she said it was quite lovely and serene. Then off to the cafeteria for lunch since lunch is not served at Kinnotake. I had some Japanese curry rice that had like a salisbury steak slapped on top not too appetizing but I was starving.
The second day in Hakone we had I few hours to do something after we checked out that morning so we went to the the Hakone Open Air Museum which had amazing vistas of the mountains and a great collection of sculptures from around the world. Very different feeling from other open-air museums I've been to like Storm King in New York or the Lousiana Museum in Denmark.
You can definitely do a day-trip of Hakone from Tokyo since it's such a short trip, the Romance car is worth the extra 870 yen each way to save on time.
"For the Romancecar, all seats are reserved and it takes only 85 minutes from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station. For Express Train, it takes 2 hours and seats are not reserved. Express fee is included in the free pass, but for the Romancecar an extra 870 yen (one way) is needed. Q-Tour covers the fee of Romancecar."
Kinnotake Ryokan- Hakone,Japan
I have to apologize to those of you waiting for the Kyoto itinerary I've been up to my eyeballs in work. I hope to start posting again soon. I'm also planning a month long stay in Japan in March so I will have lots of info for everyone. I'll be staying in Tokyo but I hope to Travel to the Kansai region again, get a little more Kyoto time and visit Osaka too.