Day 3 in Hakone
Tuesday Aug 2, 2016
This was day 3 in Hakone. Most people stay only one or two days. So we got to explore a bit more. Today we decided to take the Hakone Tozan Railway. We shuttled down to the Gora stations, bought our tickets and were directed to the cable car. That didn’t seem right to me, but who was I to argue. So we rode the Tozan cable car all the way up the mountain and back down again. And then they realized we really wanted the train. It was a nice mistake.
Hakone Tozan Railway
The Tozan Railway (remember tozan means mountain climbing) ascends very steep slopes with sharp curves and severe inclines. The trains from the “nostalgic 100-series trains” have been in service since 1950 so are a truly retro-style journey. I realized I should have sat in the first or last car (there are only 3 cars!) for a better view. There was always the trip back.
The Tozan Railway is the only mountain railway in Japan. Our destination was Hakone-Yumoto which sits at 314 feet above sea level (compared to Gora which is 1774 feet above sea level). Halfway up the line there are switchbacks, where the driver and the conductor change shifts and the train is switched to go in the reverse direction. I don’t thing this happens anywhere else in the world,
Many people come here as the starting point for all the hot springs (it is considered a “bustling hot springs town”). But we just came to walk around and have lunch. We walked outside of the station and then up and down the main street. We did some window shopping and then found a red bridge leading into a park. We walked as far as the entance, but did not climb the steep path into the mountains.
We were getting hungry so we walked back onto the main street and looked into the different restaurants. We settled on a noodle shop, that was called (maybe??) the Yakisoba Soba Shop. Everything was pretty much in Japanese, although there was a brief description of the items in English.
We had read about a famous café for pastries in the train station, The Hakone Café. It was on the second floor and there is a big red sign over the door so it was easy to find. The apple pie is the most expensive item, but that is what they are most famous for. It was described as “stuffed full of juicy chunks of fruit, and rich in taste (350 yen). Their cinnamon roll is soft inside and crunchy outside (180 yen).” Since it is a train station, there were little (and not so little) toy trains everywhere. But they wouldn’t sell any. I had promised my grandson a purple train (or blue or red in that order), and I had yet to find one. But we shared a piece of apple cake. It was good, but not great. But it was all part of the experience.
While waiting for our train, we strolled into a newspaper shop to look around. And there was a blue train for our grandson!
It was then time to head back to Gora. On the return, we sat in the front so we could look out and see the angle of the slopes and the elevation differences between the switchback sections. At times the train would pull off on a side track while another train passed, then reverse directions to go up an incline. In fact, the train repeats switchbacks three times to go up the steep slopes. During the ride, we could look down into the valley of the Haya-kawa River, through the greenery, while the train chugged along. The entire journey, on both sides of the track, we were surrounded by trees and hydrangeas. The hydrangeas reach full bloom in mid-June but we could still see the remnants and some were still blooming. In fact, the train is nicknamed the “Hydrangea Train.” Due to the different altitudes and thus different temperatures along the route, as the Hakone Tozan train climbs up the mountain, the hydrangeas bloom from the lower end up with the final blossoms at the top at the end of July. The hydrangeas grow very close to the railway and we could almost touch them from the window.
We got to Gora and again called the hotel for a pick up. So convenient! And while we were waiting, I noticed this at the end of the line:
Dinner tonight was in the hotel as we were too tired to go into town. We ate in the Living Room. Since we stayed at the Hyatt Regency for 5 nights, we spent a lot of time in the Living Room. This is the bar area, the relaxing and hang out area, the free coffee in the morning area, the free cocktails and drinks in the evening area. And a casual restaurant. For dinner we each had a hamburger. It was one of the most expensive hamburgers I have had (2400 yen or about $23.00). But it was well worth the price. It was also one of the most delicious hamburgers I have had. I had mine with french fries but Andy asked that salad be substituted for the fries. No problem. The burger was served with red onion, sliced tomatoes, lettuce and gerkin pickles along with a small dish of ketchup and thousand island chunky dressing. Simple, expensive, but good and most importantly, easy.
And tomorrow is our last day here so we will spend the day in the hotel. Relaxing. Sleeping. Soaking in onsen. Eating. Drinking. Sleeping some more. Relaxing some more. Never getting out of our yukata.
Nice to have some down time when traveling.
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