I know I’ve already said this about a million or so places in Japan, but Hakone (箱根) had to be one of my favourite destinations over the past year. I’d always wanted to visit the famous onsen town, and my time there didn’t disappoint! There’s something so invigorating about breathing in that crisp mountain air, and the weather during my trip was absolutely perfect. There was barely a cloud in the sky, and I got the chance to see Mount Fuji from so many different angles. If only I had more time to explore than two short days…
Straight after arriving my friends and I checked out Hakone Open Air Museum (箱根彫刻の森美術館), something I’d been looking forward to ever since I first saw it in photos. It’s not so much a traditional museum, but more of a park filled with amusing sculptures and selfie opportunities galore. While some of the installations are quite questionable, my favourite had to be this stained glass tower! It’s not so obvious in photos, but there are cute little motifs to be found all the way to top. You can even climb a staircase to the roof, which was terrifyingly steep. It’s totally worth it for that panoramic view, though!
This unassuming installation is actually a staircase leading to an underground tunnel! Fumbling through pitch-black darkness was quite the experience, but definitely something I wouldn’t recommend if you’re remotely claustrophobic.
We stayed at a ryokan that night, and were treated to a set meal followed by full access to the onsen. In case you were wondering, you do have to be completely naked to enter the baths. But honestly? After getting over the initial squeamishness you’ll never want to stop. Nakedness really isn’t a big deal here, and everyone just minds their own business. Not to mention, it’s super liberating once you stop caring about how your body looks to others and enjoy the water. I guarantee you’ll have the best sleep of your life afterwards!
The next day we paid a visit to Owakudani (大涌谷) which was quite the journey. We used both a ferry and cable car, but they’re super easy to navigate if you buy the Hakone Freepass. Anyway, at the top of the mountain there are even more views of Fuji-san as well as tons of things to buy and eat… like these black eggs, which are hard-boiled in the hot springs! It honestly tastes just like any old boiled egg, but apparently eating one adds seven years to your life.
It just wouldn’t be a complete trip without some questionable soft serves, right? This is egg-flavoured ice cream, which I obviously couldn’t leave behind. The flavour wasn’t that strong at first, but as for the aftertaste… even though I chose to have mine mixed with vanilla, the egginess definitely came through loud and clear afterwards. In any case, it was truly nothing like anything I’d ever eaten before.
A little video diary from the trip! I really enjoyed putting it together, so here’s hoping I find the motivation to make more in the future.