The Romance Car is Odakyu Electric Railway’s name for its limited express luxury tourist services south-west of Tokyo, to mountain resorts such as Gotenba and Hakone, and beaches such as Numazu and Enoshima.
Service started in 1957 with the 3000 series SE trainset, it broke the world speed record of 145 km/h/90 mph for a narrow gauge train. This record gave impetus for the design of the first Shinkansen, the 0 series.
The train’s interior is very beautiful.
Our destination today, is Hakone.
…And woke up to a rewarding sight!
We’ve finally arrived!
Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, less than 100 kilometers from Tokyo. Famous for hot springs, natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji, Hakone is one of the most popular destinations among Japanese and international tourists looking for a break from Tokyo.
Hakone is located in the mountainous far west of the prefecture, on the eastern side of Hakone Pass. Most of the town is within the borders of the volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, centered around Lake Ashi.
Hakone is the location of a noted Shinto shrine, the Hakone Gongen. During the Gempei War, Minamoto no Yoritomo prayed at this shrine for victory over his enemies, after his defeat at the Battle of Ishibashiyama. As with the rest of Sagami Province, the area came under the control of the late Hojo clan of Odawara during the Sengoku period. After the start of the Edo period, Hakone-juku was a post station on the Tokaido highway connecting Edo with Kyoto.
It was also the site of a major barrier and official checkpoint on the route known as the Hakone Checkpoint (箱根関所 Hakone sekisho), which formed the border of the Kanto region. Hakone attained town status in 1889. After merging with five neighboring towns and villages in September 1956, it reached its present boundaries.
One of the best international holiday resorts,home of renowned spas and a large historical zone.
A historic hotel, exotic streets, unique hot springs and open-air museums are all accessible via the Hakone Tozan Line. The town of Hakone is situated in the southwestern part of Kanagawa, and is part of Fuji Hakone Izu National Park.
Hakone is an internationally well-known holiday resort that includes many renowned hot springs. They have about 20 different qualities, nicknamed “Hakone’s Seventeen Spas”.
A view of Mt. Fuji is not the only view that you can enjoy in Hakone.
There are a number of spots to visit, including Owakudani where volcanic fumes still bear a trace of the Hakone Volcano, Lake Ashinoko (created in the crater of the Hakone Volcano), Susuki-sogen (silver grass field) of Sengokuhara, a stone Buddha and stone towers situated in Moto-Hakone, and cedar trees along Kyu-Kaido Street.
Various methods of transportation, such as mountain railway, cable car, ropeway, and cruising boat, are available to bring you to these spots.
Hakone Tozan Railway
Many tourist spots in Hakone are accessible via the Hakone Tozan Railway.
A ride on the Hakone Tozan Railway, Japan’s oldest mountain railway, is a treat for more than just railway fans.
It is unique in that the train repeats switchbacks three times to go up the steep slope from Yumoto, the entrance of Hakone, to Gora.
The train runs on the steepest slope among the railways in Japan.
The small trains wind themselves through a narrow, densely wooded valley over many bridges and tunnels, stopping at small stations along the way.
The Hakone Tozan Line consists of two sections. The lower section from Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto is used by Odakyu trains from central Tokyo and is not particularly noteworthy. Far more spectacular is the upper section from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora, which is served by the small mountain trains.
At Gora, many travelers transfer to the cablecar for Lake Ashi.
The 35 minute train ride from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora is especially beautiful in June and July when thousands of hydrangea are in bloom along the tracks and are illuminated during the evenings. The ajisai are usually best around the beginning of July and can be seen from the trains and around the stations.
Special trains run from mid June through mid July between Hakone-Yumoto and Gora Stations for the viewing of the illuminated flowers. They depart in the evenings, twice in each direction, and require seat reservations.
The mood of Hakone is characterized by riding the train and looking down into the valley of the Haya-kawa River, through the greenery, while the train chugs along.
Tourists can stay on the train or get off to enjoy Hakone further.
Miyanoshita is one of seven hot spring towns in Hakone. A resort hotel targeting foreign visitors opened in 1878, and made the town well known. Numerous celebrities, including John Lennon, have stayed at this hotel. The streets, with their exotic and somewhat retro atmosphere, attract many individuals.
Around Kowakidani Station, there is a hot spring theme park named Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, a Mediterranean-style public bath. It is divided into two sections, in one you bathe with your bathing suit on and the other you bathe without. In the former section, you can enjoy various unique baths, such as a coffee bath or a wine bath. In the latter section, you will relax in the cypress bath, in the magnificent nature of Hakone.
Around Chokoku-no-Mori Station, which follows Kowakidani Station, there is the Hakone Open Air Museum. This museum is composed of an open air area displaying many sculptures, including the works of Rodin, Milo and Moore, representing modern and contemporary fine arts, and features the Picasso Pavilion and Picture Gallery, in a green area of about 70,000 square meters.
Pleasures are not limited to fine arts.
A 20-meter footbath, in which 30 people can bathe at once in the briskness of the open air, exists. Visitors can relax in the comfort of the footbath while appreciating the artwork.
The Hakone Tozan Railway terminates at Gora Station at an altitude of about 550 meters. It is a unique building that resembles a mountain hut, and is crowded with visitors who want to transfer to a cable car for Owakudani to go to Mt. So’un-zan. There are parks and a museum in this area.
In Gora Park, you can enjoy viewing seasonal flowers, or can try blowing glass, sandblasting, and making pottery and drying flowers at the craft house. The Hakone Museum of Art, which specializes in Japanese ceramics, is not only a place to enjoy exhibitions. The museum also has gardens, including a moss garden.
Owakudani is the area around a crater created during the last eruption of Mount Hakone some 3000 years ago. Today, much of the area is an active volcanic zone where sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers can be experienced.
Additionally, Owakudani has good views of Mount Fuji on clear days. A short walking trail which takes about ten minutes, leads from the ropeway station into the volcanic zone to a number of steam vents and bubbling pools.
Kuro-Tamago (Black eggs)
Try the local specialty; Hakone’s black eggs at Owakudani. Boiled on site in sulfurous volcanic water, their shells are a mottled black due to a chemical reaction with the sulfur, The inside of the egg is very tasty. According to Japanese legend, every one you eat will add seven years to your life. 5 eggs (and hence 35 years) will set you back at just ¥500.
Quite a worthwhile investment, don’t you think?
For the more adventurous, a hiking trail leads from the ropeway station to the peak of Mount Kamiyama and continues on to Mount Komagatake from where you can catch the Komagatake Ropeway down to Lake Ashi.
The hiking trail leads down the mountain and along the lakeshore, ending at Kojiri not far from Togendai, from where the Hakone Ropeway connects back to Owakudani.
This is the Komagatake Ropeway station.
If you chose to take the hiking trail instead, it takes about about 2 hours one way and can be rocky or slippery as well as quite windy.
Proper hiking shoes and rain gear are recommended.
More pictures of Hakone below.
More links to the suroundings of Kanagawa Prefecture below,
feel free to click!
Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum
We had a really EXHAUSTING day!
Hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures!