To this day Hakone, a stop on the Tokaido road, has maintained much of its rich cultural heritage through its historic buildings.
One of the five old trade routes from Edo, the Tokaido road, was a dusty and dangerous route. At the time, traveling for pleasure was not common, the roads were considered too troublesome; riddled with bandits. Used by nobles and peasants alike, this thoroughfare was a cornerstone of commerce. Showing off spectacular Japanese craftsmanship, the original check point building has preserved much of its original carpentry and masonry craftsmanship from the Edo Period.
In a geographical sweet spot, Hakone is far enough north to get a sheen of snow in the winter, coating everything in white powder. Yet far enough south that the snow does not impede enjoyment. Perfect for exploring the snowy landscape, eating a luxurious meal and then enjoying onsen.
Though it is currently closed due to volcanic activity, the Owakudani onsen tamago is a specialty of the area. Black, boiled eggs that smell of sulfur; it is said that if you eat one of these eggs it will add seven years to your life.
Nature and Museums
The Romancecar, makes the trip to Hakone easy and enjoyable. You get on in Shinjuku, with the observation deck seats giving you a panoramic view as you accelerate through the countryside, and 1.5 hours later you arrive in Hakone with some beautiful shots already under your belt.
Take a morning stroll through the Hakone open-air museum’s sculpture park. Or head to the Art Nature Trail (Pola Museum of Art) to find information about local wildlife. Make sure to check out the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, for a once in a lifetime look at Japanese wetlands.
Mt. Fuji is a bold part of the scene to be had from many of the outdoor onsen. While enjoying the view another sense that will be engaged, is your sense of smell. Rife with volcanic activity, the onsen have a particularly sulfuric aroma. Though it might not typically be considered a relaxing smell, it is coveted for its healing abilities. Said to help with rheumatism, people come to these onsen for their healing properties.
The Hotel Green Plaza’s onsen offers a bath of calcium and magnesium, said to alleviate muscle pain, joint problems, and digestive diseases. The view from the women’s open-air bath is said to be particularly breathtaking.
For a taste of Hakone’s historical roots, take a stroll on the old Tokaido road. While many parts of the original trade route have been modernized, the path from Hakone to Mishima is still well-preserved. Though it is no longer known for bandits, and the path is slightly groomed, there are still many worthwhile stops along the way.
Littered with temples, shrines, and the ruins of a castle, the path is suited for a casual day hike. For those looking for a long walk the 14km path is mostly uphill on the way back. Thankfully the Tokai Bus will bring you back to Hakone, so neatly avoiding working too hard.
- 富士山を一望できる宿 ホテルグリーンプラザ箱根
Hakone Onsen: Preserving the Past, Enriching the Present
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR