I went to Hakone, Japan (Kanagawa Prefecture) with the primary mission of taking a selfie with the majestic MT. FUJI.
Hakone can be explored in just one day by following the “Hakone Round Course.”
The challenge was to complete the course before dark just in time to get a clear view of Mt. Fuji (or Fujisan) somewhere between Owakudani and Lake Ashi.
(Cue in the soundtrack of the reality show “Amazing Race”)
The course starts with a ride of the Hakone Tozan Railway. It winds itself through a narrow, densely wooded valley, gaining more than 300 meters in altitude.
First pit stop is Hakone Open-Air Museum. It successfully created a harmonic balance of nature and art by exhibiting various sculptures on its grounds in combination with views of the surrounding valley and mountains.
Second pit stop is Hakone Gora Park. It is a French-styled hillside botanical garden that features a large fountain and a rose garden.
To reach the next pit stop, you can take the Hakone Ropeway.
Along the ride, you can enjoy views of the active sulfuric hot spring sources of the Owakudani Valley.
Third pit stop is Owakudani. It is the area around a crater created during the last eruption of Mount Hakone some 3,000 years ago. Today, much of the area is an active volcanic zone where sulfurous fumes can be experienced. A short walking trail (about ten minutes one way) leads to a number of steam vents and bubbling pools.
Here you can purchase eggs, cooked in the naturally hot water, whose shells are blackened by sulfur.
Final pit stop is Lake Ashi. It is also referred to as Hakone Lake or Ashinoko Lake. The lake with Mt. Fuji in the background is the symbol of Hakone. A 30-minute ride on the pirate ship shaped Hakone Sightseeing boat completes the course.
Unfortunately for me, despite my successful completion of series of “pit stops” along some of the top scenic attractions of Hakone, thick dark clouds created a veil that totally covered FUJISAN. I was so frustrated I swear I heard Phil Keoghan telling me: “you have just been eliminated!“ They say that clouds and poor visibility often block the view of Mt. Fuji, and you have to consider yourself lucky if you get a clear view of the mountain. Apparently, in my case, I was not that lucky!
I had no other recourse then but to continue with my journey – onward to Kyoto via SHINKANSEN.
Excited as I was to ride on the famous high-speed bullet train, I took a seat on the right side and from Odawara Station we went off. Lo and behold, at about 30 minutes later near Shin-Fuji Station, there it was, from my seat window’s vantage point, a clear view of Mt. Fuji in all its glory!!!
Uhmm, it’s a high speed train (BULLET train, duh!) so by the time I got my camera out to take that much coveted selfie, the view was already gone.