For most foreigners, Japan connotes metropolitan landscapes crawling with people, but the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park counters that image with its diverse geography and comparative tranquility. Despite its proximity to the Tokyo metropolis, Hakone cannot be more different as it is home to an active volcanic zone, hot springs, beautiful Lake Ashinoko, mountains and plenty of shrines and temples.
Mount Hakone erupted some 3,000 years ago, creating the crater characteristic of the Owakudani area. Sulfurous fumes and boiling springs also characterize the largely active volcano site, but paradoxically, these features just make Owakudani even more attractive to tourists. Its famous kuro tamago – black eggs tinted by the sulfur springs – are said to increase one’s lifespan by seven years, and vendors even offer black soft serve. The excitingly hellish scene contrasts with the views of Mount Fuji which can be enjoyed from the site on clear days.
For the less adventurous – or simply those that prefer calm over craters – Hakone is also famous for its hot springs or onsens, it’s most famous onsen being Yumoto. Most ryokan, or public bathhouses, are open not only to guests but also day-trip visitors for which the admission fee can range from 500 to 2,000 yen. There are plenty of other calming activities to enjoy around Lake Ashi as well. Take a boat ride on the lake, visit a shrine at the foot of a dense forest or simply enjoy the breathtaking views of Mount Fuji.
Hakone also caters to artistic types. The Open-Air Museum perfectly balances the beauties of nature and contemporary sculpture and it even contains an extensive two-story Picasso exhibition hall. The museum is kid-friendly and has cafes, a foot bath and a stained-glass, tower-sculpture hybrid that affords a panorama of the surrounding mountains.
For more information on this trip, please stop by ITT or call 227-7083.