Guest Article #1:
Autumn in Hakone, Japan
Written by: Alan Submitted: November 20, 2015
Up early and out of my apartment by 8:00am to catch the 8:18 to Odawara. We travel on the upper deck of the Green Car (1st Class carriage) to view the urban sprawl as it gives way to greenery. We crane our necks at Kozu to catch the first glance of the steel grey sea. The sky is dull and cloudy. Arriving at Odawara a helpful guide ushers us to the counter to buy our 2 day Free Passes; they are not only good value but save much time and hassle buying individual bus and train tickets.
Taking the single track local train we arrive at Hakone Yumoto where there awaits a Swiss style 3 carriage mountain train. An elderly Japanese lady encumbered with several bags embarks through the carriage door adjacent to our seat. She looks ponderously at the high luggage racks, holding one large sports style holdall, wondering if her strength and small stature will impede her ability to store it. I interrupt her thoughts and lift the bag onto the rack, for which she is expressly grateful.
The train departs and threads its way through tunnels, switchbacks and bridges to Gora, passed stunning multi-coloured vistas mottled with hues from green through yellow and orange to deep ochre – the acers constantly redefining the landscape.
At Gora we take the cable car to Kami Gora and make our way to the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa, offloading our luggage before exploring the surroundings. We receive a warm welcome. The hospitality, ambience, room, view and food are all of the highest standards and we feel rich beyond our means.
Devoid of luggage we travel easily, first to Gora Park, our Free Pass enabling us to enter without further payment. In the Craft House we watch two people glass blowing under the watchful instruction of the staff. Others are throwing pots. We buy souvenirs, presents for family far away. Roses are blooming, beautifying the late Autumn gloom.
The cable car terminates at Sounzan where we take the bus replacement service to Ubako Station and the Hakone Ropeway to Tokendai. Owakudani and its Ropeway links are currently out of bounds due to ongoing seismic activity and the sulphurous gas cloud which chokes us as we alight from the bus at Ubako.
We just have enough time for a quick meal at the restaurant before taking the diesel engined galleon to Hakone-machi. We explore the Checkpoint and Exhibition Hall to learn of the origin and purpose of the buildings and structures. The watchtower is a climb too far for me; I have been there before. I leave my son to climb the steps. Souvenirs purchased from the gift shop we alight a bus which takes us to Kowakidani station to take the train and cable car back to our hotel. The bus is crowded, people block the aisle and I lose me footing as I push past them.
At the resort we dine a la carte in the Living Room in the shadow of the open log fire. The ambience, relaxing after a busy sightseeing day, prepares us for a restful sleep in 5 star surroundings.
Alan is a UK citizen, 62 years old, who has been working for a Japanese contractor for nearly 9 years, most of the time has been spent living in Japan. Alan’s home is in Malaysia where he lives with his wife and one of their sons and his family. Alan has travelled extensively over the last 13 years in connection with business activities.