Hakone is a popular natural tourist spot close to Tokyo with both Japanese and foreign sightseers alike loving the natural beauty and serenity of Hakone’s luscious Lake Ashi and nature and the surrounding Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
Located in Tokyo’s neighbouring prefecture, Kanagawa, Hakone is the home to Lake Ashi, or Lava Lake Ashi as although there isn’t active lava present in the lake now the lake is effectively a water filled crater of the volcano Mt. Hakone. Its last eruption was thousands of years ago in 1170 CE yet the area around Hakone has recently gained unwanted attention due to new signs of volcanic activity. The activity however stays very minor and the area remains a highly popular attraction.
High on the list of places to visit are the Hakone Ropeway, Cable Car, mountain Railway and the wonderfully photographic Lake Ashi pirate ship, which takes you leisurely around the lake. Hakone, is a great place to head to from Tokyo for a romantic weekend or for a view of Mount Fuji, and there are many opportunities to reserve amazing weekends in the area from travel agents all around the country.
As for myself, I remember a fantastic trip to Hakone that my girlfriend reserved with an agent. Starting off with the perfectly named Shinkansen called the “Romance Car,” run by Odakyu railway, this fantastic train speeds you away from Tokyo’s biggest skyscrapers in Shinjuku to the silent and serene beauty of Hakone. You will also be able to see Mount Fuji on a clear day along the way.
In and around Hakone there are innumerable hotels and Japanese Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), allowing you to enjoy the traditional pleasures of Omotenashi, Japan’s traditional customer service style which translates as “The Spirit of Selfless Hospitality”. We stayed at one of these ryokan and, arriving late in the evening, there is no better way to enjoy the Hakone evening—if it happens to be too late other activities—than to immerse yourself and your spirit into a hot spring (onsen).
On our first day in Hakone, after enjoying the wonderful sights from the cable car, including a fabulous sight of Mount Fuji, we headed to Hakone shrine where, in addition to the fabulous shrine complex itself, which is located close to Ashinoko lake, we would find its wonderful huge red torii gates. A familiar site throughout, Hakone has both a beautiful gate at its entrance but also another that can be found by following a long staircase down to the lake itself! Protruding from the waters of the lake itself, it offers a fantastic photo opportunity.