Free and easy Hakone, Miyajima, Hiroshima

Jes , 6 Comments

Looking for a break from the city life? Hakone is a place most Japanese like to go and escape from hectic Tokyo as it is less than 100km away.

Day 1

Using the JR pass to get from Tokyo to Odawara station is the closest you can get to Hakone. It's only half an hour from Tokyo JR station , so it's better to go Hakone first before heading to Kyoto. From Odawara station, you have to change to the Hakone Tozan Train and it costs 300 yen for a 14 minutes ride to finally arrive at Hakone-yumoto station. Yippee!
The main reason to go Hakone is to see the simply breathtaking Mt Fuji!
If you are like me staying for only one night and has the JR Pass to get to Odawara station, then you do not need the Hakone Freepass (5140 yen for 2 days). To milk money from tourist, they have 5 different mode of transport - Train, cablecar, ropeway, boat and bus, to completely cover the scenery. Being kiasu, we went with their suggested itinerary anyway.

Taking the Ropeway
For a start, we took the train or Tozan railway to get to Gora station at 310 yen. Then we switched to Cable car (an electric tram) to travel from Gora to Souzan at 420 yen. After which, we took the Ropeway (what we call a cable car in Singapore... it's complicated!) at 840 yen to arrive at Owakudani. Finally... Owakudani is an active volcano site and you can see the sulphurous fumes and hot springs everywhere. It was absolutely gorgeous and made the long travelling journey worthwhile! The journey sounds hectic, but the sight seeing kept us busy all the way.
The steamy scenery up.. the picture doesn't do it justice
Not all pictures of Mt Fuji were perfect.. it depends on how foggy it is!
We had to wait awhile before the sky cleared and heavens permit us to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji! Boy, was it breathtaking! We quickly took our group shots and marveled at this natural beauty. There are a few walking trails at the location and also a shop that sells lots of snacks. There is also the popular black eggs which are blackened by sulphur in the volcanic zone, but it didn't taste special to me.... However, it was said that the eggs could prolong one's life by 7 years. Maybe if you eat it every day, who knows... but definitely a marketing gimmick for me.
The blackened eggs
Descending from the mountain requires the Ropeway to get to Tougendai and at Togendai Port, we continued with an evening cruise to get back to Hakone machi station. Anyway, Lake Ashinoko was pretty boring and we could not see much as night was falling. It was a boring ride but still we wanted to try a different mode of transport for a change. It took us to Hakone-machi where our hotel is situated.
It definitely looked like a pirate ship...
Hotel Nanpuso is not a grand hotel but was cosy and perfect for our small group of travel companions. It was my first time sleeping in futons and the comfort and cosiness really surprised me!
4 of us squeeze one room... how fun for a pajamas party!
We had a private group dinner consisting of traditional Japanese food. Food was nothing spectacular but all of us dressed up in kimono for the meal and it really made the evening memorable. I highly recommend you to try this with your buddies as this is what I fondly remembered the most. This marks the end of our stay in Hakone and I really enjoyed Hakone tremendously.
Our cosy private dinner
The nice waitress who served us food
Our feast that tasted fresh and fulfilling

Day 2

We travelled from Odawara to Osaka station in 2.5 hours. It was a relaxing day and we spent most of the time shopping in Osaka. The bustling shopping area here is Shinsaibashi area, which is 15 minutes away to get from Osaka to Shinsaibashi station. It was just a stopover so we did not explore Osaka in depth.

Day 3

We woke up bright and early the next day as we were heading to Miyajima. It's touted to be one of the top 3 scenic spots in Japan (the other 2 being Matsushima and Amanohashidate). I slept through the 2 hours to get to Miyajima guchi station and the JR ferry is located just beside the station. Being under the same JR group, the ferry is free with our JR pass. It took only 10 minutes to get to the island to our destination and we walked the rest of the way to the famous shrine.
The ferry to get to Miyajima
The island when seen on the ferry
We got side tracked by a shopping street, called Omothesando on our walk from the pier to the shrine. We couldn't resist the grilled fresh oysters, okonomiyaki, fried snacks and beer! Awesome way to fill our stomachs and I have always loved these country side streets more the ones in the city.
Nice relaxing walk 
My only regret is not having more!
Miyajima is translated to Shrine Island for a reason. Itsukushima Shrine looks like a floating shrine built on the sea, so it was great fun taking quirky pictures with it. Moreover, the shrine stands out as majestic and striking against the gloomy backdrop.
The floating shrine in the sea
We did not explore the rest of the shrine as we were not very into it and were on a tight schedule to go Hiroshima!
Low tide shrine area where it does not look like floating on the sea
Hiroshima is only 30 minutes away from Miyajima and I was curious to check out how much it has improved after the Little Boy atomic bomb. After a 15 minutes ride on the 2 or 6 tram (160 yen) to Genbaku-Domu Mae station, an eerie silence fell upon us when we had the first glimpse of this memorial park. This was the place where over 100k people died 70 years ago. The Japanese invasion affected my grandparents and parents, who were relieved that the bomb had ended the war. Nonetheless, they were mournful that innocent lives were taken.
The A-bomb peace memorial has an air of melancholy
This Peace memorial has some pictures depicting the battered remains and what was done to restore the city. It served to remind us that peace should not be taken for granted. Most memorials are dull with a single monument, but this is a whole park itself serving as a quiet place for reflection. I liked this place but I probably wouldn't come back for a second look or go out of my way to come here. 
Against the city backdrop
Itinerary in 3 days:
Day 1: Tokyo to Hakone: Owakudani
Day 2: Hakone to Osaka: Shopping at Shinsaibashi
Day 3: Osaka to Miyajima: Itsukushima Shrine and Hiroshima: Peace Memorial

Enough of the gloomy past... And onwards to Kyoto!

Jes

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6 comments:

  1. Looks like a kaiseki dinner. No onsen?

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    1. Hi Lizardo,

      It is a kaiseki dinner! Think most hotels or ryokans should serve it, a must try! Oh, onsen we tried in Hokkaido so not as enthusiastic here haha! I wonder if it's common to have private onsen for couples if not it would be quite lonely.

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  2. Hi just read your article and it was really informative ^^ I was just wondering if you had brought your luggages along w you as you toured Mt Fuji bcos if so that seems really troublesome. I was just wondering if there was a way to send my luggage to Osaka directly for one night in a safe place so that I can move around easier.

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    1. Hi Rose,

      Thank you for the compliment and glad that it benefited you. That's an excellent question because I forgot to include this in. We deposited our luggage at Hakone yumoto station at the second floor. You could engage them to deliver your luggage to your hotel! (http://www.hakone-tozanbus.co.jp/english/pdf/carry.pdf)

      I do not know of any services that will help you bring your luggage from Osaka to Hakone unless you are talking about domestic couriers. Maybe you could consider the deposit in Hakone yumoto. Enjoy your upcoming trip! :)

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  3. If a couple plan to travel with a child of a year old, is it convenient to travel to hakone from tokyu? Or do you think a day trip will be better? After Hakone, the next destination is kyoto which is on the way.

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    1. Hi LKH,

      I would think you prefer to stop over at Hakone since it is on the way, instead of going to and fro and wasting time. You just have to allow more breaks with a child in tow, and good to bring a stroller/carrier along. Just don't aim to visit all the attractions, enjoy at your own pace and I think you will do fine. Enjoy! :)

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