Our plan is to do a day trip to Hakone. Due to its close proximity to Tokyo (東京) it’s a very popular destination with locals and tourists alike.
Famed for its scenic walking trails, majestic views of Mt Fuji (富士山), a picturesque lake (湖), an active volcano (火山) and soothing onsen (natural hot springs: 温泉). It seems to have it all.
The 2-day pass (¥5000pp) appears to be the best option providing a return train trip, access to all the transport services in the area, and discount coupons for various attractions and providers.
For an extra ¥870 you can ride the express “Romance Car” one-way. Whilst the name may be disconcerting, it simply refers to the fast train. If you look carefully at the timetable you can actually opt for the latest & greatest version: the VSE 50000.
And being an express it takes about 1/2 hour less to get to Hakone-Yumoto: a total of 1h23m travelling time.
It’s also a slightly more direct route as the slower trains require a change at Odawara, one stop before Hakone. Mind you, there is a castle at Odawara which I’ve heard is worth a visit if you have the time.
We opt for the leisurely 10am departure from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto.
The seats are comfortable: made of a soft, synthetic material as opposed to plush leather. The air-conditioning seems about right. And the ride is fairly smooth.
A range of food and beverages are available for purchase and seem reasonably priced; probably no different to buying them from a shop in Tokyo.
We’re fortunate that we have no-one sitting in the two seats in front as it allows us to swing those seats around providing us with extra leg room and a better view.
The trip starts slowly as we pass through the outer suburbs of Tokyo. Apartment blocks dominate. The universal practice of hanging washing from the balconies prevails. Houses are definitely something of a rarity.
Fire escapes constantly grab my attention having become a graphic fascination of mine since arriving in Tokyo but I resist the urge to photograph them whilst the train is moving.
The speed is not a break-neck pace. But fast enough for us to get there quickly yet still enjoy views of the countryside. After about 30 minutes the land opens up.
Neatly arrayed, verdantly green (緑色), water-logged rice-paddy fields (水田) become more prevalent, interspersed between residential and commercial areas.
Houses are a bit more common but blocks of land remain tiny by Australian standards.
About 45 minutes out of central Tokyo and other types of farming (農) crop up: corn, other vegetables, fruit trees.
Every now and again their version of a “7.11” sign dominates the skyline, much like McDonalds does in many other countries.
Cemeteries (墓地) also catch my eye, especially being so close to people’s homes.
About an hour into the trip we encounter the foothills (前山) and forest (森林) areas.
We never seem to quite escape civilization. Despite it being mid-summer (真夏), the temperature is mild here in the mountains (山内).