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A Hakone Trip in Autumn
Hakone - An Escape for Tokyoites
When Tokyoites need a short break from their busy lives, many choose to go to Hakone. . Being that it's only a short 70-minute train ride from Shinjuku, it's the nearest major hot springs resort from Tokyo.
Once you get there, you'll be rewarded with an abundance of natural beauty, therapeutic onsen baths and if you're lucky, a view of Mt. Fuji.
A friend of mine was visiting from Singapore and since it was his second time to Tokyo, I wanted to take him somewhere he had never been to. He told me that he'd never experienced autumn before and had always wanted to see the changing colors of the leaves.
He also requested that he wanted to go someplace quiet and out of the city. Since it was still early for the leaves to change in Tokyo, Hakone sounded like the perfect destination.
*Photos taken by myself unless otherwise noted.
Taking the Romance Car
The easiest way to get to Hakone from Tokyo is by taking the Romance Car from Shinjuku Station. There is a special platform for exclusive use of the Romance Car. The trains are extremely comfortable with attendant service offering food and drinks on the train.
Although it's only a 70-minute ride, the journey takes you from the concrete jungle of Tokyo to the rice paddies of the countryside finally ending in the mountainous region of Hakone.
On the train, attendants come down the aisle offering a range of light boxed lunches, snacks and drinks for a fee. The over-sized windows of the train let you watch the scenery change and unfold before your very eyes.
The seats are not only spacious but recline to give you extra comfort. Restrooms and an onboard cafe car are some of the extra amenities on board this train.
*Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Best Guide to Tokyo
Even though I live in Tokyo, I used this guidebook for research purposes. This is one of the rare books that have enough information on Hakone and other short excursions near the city.
This book not only has information on the major tourist destinations, but also hidden gems that aren't included in most guide books. Highly recommended for first time visitors.
The Romance Car Journey to Hakone
Arriving in Hakone
Most people disembark at Hakone-Yumoto station which is the main terminal in Hakone. All transportation to area attractions start from this station including trains and buses. Since we had reservations at a hotel near the lake, we needed to take the bus. Since check-in was not until 3 pm, we decided to take in some sights. After a quick lunch of soba, we caught the bus to Lake Ashinoko.
There are many things to see in Hakone but my favorite place in the area is Lake Ashinoko. It's a beautiful lake that was formed inside a caldera of Mt. Hakone after the volcano's last eruption about 3000 years ago. It is also one of the best place to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.
Arriving at our Resort Hotel
I had reserved a room at the Prince Hakone. This beautiful hotel sits directly on the lake in a remote area that makes this resort very special. The views from the room are beautiful and the atmosphere is serene.
Since we both wanted to take it easy and just relax on this trip, we booked a 60-minute aromatherapy massage and made dinner reservations at Nadaman, one of the more famous restaurants in Japan that specializes in kaiseki cuisine, considered the most formal and extravagant style of Japanese dining.
After a dip in the onsen(public bath) overlooking the lake, we enjoyed a kaiseki course that was extravagant, elegant and delicious. After an hour of rest, we headed down to the spa to enjoy our massages. Needless to say, we were both completely content and relaxed. I slept like a baby.
Lake View, Autumn Foliage and A Feast Fit for a Samurai
Japanese Hot Springs in Your Home
Experience the rejuvenating effects of a traditional Japanese bath with this assortment pack of bath salts. Far from a perfumed or bubble bath, these salts include minerals that promote circulation and warmth to the body while healing aroma relax you.
Each box contains 12 individual packets of 4 different Japanese hot spring spa experiences, making this set a perfect way to try them all.
A Beautiful Morning
After a restful sleep,we awoke to a beautiful day. When I opened the window from our room, the only sounds I could hear were the chirping of birds. I looked out at the spectacular view from my balcony and immediately felt a rush of happiness course through my entire body. I was so mesmerized by the view I could have stayed there all day.
After a short dip in the hot springs, we headed down to a delicious buffet breakfast. Afterwards we strolled along the shores of the lake around the resort before checking out of the hotel to enjoy the rest of the day.
Do you think you would enjoy visiting Hakone in Autumn?
Highlights of the Second Day
Today was also going to be about taking it easy. It was also the day that my friend was going to see autumn leaves in all their glory. We first needed to take a boat ride from the resort to the nearest town. This is where we would board gondolas that would take us pass Owakudani, an active volcanic zone with lots of hot springs and hot rivers can be seen.
After soaring past Owakudani, we continued on to Gora where we got off to visit a very beautiful moss garden inside the Hakone Museum of Art. It was the first time for me to come here and I was looking forward to seeing it. The place is famous for its maple trees especially during the autumn season.
After a stroll through the beautiful gardens, we had a cup of matcha (green tea) in a pavilion overlooking the autumn foliage. It was a time to just sit and savor the moment. All too soon, it was time to start heading back home to Tokyo.