OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN JAPAN
Forget the big cities - head out to the countryside to explore what rural Japan has to offer and see a different side to this fascinating country.
The town of Hakone is less than 100 kilometres from Tokyo, presenting an idyllic mountain break from the city with its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty. Part of the Fuji-Hakone National Park, the area is noted for hot springs, scenic Lake Ashinoko and (on a clear day) incredible views of Mount Fuji.
An efficient public transport system allows you to move around the park easily, whether it’s by train, bus, funicular, cable car or boat. The greens of the mountain forests, the snowy white cap of Fuji-san and the steaming waters of onsen baths are the perfect antidote to tourist fatigue in Japan’s big cities and a welcome reminder that this country is not just robots and skyscrapers.
Attractions include boiling eggs in the volcanic waters, taking an invigorating dip in the mineral-rich onsen baths, cruising across Lake Ashi on a mock pirate ship (modelled after historic vessels), strolling around the outdoor sculpture park and Picasso gallery, as well as exploring the many tiny villages and hamlets dotted around the park.
Be sure to keep your camera at the ready, as shy Fuji-san likes to hide behind the clouds. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of him peaking out on a sunny day, particularly in the drier winter months. If you’re so inclined, you can also climb Mount Fuji during July and August.
Hakone is a peaceful respite from hectic Tokyo with plenty to see and do in Japan’s great outdoors. Gaze up at the peak of one of Japan’s biggest symbols and breathe in fresh mountain air.
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Hakone, when the countryside is lit up in the pinks of cherry blossoms (April) and the warm reds and oranges of falling leaves (October an November). However, in winter nothing beats the feeling of sitting in a nice warm onsen bath, even though you’re outside in the snow!