H is for Hakone for today’s A to Z Challenge! Hakone 箱根町 is a famous tourist destination in Kanagawa Prefecture 神奈川県 in Japan. It was also my honeymoon destination, so today is all about the letter H.
Hakone is a resort town in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park, and is best known for its abundant hot springs or onsen 温泉. A cooler climate than nearby Tokyo, Hakone offers beautiful mountain views, including Mt. Fuji. Hakone is a UNESCO Geopark location due to the volcanic activity underlying Hakone, which heats the famous hot springs.
Hakone is beautiful at any time of year, and is particularly pleasant during the hot Japanese summer, as it is often much cooler than sweltering Tokyo. Fall boasts vibrant leaves and spring offers cherry blossoms as well as a variety of other blooms. In the winter, when I visited, it was quite windy and although it wasn’t unbearable, outdoor activities are less fun when you are fighting the wind. At Lake Ashinoko, a lake formed in the crater left by a previous volcanic eruption, you can take a boat on a tour around the lake, unless the wind is high and the boat is not running.
Hakone is sitting on top of an active volcano – and by active I don’t mean that it is erupting, but that it is still a threat for eruption. There is magma underneath the town, which is what heats the hot springs and what creates the sulphur steam you see at Owakudani 大涌谷, a valley with high volcanic activity. In 2015, Owakudani exhibited increased volcanic activity and the surrounding area was closed down. Currently, Owakudani is closed, but you can use the Hakone Ropeway in limited service around the area to get some spectacular views.
Staying in town, there are many shops offering local crafts, although they have limited hours in the off season around winter. Personally, I could have just spent time hanging out in my yukata in the hotel, visiting the public hot spring, and enjoying the view from my room.
There are also many indoor and outdoor museums, as well as Hakone Shrine 箱根神社 on the shores of Lake Ashinoko. Even though the winter wind could be cold, I couldn’t stay inside long because the natural beauty around Hakone was beckoning to me. Luckily, the hot springs were waiting for me back at the hotel so that I could warm up and unwind with a wonderful mountain view.
Have you experienced natural hot springs? What is your favorite spot to enjoy natural beauty? Let me know in the comments!