Hakone Valley is a very famous Japanese tourist attraction. Here you will find a beautiful National Park and many attractions and activities to choose from, ranging from:
- Pirate cruise ship on Lake Ashi, sightseeing around the lake, enjoying the beautiful sight of Hakone Shrine and the floating torii.
- Up Mt. Komagatake, using the ropeway. The ropeway station is located on the edge of Lake Ashi. The total length of the ropeway is 1800 meters. It’s a good way to enjoy the valley scenery. On the way up, there is Owaku-dani Valley, where you will see boiling and popping sulfur and hot springs. At the top of Mt. Komagatake, there is Hakone Mototsumiya Shrine. And if you go there on a winter morning, you will have a chance to see stunning views of Mount Fuji.
- Onsen Experience is a must to try. There are lots of them in Hakone, whether in hotels or public bathing.
- And finally, hiking is the best way to escape the crowds and tourists. Like I mentioned before, Hakone is a very famous Japanese tourist attraction.
Hakone has many hiking trails. Most of them are easy hiking courses like trails around the lake, the old Hakone Highway and a hiking trail up Mt. Komagatake, uphill past the boiling Valley of Owaku-dani. This trail is not quite easy. But if you do as I and my partner did, it will be very easy.
The trail up Mt. Komagatake starts at the ropeway station located on the edge of Lake Ashi, follows the trail up the hill past Owaku-dani all the way to the Hakone Mototsumiya Shrine that sits on the top. They said it would take about two hours. But we chose to take the ropeway up and hiked down. It was much easier and had the same scenery and also took less time. It just had one disadvantage, we had less of a sweat and workout.
We went to Hakone during ‘tsuyu’, the rainy season in Japan. The valley was covered by mist and clouds. We bought one way tickets for the ropeway up the hill (to save money as well!). After we got off at the top, there was mist cover all over the area and Mount Fuji was definitely asleep under a blanket of mist and clouds in the corner somewhere.
The narrow path downhill went through a dense forest. There was mist flowing around. In some parts the mist was like a thick curtain, giving us only 2-3 meters of vision. It was surely a romantic atmosphere until we come across a wooden sign written in Japanese that was unfamiliar to both of us. But it was the picture on the sign that made us gaze into each other's eyes. I asked my partner “Are there bears in this forest?” He replied, "I guess not. There are so many people out there, both below and above on the mountain. On top of that there’s the ropeway over our head.” He shook his head and continued walking. I myself followed him, half walking half running. To tell the truth, I was so happy when I smelled the sulfur and heard noises from the crowd in the Owaku-dani Valley.
The above is an experience from over 20 years ago, and today we are still talking about the hike that day, enjoying the fun and laughter like it just happened yesterday. If we have an opportunity to visit Japan again, we definitely will go hiking.
You are not in Japan yet if you haven't tried hiking.