Hakone 箱根 is one of the most popular tourist areas in Japan. Locals and tourists flock to this place to enjoy nature and the abundant onsens.
I’m not (yet) an onsen fan, due to my inability to grasp the idea of walking around in my birthday suit with strangers. But I’m going to get there… eventually. (^∀^；)
The train company servicing trips to Hakone, the Odakyu Line, has created the Hakone Free Pass which can be enjoyed by tourists and locals. To know more details of the pass, click: Hakone Free Pass for the bus route through Gotemba. Or click: Hakone Navi for the train route through Odawara – think Odawara castle. (No need to fret, the websites are in English) They have two-day and three-day passes, which would come out cheaper if you’re planning to stay in the area and take advantage of all the rides, museums, parks, and historical sites. Another great thing about the pass is you only have to show it to the bus driver or train staff to be able to get on. And, the pass includes the Shinjuku-Hakone-Shinjuku trip.
Generally speaking, Hakone has become more tourist-friendly in that signs are now written in the most common tourist languages – English, Chinese, and Korean. Many of the establishments have staff who can speak the languages above (most especially the station staff), and in the case of English, short and simple always works best.
Tip: It would really be worth it to plan ahead because traveling to different spots takes a minimum of 10 minutes. Going on foot is also a great choice to travel on a fine day. Make sure to put on some sunscreen and your most comfortable walking shoes ‘coz the walking is gonna burn some rubber (and skin)! (´ｰ｀).｡*･ﾟﾟ
The cool thing about paying fares is that there are three ways to do it. You can’t get away from it! (^o^;)
- Use a free pass. Just show it to the driver when getting on and off the bus. Easy peasy.
- Use an IC card. It would be convenient as you just need to tap it onto the card reader when you get on and off. Tricky part is when you forgot to recharge the card. But no worries, charging the IC card can be done in all train stations, if memory serves me right. ( *´艸) And then, we have the last option. **One thing to note, in Japan they say “touch”. The driver or the station staff would say, “タッチして下さい (tacchi shite kudasai)” Please touch (your card onto the sensor).
- Use cash (現金 genkin). Have on hand plenty of ¥1,000 bills and coins in order to pay for your fare. The machine will only take ¥1,000 bills and coins from ¥10 above.
Bus. In Hakone, the entrance is the same as the exit, unlike many buses in Tokyo. The screen next to the mirror will show you the next bus stop. It changes from Japanese to English, and there would also be a recorded announcement in Japanese and English… and in Chinese and Korean…? Eeeps! I’m not so sure.
The numbers 0-7 corresponds to how much the fare costs. So, at point 0, it costs ¥370, and at point 4, just ¥170. Upon entering, there’s a ticket machine that would provide a number, get one and enjoy the ride. When it’s time to get off, feed ticket into the slot somewhere in that collection of money-collecting machines next to the driver and pay the amount reflected on the screen. When in doubt, check with the driver who is always willing to help. A short “すみません sumimasen” (excuse me) while showing them your ticket is enough to clue them in that you need some help. d=(^o^)=b
Switchback train. An interesting ride that zigzags its way across the mountain. At a few stations, the drivers switch places (bottom photo) for the train to change directions. I hope you can see the driver as he walked past, the bottom left edge of the photo. (*>•<)
In the train, there’s a screen showing the next station above some doors; recorded announcements and a little tour guide-y information about the surroundings we’re passing by. But the descriptions were in Japanese, if I remember correctly. I didn’t really expect all the announcements to be translated, so I enjoyed drinking in the scenery and totally forgot to take photos. (/≧◇≦＼)
Hakone Tozan Cable Car 箱根登山ケーブルカー. Tozan 登山, means mountain climbing. True to its name, this cable car climbs up the mountain in the picture. Locals who lives in the area uses it as their basic mode of transportation. When the train doors are about to close, “ドアが閉まります。ご注意下さい。doa ga shimarimasu. Go chuui kudasai. The doors are closing. Please be careful,” would be heard. It is not unusual for trains to be really crowded in Japan. Especially in a popular place – for sightseeing reasons or otherwise. So, try not to be the unlucky one pressed to the door! Click on Hakone Tozan Railway to see more information on the switchback train and the cable car.
Hakone Ropeway 箱根ロープウェイ. A gondola that travels from Souzan station to Togendai station offers a fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding nature, Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi. When taking this ride, the staff would ask, “何名様ですか (nanmei sama desuka) How many people?” So that the group can sit together if possible, and to make sure the gondola is not overcrowded.
However, in the past two years the operation was halted due to the volcanic activities in Owakudani “The Great Boiling Valley”, which is a dormant volcanic opening (mind you, there’s a resort in the midst of the Great Boiling Valley!) The area was under strict monitoring at that time. It still is under observation and some areas are closed off from visitors. As can be seen in the 2nd photo, the ropeway flies really close to the sulfuric plumes. Depending on the situation, the operation may be shut down for a while, so it’s better to check the schedule thoroughly. Click Hakone Ropeway to access their site. We were lucky to have the chance to ride on it. Or… Perhaps they knew we were coming, thus the reopening. (*´艸`) Dream on!
Cruise ship. This is popularly known as the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. The ship travels around three points in Lake Ashi: from Togendai-ko 桃源台港 it can take you to Hakonemachi-ko 箱根町港 first (about 35 minutes) and Motohakone-ko 元箱根港 next (about 10 minutes), then back to Togendai-ko 桃源台港 in about 25 minutes. One has to purchase a ticket for the cruise if you don’t have the Free Pass. Do click Hakone Sightseeing Cruise website for more details on schedules and fares.
There are a few mini trick art corners in one of the ships. It’s really fun! Be quick because you’re not the only one interested in trying them out.
I had a blast aboard the ships and I wanted to do it all day! But I have to give the others a chance. (^o^;)
To quickly access all the websites above, I’ll post them again below:
- Hakone Tozan Bus
- Hakone Switchback Train and Cable Car
- Hakone Ropeway
- Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
- Hakone Free Pass (bus route from Shinjuku through Gotemba)
- Hakone Navi (train route from Shinjuku through Odawara)
So… If you have the chance to go to Hakone, which mode of transportation would not want to miss? Let me know in the comments section below! (*￣▽￣)ノ~~ ♪
And if there’s anything else you’d like me to write about, do let me know. I’ll do everything in my power to post the requested topic.
また今度ねぇ~ Mata kondo ne~ Until next time!
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