Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Hakone

Suspension Bridges

During my Friday English class last week, one of my students told me about her visit to a clematis and sculpture garden near Mt. Fuji. From her description of her visit, I was interested in making a trip to the garden. As I looked around the Mishima area on my Google Maps app, I realized there was another place I had flagged to visit. I suggested to Katie we take our Tuesday adventures to the expressway and visit them both! Without difficulty, we were able to rent a car and leave before 8:00am Tuesday morning.

Side note: went traveling a far distance in a vehicle, I find it easier to rent a car for two reasons. 1. I only trust our Hooptie so much. 2. Driving on the expressway is expensive because of the high road tolls (¥8000 – $80 round trip to areas around Mt. Fuji). Toll vouchers are included with a rental car ($58 for a 1-day rental). This makes it actually cheaper to rent a car than to drive your own!

Now, back to our story. We arrived at our first stop, Mishima Skywalk around 9:30am. Before heading to the Skywalk, we stopped to use the restroom facilities. Just when I thought Japanese toilets couldn’t get any more amazing, we were greeted by a large banner advertising “luxury toilet.” The restroom was immaculate and complete with not just functional “thrones,” but also lounging ones – inside and outside the restroom! Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up!!

After our pit stop, we were ready to see Mt. Fuji and walk the Mishima Skywalk. The Mishima Skywalk is Japan’s largest suspension bridge. The bridge is 400m in length and connects Izu and Hakone. The bridge reaches a height of 70.6m as it stretches across the valley below. The width of the bridge footpath is 1.6m (wide enough to allow two wheelchairs to pass one another). Needless to say, the view was spectacular!

We were glad we arrived early. Mt. Fuji was starting to cloud over when we arrived. By the time we were leaving, it was mostly covered.

The walk across the bridge is not for the faint of heart. If you have a fear of heights, it might be best to skip this attraction.

Once we made it to the far side, we were greeted by the safety sign. I hope the Skywalk receives this award every year!!

On the north side of the bridge, is a natural area with a few trails and the flower drop. For ¥200, you’re invited to purchase a flower seed attached to a piece of wood. When you cross back over the bridge, you can toss the wood chip and make a wish. When your flower blooms, your wish will come true.

Also at the flower drop area were cute little forest eggs. Some were set along the trail and others where hiding behind a door on the trees. So, kawaii!

They were so cute!

From the construction and signs, Katie and I came to the conclusion the area would soon have a zip line attraction! Now that would be amazing!

During our walk back across, the wind really started to pick up. The bridge was really swaying! It was kindof fun to not hold on! Look, Mom! No hands!

One of the cafes was called the Sky Garden. Here we enjoyed a snack while sitting under the phenomenal hanging plants.

After our snack, we were ready to head to our next destination. We drove about 30 minutes before reaching the Clematis no Oka Garden. We parked in one of the parking lots furthest from the garden. This afforded us the opportunity to walk through the woods and transit across two more suspension bridges. They weren’t as long or as high, but still very enjoyable.

Once we arrived at the garden, we were treated to beautiful clematis and strange sculptures.

Here are just a few of the interesting sculptures. We were a little surprised with the sculptures because there were a lot of naked men. It seemed out of context with the garden. But, I guess art is art.

Anyways, let’s get back to the clematis. There were so many different varieties and colors. Here is about half of the clematis pictures I took!

The lower part of the garden was filled with roses. They were also in full bloom and stunning.

The roses were a special treat because I wasn’t expecting them. After enjoying time in the sunshine and the beautiful garden, we hopped back in the car and headed home. The drive home was easy. Each time I make a trip to Mt. Fuji, I become a little more familiar and at ease driving. I consider this a win after living here for almost two years! I’m so glad we took the opportunity to road trip. It was a wonderful day exploring an area around Mt. Fuji we hadn’t had a chance to visit yet.

The Rest of the Story

I know the suspense is killing you! Thank you for returning to read about the rest our our day in Hakone. I left off the story of our Hakone Fall Foliage adventures yesterday with us riding the Ropeway. The Ropeway ended at Togendai-ko, where we boarded the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. The cruise ship is modeled after a pirate ship! It held a lot of people!!

The boat ride took about 40 minutes. We started out standing on the “poop” deck. The crisp autumn air on the water made us chilly and so we headed down below decks. We still had a nice view of the coast line as we sailed through Lake Ashi. Please notice all the clouds, they parted later at the perfect moment!

We exited the ship at the second landing, Motohakone-ko Pier. We wanted to visit the Hakone-jinja Shrine and the floating Torii. As we walked to the Shrine, we enjoyed more fall foliage.

We crossed a cute bridge along the route and stopped for a few pictures. The vermilion bridge with the leaves was truly brilliant!

The floating Torii was impressive. If only the lighting was more cooperative.

By this point it was past 2pm and we were getting hungry for lunch. Unfortunately, we realized most of the restaurants had closed for their lunch service and those that were open had very long lines. We decided to grab a quick lunch from the 7-11 and eat on the steps by the pier. The leaves continued to impress us as we made our way to our picnic spot.

As we sat on the steps enjoying our lunch and Mt. Fuji Pale Ale, the sky started to clear.

It was as though we were beckoning Mt. Fuji to appear magically before us. I guess Sake isn’t the only thing to appease the Gods.

I made one more offering. (Side note edit about the picture below. Katie just sent me a message with the realization that the picture on the label of our Hakone Pale Ale was our viewpoint during lunch! Please notice Mt. Fuji and the floating Torii on the label. No wonder the Gods smiled and cleared the clouds off of Mt. Fuji!)

And I was rewarded with clearing skies.

The last picture was my favorite of the day. Like I have said so many times before, I am so happy for each opportunity to see Mt. Fuji. My three favorite things in Japan are: (in no particular order unless I’m hungry)

Mt. Fuji

Shinkansen

Maguro (tuna sashimi)

After lunch, we worked our way to the bus terminal to catch the bus back to Hakone Yumoto Station. This was the most confusing part of the day. After lining up in three different bus lanes, we were finally directed to an express bus which dropped us off in about 30 minutes. The whole day proved to be pretty easy to navigate and the Freepass was key to smoothly go from one means of transportation to another. We could bypass the ticket counter each time, saving time and confusion. I arrived home shortly before 6pm. It was about 11 hours of exploring and fun!!

If you haven’t started planning the dates for your trip next year, I encourage you to consider November. The weather is cooler and the foliage is stunning. A day trip to Hakone can easily be added to any itinerary. The beauty is breathtaking. Also, if you visit in late spring, there could be an opportunity to view the Hakone hydrangeas. I look forward to my next trip to Hakone and the one we make together!

Hakone Fall Foliage

On Wednesday, Katie and I decided to take a trip to Hakone. We left our houses at 7:00am and met at Zushi Station at 7:30am. From Zushi we took two more trains to finally arrive at Odawara Station. Here was the first part of our route.

Once we arrived in Odawara Station, we purchased a two day pass called the “Hakone Freepass”. For ¥4000 ($40.00), the Hakone Freepass would allow us to ride the Hakone Tozan Train, the Hakone Tozan Cable Car, the Hakone Ropeway, the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, and the Hakone Tozan Bus. Basically, we made a HUGE loop around Hakone. Here is the map we used.

We started on the far right and worked our way counterclockwise around Hakone until arriving back at Odawara.

Our main objective was to use this trip as a reconnaissance trip to see what we would like to do with our families and future visitors. Also, we really wanted to see fall foliage. We accomplished both!

Here is our first Hakone train, the Hakone Tozan Train. It was crowded! I mean it’s Wednesday!! This train had several switchbacks as it went up the mountain! It was weird to go in one direction and then all the sudden go in reverse!

We made a brief stop in Gora before getting on the Hakone Tozan Cable Car. Already, we were leaf crazy!

We continued up the mountain from Gora on the Cable Car. It was not quite as crowded.

The Cable Car took us to Souzan. At Souzan, we took a moment to savor the view.

After a brief stop, we took the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani. The views of foliage from the Ropeway were spectacular! Can you see the shadow of our Ropeway Car?

As we boarded the Ropeway, we were given damp towels to use in case the Sulfur smell was too strong.

As we came over the mountain on the Ropeway, the Sulfur mines were visible. The steam is being released from the Earth because of the thermal vents associated with the volcanic valley. Wow!!

After we exited the Ropeway, we had an opportunity to walk around and look at the Sulfur mines from above. The steam rising was so cool. The science teacher in me was completely geeking out. Poor, Katie. She was a sport to put up with my giddiness!

Here was a fun surprise that I wasn’t expecting. I had heard about the “famous black eggs” of Hakone, but I didn’t understand exactly what they were.

The eggs were sold for ¥500 for 5 eggs. I bought a sack of eggs for us to share.

From my research I learned, the eggs are boiled in hot sulfur springs. The Sulfur causes the egg shells to turn black. The black eggs are called Owakudani “Kuro-Tamago” by locals. Legend goes that eating the eggs will add 5-7 years to your life.

The eggs appear to be from out of this world, but they tasted like a normal hard boiled egg or tamago. I took a picture of my half eaten Kuro-tamago with the cute egg seat! Kawaii!

As we finished our egg snack, we couldn’t believe our eyes! For a brief moment, Mt. Fuji was visible!!

Our next leg of the journey was the second part of the Hakone Ropeway. We took the Ropeway down to Togendai-Lo where we would board the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. The ride down the Ropeway was beautiful.

I hate to leave you hanging on the Ropeway… but, this post has potential to gone on and on. I’ll tell you the rest of the story tomorrow. Stay tuned for Hakone Fall Foliage Part Two tomorrow!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén