Sulphur pool Owakudani Hakone Japan

Japan 2015: Ōwakudani sulphur springs, views of Mt. Fuji — and last night in Tokyo

Date: 31 March 2015

After a very relaxing bath at the Hotel Green Plaza onsen, I moved on to my next stop — the host springs of Ōwakudani. But these hot springs are not safe to soak yourself in due to high sulphur content.

Lake Ashi from Hakone ropeway
Lake Ashi, from the ropeway
Hakone ropeway Owakudani station
Ōwakudani station was the very next stop
Owakudani mountain Hakone Japan
This was the view from the ropeway station
Owakudani sulfur wells Hakone
There is a lot of volcanic activity deep underground
Steam production well Owakudani Hakone
But they are making the most of it
Owakudani trekking trail Hakone
This was a hiking trail
Owakudani hiking trail Hakone mountain
But I did not venture far as I saw no one trekking… plus I had no time for trekking
Owakudani natural hot springs Hakone
So I walked towards the hot springs
Qwakudani mountain height Hakone
1050 metres above sea level
Owakudani sulphur warnings Hakone
The sulfur content is too high so there were signs asking people not to touch the water
Owakudani hot springs Hakone
Before walking towards the sulphur springs, I went inside the building housing the restaurants and souvenir shops
Black egg Owakudani Hakone Japan
I was curious to find out the significance of this black egg was
Black eggs Owakudani Hakone
Inside, you can buy eggs. You take the egg and boil it in the sulphur-rich water and the shell turns black it seems.
Owakudani sulphur hot springs Hakone
You could feel the heat as you got near to the sulphur pools… and you could smell it too!
Sulphur pool Owakudani Hakone Japan
Sulphur-rich water was murky and bubbling hot
Mount Fuji viewing point Japan
The other reason why Owakudani is a popular draw is for the viewpoint
Mount Fuji from Owakudani Japan
A view of Mount Fuji being the main draw, of course
Planes flying over Mount Fuji peak Japan
I swapped lenses to catch these two airplanes flying over Mt. Fuji
Man photographing Mt. Fuji Japan
Unfortunately, from this distance, you can’t really get a good photo of yourself with Fuji-yama in the background especially with clouds in the way

One thing I have experienced time and time again on my travels is that, when fellow tourists see me with a DSLR, they assume that I’m better at them at photography and ask me to take their photos using their cameras. I oblige sometimes but the problem is, when one reacts positively and compliments me for taking a good photo, then other tourists hear that and approach me with the same request. This went on for a while here.

Mithun Owakudani Fuji Japan
I asked a few of them to return the favour, but this is the best photo I got from one of the tourists who asked me to take their photos

Before more tourists could ask me, I quickly packed up my camera bag and left the mountain.

Hakone ropeway going down Japan
It was time to begin my departure from Hakone
Hakone cable car station Japan
I got off the pod at Sounzan station, which is the final stop at the Hakone Ropeway
Kami Gora Tram station Hakone Japan
You then board a tram at Kami Gora station which is close by
Tram pulling wheel gears Japan
These are the wheels that pull the tram up
Hakone tram mountain railtrack Japan
It was all downhill from here
Tram track Hakone Japan
A ‘station’ midway
Downhill tram Hakone hill Japan
It was wasn’t super steep but we still had to hold on to something
Hakone tram mountain train Japan
How tram overtaking happens
Arriving at Gora station Japan
Arriving at Gora station
Hakone Tozan railway Gora station
For the final leg, I now had to board the mountain train — the Hakone Tozan line — to get to Odawara station
Inside Hakone Tozan train
I didn’t have to pay for any of the rail or tram fares as I had the Hakone Pass
Hakone mountain road Japan
It’s quite a scenic journey
Hakone mountain forest Japan
You are still very high up
Hakone Tozan tunnel railway Japan
The train goes through a lot of tunnels
Hakone Tozan tunnel green light Japan
The train also moves very slowly

The entire journey took more than 30 minutes because of how slowly the train moved as it descended down the mountain. It also stopped at a few stations along the way.

Odawara station platform Hakone Japan
But I was at Odawara station, finally

Thus ending my visit to Hakone. I’m so glad I chose to come here. It was a relaxing way to end my Japan trip which was mostly focused on exploring the city landscapes. I can see why Hakone makes for a perfect weekend destination. And I recommend it to anyone who wants a break from Tokyo. It’s also a great place to experience an onsen.

From Odawara, it’s another train I had to hop on to get back to Tokyo station. As I sat in the train to Tokyo, I was amazed at how much emphasis this country has put into mass transit. Trains are everywhere! I know India has a much larger rail network but it’s not as branched out as the rail lines I’ve seen in Japan. Large rail line connects you to a small train line that connects with an even smaller rail line which you could use to get to your final destination. In every major Japanese city, the majority of the residents get around by rail — whether it be subway trains, overground metros, and suburban rail. Good roads are there, for sure, but they’re not as wide as roads are, in say, America.

Japan decided decades ago to invest heavily in trains, not airports. It’s why it pioneered the ‘bullet train’ in the 1960s. I admire that foresight and the thought that went in getting the masses moved. Quite unlike the corruption-driven decisions back in India to develop unnecessary flyovers in place of suburban rail.

Anyway, by the time I arrived at Shinjuku station, it was night time. As exited, I was informed by the station staff that I had to pay 880 yen extra since the Hakone Pass didn’t cover the train ride from Odawara to Tokyo, which is understandable.

Sushi dinner

As I headed back to the Taito area, I stopped by a conveyor belt sushi restaurant near Space Hostel. I was really hungry and it was kinda pathetic that I didn’t eat as much sushi in 9 days being in the country that is famous for it.

Nihonkai Kototoi sushi menu Tokyo
The restaurant is called Nihonkai Kototoi and they have English menus, which made it convenient to order
Sushi chefs conveyor belt restaurant
Even though the chefs placed a few sushi plates on the conveyor belt, I just ordered what I wanted and the chefs made it right in front of me
Mayo sushi roll Tokyo Japan
I started out with some pretty basic varieties — crab sticks salad (left) and Natto Maki (fermented soybeans sushi roll)
Eel sushi Tokyo Japan
Then moved on to Anago (conger eel, the left one) and Kanimayo (snow crab with mayonnaise)
Ebi sushi fat tuna Tokyo Japan
Then had prawn (left) and Chutoro (fatty tuna) — which was delicious

Each plate comes with two servings. So I had 16 pieces of sushi for ¥1350 (₹890/$13/€11) including taxes. So how are things priced? It’s by the plate. Observed the colour of the plates? The white plate is the cheapest, so all the sushi served on the white plates cost ¥88. The yellow options cost ¥141 and the red plates cost ¥245. At the time of billing, they just count the number of plates of each type and voila — you pay the total. Alternatively, many conveyor belt sushi restaurants now have such plates tagged with RFID, so when it comes time for billing, they just run a scanner across all the plates and tally the amount.

Watch this episode of Begin Japanology that talks about how Conveyor Belt Sushi and how they operate. It’s pretty interesting.

Feeling a bit full, I then walked around the neighbourhood one more time… just because I felt like it. Plus it’s completely safe to do so. This was my last night in Japan, so there was sad feeling creeping up on me knowing I had to leave this fascinating nation. I’ll leave my final thoughts for the next (and final) Japan post. For now, I picked up some dried seaweed and miso paste to take back to India.

Police station cars stacked Japan
I walked past this police station on the way back. This is how they stack cars picked up for illegal parking.

I picked up some snacks for breakfast as I had to leave early in the morning. I also picked up frozen pizza and cutlet from 7-Eleven.

7 Eleven pizza chicken cutlet Japan
My second phase of dinner back at the hostel after I finished packing

The 7-Eleven pizza was actually pretty good. Sigh, I’m sooooo gonna miss the convenience stores of Japan!

Previous posts in this series:

Japan 2015: Hakone ropeway; onsen at Hotel Green Plaza

Japan 2015: Getting to Hakone; Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise

Japan 2015: Rikugien garden’s weeping cherry blossom tree

Japan 2015: Cherry blossoms in full bloom at Ueno Park

Japan 2015: Visiting Akihabara a second time, because why not?

Japan 2015: Harajuku at night — Takeshita Street

Japan 2015: Harajuku on a Sunday – Meiji shrine and Yoyogi Park

Japan 2015: Cherry blossom sightings at Shinjuku Gyoen

Japan 2015: Boat ride to Odaiba; giant Gundam statue at DiverCity Mall

Japan 2015: Cherry blossom celebrations by Sumida River

Japan 2015: Denboin garden, near Sensoji Temple

Japan 2015: Shopping in Shinjuku, and exploring Kabukicho

Japan 2015: Nishi-Shinjuku — views from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building sky deck

Japan 2015: Shibuya – the busiest crossing in the world, and home to a loyal dog

Japan 2015: Ueno Zoo – pandas, a lonely polar bear, and more

Japan 2015: Nakamise street, Senso-ji temple, and Ueno Park sakura at half-bloom

Japan 2015: Nadagiku Shuzo Sake Brewery, leaving Himeji for Tokyo — and my last bullet train ride

Japan 2015: Himeji Castle, and the unexpected air show

Japan 2015: Kyoto Station, and arriving at Himeji by shinkansen

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Monkey Park in Arashiyama

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Gion Corner Cultural Show

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Kinkaku-ji and Kiyomizu Dera temple

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Fushimi Inari-taisha, and climbing to the mountain top

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Nishiki market and Teramachi

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Nishi & Higashi Honganji, Shijo street, and Gion

Japan 2015: Riding a bullet train for the first time, Tokyo to Kyoto

Japan 2015: Walking around Akihabara and Ginza

Japan 2015: Going to Akihabara, and spending way too much time in Yodobashi Akiba

Japan 2015: Landing in Tokyo… and using a communal bath for the first time

Hotel Green plaza onsen view

Japan 2015: Hakone ropeway; onsen at Hotel Green Plaza

Date: 31 March 2015

After the cruise across Lake Ashi on a pirate-themed ship, next I was going to take the Hakone Ropeway (cable car) to get to Ubako Station.

Hakone Ropeway Togendaiko station Japan
The ropeway is one of Hakone’s main attractions
Hakone Ropeway queue Japan
The Hakone Pass I was holding covered the ticket fares for the ropeway

If you would like to know how much the one-way and round trip fares for Hakone Ropeway are, click here.

Cable car Hakone ropeway Japan
This would be be my 3rd cable car experience, after Langkawi and Hong Kong
Inside cable car Hakone Ropeway Japan
It’s definitely not as impressive an experience as the one in Langkawi or Lantau Island (Hong Kong), but I guess maybe it’s because the ‘wow factor’ has been lessened after being on other cable car rides now
Hakone ropeway cable car Japan
The views are alright
Views from Hakone ropeway Japan
You get decent views of Mount Fuji along the way up
Hakone machi ropeway tower station
My stop was the very next one
Green Plaza Hotel Fuji view Japan
I walked to Hotel Green Plaza which is very close to Ubako Station

The lady who sold me her half-used Hakone pass recommended the onsen at Hotel Green Plaza, for its splendid views of Mount Fuji as you bathe in the hot springs. Continue reading “Japan 2015: Hakone ropeway; onsen at Hotel Green Plaza” »

Mount Fuji Lake Ashi Hakone Japan

Japan 2015: Getting to Hakone; Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise

Date: 31 March 2015

The second to last day on Japan soil. I had to make the most of it and accomplish a few more things. Experience a proper, natural outdoor onsen (hot spring), see Mount Fuji from closer up, — and eat sushi at a proper sushi restaurant.

Today I was going to be spending the whole day at Hakone, a popular getaway for Tokyo’s residents. Famous for offering great views of Mount Fuji, many hiking trails, resorts and many natural hot springs.

Yesterday, I bought a Hakone pass off a hostel mate who had purchased a two-day pass but only used the benefits of the pass yesterday. I could make use of the pass to avail buses and local trains within Hakone today. But first I had to get to Hakone from Tokyo station.

Tokyo station Odawara platforms
At Tokyo station, platforms 9 and 10 have trains going to Odawara (Tokaido Line)
Tokaido line Okachimachi eki Japan
I forget exactly which stations I had to get down at and transfer trains, but eventually I had to stick to the Tokaido line to get to Odawara station
View from train to Odawara
It was time leave the urban sights of Tokyo
Shinagawa station platform Japan
I think this was Shinagawa station, the second station I had to switch trains from
Odawara station Japan
It took just over an hour because of all the transfers
Bus depot Odawara station Japan
But from Odawara station, I now had to take a bus to get to the docks at Lake Ashi from where the sightseeing cruise departs
Odawara river stream Japan
You could see right away why city-dwellers come here

Continue reading “Japan 2015: Getting to Hakone; Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise” »

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