Day 8: December 3
Third day of 7-day JR pass
We packed up and checked out of the hotel pretty early, ready to catch the first cable car. The staff helped me with figuring out how to get from the hotel to the bus stop where we would board a bus to Kawaguchi-ko later in the day, but it involved a number of buses and it wasn’t worth it. So they booked a taxi for us for when we would come back for our bags later in the day. We only had the morning plus an hour or so to explore Hakone! We took the cable car to Sounzan station and we continued to use our Hakone Free Pass (valid for two days) purchased the previous day.
Unforunately I hadn’t expected that the ropeway from Souzan station would not be operating yet (too early), so we had to wait about half an hour – whoops. We took the ropeway to Owakudani station, which is where we had visited the the day before but the weather was too bad.
Owakudani is an active volano zone area featuring a lot of hot springs and hot sulphurous fumes. It is a short walk from the ropeway to the many steam vents and bubbling pools, where the “black eggs” we purchased the previous day are boiled. There are also hiking paths you can take up the mountain or down the mountain to the lake. Currently, there is no access to Owakudani and it is closed to visitors due to volcanic gases.
The weather was just as windy, foggy and drizzling as the previous day! There was almost no visibility.
We then hopped back on the ropeway to head to Togendai-ko station, which is at the northern end of Ashino-ko (Lake Ashino). We decided to take the roundtrip sightseeing cruise to Hakone-machi, Moto-Hakone (historical old towns) and back to Togendai-ko except we would remain on the boat. We didn’t have a load of time so we wouldn’t be getting off and exploring the two historic towns, although that would have been a great option. The roundtrip cruise in this way would take about one hour. Also, the clouds began to clear, the rain and fog disappeared and the sun appeared! We couldn’t believe our luck!
Being outside on the boat was incredibly cold and windy. We saw glimpses of Mt Fuji at some point too. The weather continued to clear up, and on the ropeway back, we could see Mt Fuji quite clearly (Mt Fuji is actually still really far away from Hakone though).
We could also see Owakudani better while travelling above than the two times we had visited. The angry fumes were really cool.
We made our way back to the hotel, grabbed our stuff and waited for the taxi. The taxi driver took us to the bus stop, which was around 10-15 minutes of driving through windy mountain roads. He was a super friendly man and we had a nice chat. He had visited Kawaguchi-ko just two weeks ago and visits almost yearly. He dropped us off at the Hakone Sengoku Annaisho bus stop as requested. Shortly, the Odakyu Hakone highway bus arrived and we travelled on it to Gotemba station. Beyond Gotemba, our Hakone free pass was no longer valid. From Gotemba station, we had to take a very long route to cross some tracks to get to the bus stops (literally almost ten minutes). From there we took a bus to Kawaguchi-ko, which was an hour of windy country roads. I had planned the transport times for the journey between Hakone and Kawaguchi-ko according to the bus timetables.
Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi) is the most easily accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes at the northern base of Mt Fuji. The Fuji Five Lakes area are the best and closest places to view Mt Fuji, and also from where you can climb Mt Fuji.
Arriving at Kawaguchi-ko station, we stocked up on snacks and also used some paid internet. The hotel didn’t have internet in the rooms and we wanted to send some messages home. We took a taxi to Mizuno Hotel. It was a ryokan-style hotel and our name was on the welcoming board outside!
Mizuno Hotel is a slightly old hotel, sitting high up on a hill, some 2km away from Kawaguchi-ko station. Walking is a little bit tiring (because of the hill) but doable once you are familiar with the orientation (we would mostly be walking around Kawaguchi-ko the next day). Because it is high up and located close to the river, our room had an unrivalled view of Mt Fuji on the other side of the lake. This is a true selling point of the hotel. Our room was simple, not incredibly well maintained, and just passably clean. Overall the hotel felt really old and a little run down, with gaudy and chaotic decorations (particularly on the ground floor). There was meant to be free wifi in the lobby, but we were not able to connect, and the staff couldn’t figure out why – I put it down to our non-Japanese devices.
We decided to have sukiyaki in the hotel’s restaurant, not wanting to repeat the sad dinner from the previous night. There was an incredible amount of food (almost too much) and well worth the price. At the end they asked if we wanted more vegetables. We wished we had known, because we love our vegetables and never got to eat enough in Japan, and I wouldn’t have stuffed myself trying to finish all the meat. And then at the end they asked if we wanted more beef! So maybe the whole meal was all-you-can-eat and we didn’t realise, haha!
In ryokan, staff will come around during dinner time (when guest’s are usually out) and lay out the futon. When we returned from dinner, our futon were laid out for us.