Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Hakone from Tokyo using the JR Pass and Hakone Freepass

The day trip to Hakone from Tokyo is partially covered by the JR Pass. We took the Shinkansen from Shinagawa to Odawara. From Odawara, we bought the Hakone Free Pass which gives us unlimited rides on any mode of transport in Hakone for 2 days. We were only heading to Hakone for 1 day but after some calculations, we found that it was still worth it to purchase the Hakone Free Pass. I would suggest purchasing the Hakone Free Pass from Odawara where it is cheaper as compared to a similar purchase in Shinjuku. 

From Odawara, take the Hakone Tozan Railway. This train will stop at Hakone Yumoto where you have to change trains to continue your journey to Gora. Your destination at the end of the Hakone Tozan Railway will be Gora, a small little town where many tourists stop for a meal before heading off again. We stopped here for our lunch too and had a simple meal of gyoza with rice at a small restaurant run by an elderly couple and their daughter. 

After lunch at Gora, we hopped on the Hakone Tozan Cable Car and continued on our way. Despite its name, this was not a cable car. Instead it was something like a tram which climbs up the side of a mountain. Grab a seat if you could or be prepared to tilt along with the tram as it ascends. The view was unfortunately not spectacular in the dead of winter.

The Hakone Tozan Cable Car ends at Sounzan where you will alight and take the Hakone Ropeway. Now this is a real cable car and offers wonderful views of Mount Fuji in the distance. You have to stop at Owakudani to transfer to another cable car to continue on your journey to Togendai. We wanted to take some pictures at Owakudani but we were running out of time so we simply alighted and joined the queue for the next cable car out of Owakudani. 

When your cable car enters and leaves Owakudani, the air is heavy with sulphur. Look down and you will see smoking pipes laced with yellowish sulphur. An interesting experience! I have not smelt sulphur since the days of chemistry back in school.

The Hakone Ropeway takes you to Togendai where you can board the sightseeing cruise which cuts across Lake Aishi. The cruise is supposed to stop at two piers namely the Hakone Machiko and the Moto-Hakone. When we reached Togendai, we were just in time for the last sightseeing cruise (thank god we did not stop at Owakudani for pictures!) which took us to Moto-Hakone. The cruise ship was decorated like a pirate ship and the journey across Lake Aishi was amazing. I strongly recommend climbing up to the top deck for the best views. It was freezing in winter and the strong winds of Lake Aishi caused my hands to tremble and my knees to buckle. But it was so worth it.

When we ended the sightseeing cruise, it was almost dark and the staff were anxious to pack us out of the freezing cold. We took the Hakone Tozan Bus back to Hakone Yumoto to catch the Hakone Tozan Train back to Odawara. 

I'm thankful for the opportunity to build such awesome memories with my family. It is not everyday that we get to pack up and go off on such trips. It requires a lot of cash, coordination, and cooperation. We laughed, we joked, we feast, we drank, we snoozed on long train rides, we lugged our luggage up and down stairs, we got lost in the middle of unknown cities, we encountered countless communication problems, we drank too much Starbucks for our own good, we annoyed each other, and we had a great time. <3

Read about our days in OsakaKyotoNara, and Nagoya.

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