We wake up at the Disneyland Hilton, and set off for a journey to Hakone. Navigating the train system is fairly easy once you get the hang of it. Train to Tokyo, 15 mins, then we need to find the line for the bullet train to Hakone. The train station is insane, with people everywhere. I’ve seen airports in NY or LA, less busy than this, and of course we don’t speak Japanese, so we are following signs for our train line, and walking nearly 3kms to get it to it.
A 30 minute bullet train from Tokyo train station, and a 30 minute car ride up the mountain, and we reach the Hakone National Park. Our accomodation is a cute little village of traditional Japanese villas, with a private Onsen (or hot spring bath).
Google maps shows a stack of good restaurants to try, and because we can’t check into our room yes, so we wonder up the street to the first restaurant we find, which is a traditional looking house. Shoes off at the door, we walk in with slippers on, the onlwe sit down to a remarkable meal, with traditional dishes and of course a bit of sake.
We check in, make our way to our hut, and the kids are excited to be making their own futon on the traditional flooring. Personally I’d sleep on the floor without issues, but not everyone in the family is that keen on minimal cushioning.
We pour a few gins in our onsen (alcohol readily available at 7 Elevens btw), warm ourselves up, and then set off for dinner, which is hosted by the hotel in a seperate ‘restaurant villa’. The food is spectacular, for everyone that isn’t a celiac. Explaining ‘gluten free’ in Japanese is a nightmare, and we work our way through every single side dish.
Set breakfast at 8.30, not a single piece of toast in sight, instead butterflied makarel, raw tuna, sea weed, miso with mussels, and a chicken, vegetable and noodle pot which is heated at the table. Needless to say the kids didn’t eat much except the boiled rice and apricot custard.
In broken English we ask about the pirate ship tour and how to get there and the man at the front desk shows me a bus timetable. I take a photo of it, and we walk down to the bus stop across the street. It feels a bit odd to be getting on a random bus but we guessed with google maps it would be hard to get really lost. We sort of figure out the bus, and using google maps we triple check we are sort of heading in the right direction. Seems we are. Note, the hakone tourist all day travel bus is essential!
Ashi Lake Boat Cruise
A 10 minute bus ride and we reach ashi lake. For 3000 yen we upgrade our day pass for first class tickets on the pirate ship. This basically gets you access to the front of the boat and a bit more space. We find a table at the top, sit in the sun and soak up the unbelievably beautiful mountains. Of course the highlight was seeing Mt Fuji, with its snow capped peak contrasting against the green native trees around the lake.
Hakone Rope way
Using our day passes we then jumped on the Hakone Ropeway which is a stunning cable car that stops at the Hakone volcano. We wondered around, bought some quirky tshirts and gifts in the store and then jumped on the cable car bound for Goza. The journey over the volcano site was amazing and probably worth not looking down if you are worried about heights! We jumped off one cable car and then jumped on another one to get toward Goza. 5 mins later and we jump off again and get onto a local train which was more like a tram.
One stop, and we exit the train for the Open Air Museum. We’ve worked up a hunger so we stopped at a little restaurant called Woodys, which is tiny, has stones on the floor, and was highly recommended by anyone that has bothered to review it. The gin and whisky earthquake cocktail, was literally gin and whisky and nothing else. Earthquake, wake up, same same.
Hakone Open Air Museum
The garden’s of this museum were worth the price of admission. We were so lucky to see it on a stunning spring day, 18 degrees, and a few cherry blossoms still in bloom.
The giant coloured glass stairwell was stunning and probably worth the price of admission alone tbh. The kids had some fun climbing a giant coloured net. It was a lovely walk don’t get me wrong, and it was the first time we saw quite a few cherry blossoms. A good way to end a magical day around hakone.
But we aren’t finished yet. Now we have to work out how to get back to the hotel. A 15 minute bus ride according to google maps.
A quick 5 minute wait, we dodge the temptation to get on the first bus, which would have been a mistake, and right on time our hakone tour bus rounds the corner and we are on our way.