In Search of the Elusive Mount Fuji – Part 1

For this trip to Japan, I went in search of the elusive Mount Fuji.  Many friends and acquaintances have told of their “missed opportunities” to see this shy Japanese landmark. Viewing Mount Fuji is well-known to be a hit or miss for visitors from abroad.  The highest chance for good views of the mountain is in the Fuji Five Lakes region followed by Hakone. As Hakone is more easily accessible, I decided to try my luck in this onsen town that is about a 2-hour train ride from Tokyo.  Hakone is also a popular weekend getaway for the Tokyo folks.

A few days before my trip, there was increased seismic activity around Owakudani and the Hakone Ropeway was closed.  I considered cancelling my trip but decided to proceed as only the ropeway and Owakudani Valley are closed.

I bought the 3-Day Hakone Free Pass for ¥5,640.  For anyone planning to visit Hakone, the Free Pass is a very good investment as single fares on public transport in the area is costly.  By using the pass, visitors can use the various modes of transport conveniently and at a lower cost.  For the journeys I made, I got more than double the value that I paid for the Free Pass.

Hakone Free Pass

I boarded the Odakyu Limited Express “Romance Car” from Shinjuku Station.  I had to pay an additional ¥890 for a reserved seat on the “Romance Car” which is not covered by the pass.  I think paying the additional fare is only worth it if one can get onto the VSE and the LSE trains with the observation deck seats.

The Odakyu Limited Express EXE Romance Car

The interior of the train

The comfortable seats that can recline and turnaround

Passing through rural Japan

After a 90-minute ride, I reached Hakone-Yumoto Station.  Weather in Hakone was a little cloudy when the train pulled into town.

Hakone-Yumoto town with the train station on the right

It was almost 4pm after we checked into our hotel, Hotel Kintoen.  After a late lunch, we decided to just walk around town and took a joyride on the Tozan Railway and Tozan Cable Car all the way to Souzan Station.

Tourist Information Center and the Tozan Bus Station opposite Hakone-Yumoto Station

Shops along the main road of Hakone-Yumoto

The train ride was quite an experience in itself as it had to negotiate tight turns to gain altitude on the mountain.

Hakone Tozan Railway (箱根登山電車), Japan’s oldest mountain railway

The train passed through many bridges and tunnels winding its way through densely wooded valleys.

The Tozan Railway train passing through a tunnel on its way to Hakone-Yumoto station

Passing through a steel bridge on our way to Gora Station

View from the train

A train pulling into Gora Station

At Gora station, we changed to the cable car (a funicular railway similar to what we have in Penang Hill) that took us to Souzan on an uphill but relatively straight track.

The Tozan Cable Car to Souzan Station for the Hakone Ropeway

The relatively straight uphill cable car track towards Souzan Station

After a brief stop at Souzan, we made our way to Odawara for dinner before calling it a day.

To be continued…….

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