Hakone

Hakone is a mountain region just few hours train ride from Tokyo. Mainly the area lives off domestic tourism. The Odakyu company, which owns at least a department store, trains and travel agency, offers special few days passes to Hakone region, with unlimited transportation.

From bustling Tokyo to the past
From bustling Tokyo to the past

The pass includes a suggested “sightseeing” course with an old-fashioned tram that goes up the mountainside, cable car over a crater and mountains, boat on a lake and discounts on different kinds of attractions, shops and restaurant all around the area. The information of everything was (of course) in Japanese, so due to my insufficient kanji-reading skills, we might have missed something great. It was pretty cool, anyways.

Cable car, or "keeburu kaa"
Cable car, or “keeburu kaa”

We stayed in Hakone for 2 nights just before Christmas, in a traditional minshuku (very little English spoken, of course). Interesting experience to sleep in a room with a semi-functioning heater, and waking up before 8 to have a Japanese, homemade breakfast. What comes to sightseeing, we took the tram and the cable car, but skipped the boat ride, Le Petit Prince Museum and Venetian Glass Museum (among others). We didn’t quite see Fuji-san due to cloudy weather, but the trip was still definitely worth it!

I did see Fuji-san!
I did see Fuji-san!

I could easily imagine people getting away from their big city life to relax in the small towns, but after two nights I was ready to go. In Hakone, there seemed to be only kamaboko (fish paste cakes) and omiyage shops after another. There was hardly any restaurants, all of the few offered only noodles or tempura. Since all of the shops close around 5, the rest of the evening is best spent in onsen, that are aplenty in the region. Unlike in Beppu, the Hakone onsen did not steam or smell.

True.
True.

If you ever go to Hakone, which you definitely should if you have a chance, I suggest taking the Special Limited Romance Car. The name is worth the extra price, though I don’t know what was so romantic about it. Other option would be to take the Odakyu metro train, which is quite uncomfortable for such a long trip.

Le Petit Prince, a bit lost maybe?
Le Petit Prince, a bit lost maybe?
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