Hakone, A Haven for All Seasons
Just a short distance away from the bustling capital city of Tokyo, lies Hakone, a scenic, internationally renowned travel destination that definitely warrants a visit when you are in Japan. From natural splendour to artistic wonders, Hakone offers travellers a vast choice of activities. A few experiences, however, are imperative to perceive Hakone in its element.
Owakudani, or the ‘Great Boiling Valley’ was formed when Kamiyama erupted three thousand years ago. Walk the short trail that takes you past steam vents, hot pools, bubbling mud pits and strong sulphurous fumes to experience it at close quarters. Here, you can buy black eggs, the shells blackened from the sulphur in the natural boiling pools in which they are cooked. Inside, the egg is still white, and eating this is supposed to prolong your life by 7 years.
When to visit
Hakone presents hospitable weather all through the year. Visit in April for cherry blossoms and during fall for the Chinese Silver Grass.
Ashino-ko, a caldera lake formed around the same time, is charming with picturesque vistas of the torii of Hakone-Jinja emerging from its waters, and the iconic Mt Fuji amid its mountain landscape. Capture the views from your cruise on a model pirate ship or from the lofty height of Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station. The Hakone Komagatake Ropeway takes you to the top of Mt. Komagatake, Japan’s highest peak, offering panoramic views of Hakone’s natural splendour along the way.
The volcanic activity gives rise to another extremely pleasurable feature -– the therapeutic onsen. There’s nothing quite like soaking in the hot springs to melt away the day’s exhaustion. It’s an especially spectacular experience at night, under the stars, or during the winter, when the snow falls in gentle flurries all around you.
Hakone also has rich horticultural wealth that shines through each season. Springtime brings an abundance of delicate pink cherry blossoms along the Hayakawa River embankment at Miyagino, at Gora Park, Hakone-en – a lakeside leisure park, and Hakone Detached Palace Garden. Gora Park, Japan’s first French-style park, boasts over 140 rose varieties blooming across a splendid rose garden. In summer, the Palace Garden comes alive with merry hues of the azaleas and hydrangeas, while autumn brings its stunning, fiery colours into the city. The grass on the slopes of Mt. Daigatake in Sengokuhara also take on a golden hue in late fall, transforming the landscape into a gleaming sea.
From natural bounty to man-made artistry, Hakone’s Open-Air Museum set on a rolling hillside presents an impressive collection of 19th and 20th century sculptures. You’ll also find the works of Picasso, Rodin, Moore and Miró here, beautifully displayed on the grounds. Especially engaging for children is a colossal crochet artwork in its Jenga-like enclosure. The Hakone Venetian Glass Museum exhibits an elegant collection of antique glass creations as well as modern pieces.
Also not to be missed is Hakone’s oldest art museum, the Hakone Museum of Art, boasting ancient Japanese pottery. The museum shares its grounds with a moss garden that comes alive in velvety shades of emerald in November. This bears a striking contrast to the blazing crimson of the maple trees, which in the presence of the museum’s traditional teahouse, takes on picture postcard appeal. The Okada Museum of Art, on the other hand, is a huge, contemporary building showcasing Japanese, Korean and Chinese art treasures. Experience its outdoor foot bath cafe-restaurant in a traditional setting as an added bonus!
What to do
– Ride the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway
– Experience a cruise on Ashino-ko
– Enjoy the onsen
– Visit the Open-Air Museum
– Experience the fall colours at the Hakone Museum of Art