Hakone, a misty sightseeing spot to heal the Japanese body and soul

Hakone, a tourist attraction in southeast Kanagawa, is famous for being the last stop on the historic Tokaido road, which ran between Edo and Kyoto in the Edo period. This place has been familiar to the Japanese for many years as a place for hot springs, just 90 minutes from Shinjuku station on the Odakyu line. It appears in a children’s song from the Meiji era, “The mountains of Hakone are the steepest in the world.” In the song they sing of Hakone Hachiri, Hakone’s eight ri. (One ri is 3.9km.) Traditionally the mountains of Hakone were hard to pass for people in the Edo era. In 1626 the Tokugawa Shogunate set up a checkpoint by the lake of Ashi, where it crossed the Tokaido road. This was a natural pivot for the Sankin Kotai, residence duty, which required daimyo to visit the Shogun in Edo regularly. Despite the difficulty of the road, travelers come to be healed by a rich hot spring called Hakone Shichito.

The Odakyu railway 70000 series GSE takes 1.5 hours to get from Shinjuku to Hakone.

The national roads developed in the Meiji and Taisho eras improved traffic through Hakone and it became a popular destination for tourists, as well as the second home of many foreign residents. It’s a global sightseeing spot where people can enjoy seasonal scenery, whether a summer retreat, autumn maple viewing, or midwinter open-air baths while looking at the snow.

Lake Ashino is the turnaround point of the Hakone Ekiden, a collegiate long distance relay road race.

Lake Ashino is a crater lake created by the earth and sand of a 3,100 year old eruption, damming a stream through Sengokuhara. When Mt. Fuji is reflected on the surface of Lake Ashino, it is called “the upside down Fuji”, which emphasizes the beauty of Lake Ashino. Access to Lake Ashino is via the Hakone Tozan Bus, 22 minutes from Hakone Yumoto station on the Odakyu line. There are a variety of amusements, such as black bass fishing, a pirate ship for tourists, the Hakone shrine, an aquarium, and the Hakone Checkpoint Museum which reproduces the checkpoints of the Edo era for visitors to experience.

Mt. Fuji over Lake Ashi

The Hakone Ekiden museum, on the southern tip of Lake Ashi, is the final goal of the Tokyo Hakone collegiate ekiden relay race (Hakone Ekiden), which is held every year in January. It’s a relay race from Tokyo to Hakone and back again, 217 kilometers in ten sections. Aoyama University has secured the overall win for four years running.

Owakudani’s “Black Onsen Egg” – One egg gives you seven years of life.

Owakudani, volcanic gas zone

When you depart from Owakudani station on the Hakone Ropeway, you will see a volcanic gas zone with a sulfurous odor rising up. This place is just as dreary as the hell created by three thousand year old volcanic activity, but still a popular tourist attraction where you can experience the breath of the earth up close. It used to be called “Hell Valley”

Owakudani’s popular item, “Black eggs”, sell 5 for 500 yen

These popular eggs are black because of a chemical reaction fed by geothermal energy and volcanic gas. It’s said eating one egg will give you 7 years of life, so why don’t you try some?

The Hakone Venetian Glass Museum makes you feel like an Italian noble

A Christmas tree made of crystal glasses

The Hakone Venetian Glass Museum was opened in 1996 as Japan’s first Venetian glass museum. It’s run by one of the major corporations in the food service industry, Ukai Co. Ltd. As of the 22nd anniversary, over 10 million visitors have come to see the museum. Reflecting the founder’s feelings, the museum provides people pleasure through food and happiness in the heart through the exhibition of art.

While over five hundred thousand people visit the museum each year, fifty percent of them are repeat visitors. The high repeat ratio proves that the employees all share and provide the spirit of hospitality to their customers. Even I could feel time passing slowly when I was in the Venetian Glass museum, which is something I don’t feel in Tokyo.

Masterpieces of Venetian glass lined up all in a row

In the Venetian Glass Museum, many historically significant masterpieces in Venetian glass are displayed, all made between the 15th and 19th centuries. These collections are imported directly from Italy.

There are also other facilities, such as the Modern Glass Museum, the museum shop, a cafe and restaurants, a glass experience workshop, etc. La Canzone, a restaurant and cafe, regularly offers a canzone performance. It’s fun to smack your lips with seasonal fruitcake while intoxicated by a singing Italian voice.

Coffee and cake while listening to a canzone

The Venetian Glass Museum’s Yasuhiro Yanai says of the museum’s charm, “We try to make you feel like you’ve been invited to a castle belonging to Venetian aristocracy. You should feel taken away from ordinary life, passing the time by letting your heart leap and bound.

Hakone Venetian Glass Museum, Yasuhiro Yanai (on right)

Viewing Mt. Fuji from an open-air bath, Hotel Green Plaza Hakone

Hotel Green Plaza Hakone

Hotel Green Plaza Hakone is a hotel convenient to Lake Ashi and Owakudani.
This hotel is located just five minutes on foot from Ubako station on the Hakone Ropeway, and is an economical way to enjoy the seasonal scenery with Mt. Fuji in the background.

Sengokuhara Onsen: an open-air bath with a great view.

The best part of this hotel is you can take a bath while looking at Japan’s number one mountain, Mt. Fuji. The view is especially nice from the women’s open-air bath. It is one of Hakone’s seventeen hot springs, with sulfate spring water containing sodium hydrocarbonate, which is gentle on the skin and effective for arteriosclerosis, arthritis, high blood pressure, and skin disease.

Asian Twin Rooms, limited to 6 rooms a day, popular with women

Hotel Green Plaza lets you choose rooms freely from Japanese, western, with open-air bath, and special rooms. The Asian Twin Rooms, renovated in 2017, have special open-air baths facing Mt. Fuji. A subtle aroma helps you feel relaxed.

Mineral Q10 Cream, the hotel’s original cosmetic cream

The hotel’s store, Apricot, sells a variety of local specialties as well as the Hotel Green Plaza’s original cosmetic cream, Mineral Q10 Water Cream.

Tsuyoshi Shimizu, from the sales division, explains, “It looks like an ordinary cream, but when you put it into your hand, it changes into a natural beauty liquid that penetrates the skin. The cream has an abundance of coenzyme Q10, and it has an anti-aging effect too.

Samples of this product are provided in their hot spring, try some! You can also purchase this water cream from this EC site.

Hotel Green Plaza Hakone, Tsuyoshi Shimizu (on right)

Meals made carefully with seasonal ingredients

Special Hamburg steak lunch with rich garlic butter sauce

I recommend the chef’s special, “Special Hamburg steak with rich garlic butter sauce.” They only make 5 plates a day at the Lounge Soleil. Beautiful Arita ware enhances the cuisiine even more.

For dinner, you should try the premium buffet at Hanano Wa. It’s all you can eat of fifty kinds of dish, including sushi, tempura, the chef’s roast beef, sashimi, shabu-shabu, and dessert. You can also upgrade to the chef’s special select course. they have a buffet-style breakfast in the same place.

Premium buffet with fifty dishes
Sushi freshly made by sushi chefs
Cheese fondue fountain
Showcase with colorful sweets all in a row

Manager Yosuke Agata of the Hotel Green Plaza Hakone speaks of the hotel: “We have many skilled employees who are fluent in English and Chinese, and offer our services to foreign tourists in many other languages. We’re one of only a few hotels with the reflected Mt. Fuji over our open-air baths, which satisfies our visitors.”

Hotel Green Plaza Hakone, Manager Yosuke Agata (on right)

According to the 2017 visitor survey, published by the city of Hakone, the total number of visitors to the Hakone area, including day trip customers, was 21.52 million. This exceeds the previous record, set before a period of volcanic activity in and around Owakudani. The number of foreign visitors to the city itself hit a record high of five hundred thousand, thanks to various new hotels and facilities being opened.

The Hakone area is loved by such landmark Japanese authors as Soseki Natsume, Ogai Mori, and Yasunari Kawabata. With 30 million foreign visitors in 2018 and becoming a global tourist attraction, Hakone keeps healing the mind and body of the people, Japanese and not.

@japan introduces Hakone, with Ayane Mizuno as the main reporter.

Hakone Venetian Glass Museum
940-48 Sengokuhara, Ashigarashimogun, Kanagawa prefecture, 250-0631
Tel: 0460-86-3111
Opening hours: 10am-5:30pm (entrance by 5pm)
Admission fee: 1,500 yen (adult), 1,100 yen (university and high school students), and 600 yen (junior high and elementary school students)

Hotel Green Plaza Hakone
1244-2 Sengokuhara, Hakonemachi, Ashigaragun, Kanagawa prefecture, 250-0631
Tel: 0570-092-489 (9:30am-9pm)

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