A majority of the 9 to 5 crowd in cities are ready to shell out any amount to enjoy a few days in serenity and peace, something that the metro cities cannot offer. In Japan, while metros like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka offer all the luxuries that someone can think of they fail to provide a natural and pollution-free environment. High-rise buildings, malls, highways, bridges, and man-made parks dominate the cityscape but there is hardly any presence of nature.
For those who’ve had enough of the glamorous city life in Japan, make your way to Hakone which located only 100 km away from Tokyo, yet oddly unaffected by the glitzy city life. Once a no man’s land, Hakone has now become a popular destination among tourists from all over the world. Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The quiet town is located atop a mountainous region and offers a stunning view of the countryside. This serene town offers the much-needed break that the people living in cities yearn for. With a handful of natural spots to visit here, the town surprises with an impressive list of free things to do. Here are a few listed below:
1. View the stunning Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi
The first thing that you do when you reach Hakone is straightaway heading to the stunning Lake Ashi which is also known as the Hakinoko Lake. The lake is a result of a volcanic crater that was formed out of the Mount Hakone. One needs to ride a ropeway followed by a boat to cross the lake and reach the shore of the Lake Ashi. The lake is surrounded by beautiful scenery of lush vegetation, hot springs, and a few other historic sites but the most appealing of them all is the glorious view of the Mount Fuji across the lake.
2. Hike around the serene Lake Ashi
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As mentioned earlier, the picturesque area surrounding the Lake Ashi has historic sites, beautiful cliffs, and mountains covered with lush greenery which makes it an ideal spot for hiking activities. Summer and autumn months experience a rise in hiking activities since the vegetation is in full bloom and the temperature is favourable enough to cover long trails.
3. Walk the charming Old Tokaido Road
Tokaido used to be an important checkpoint to control the traffic that connects Tokyo with Kyoto. Today, all that remains of this important highway is the reconstructed Hakone checkpoint completed with large gates, fences, housing for officials, a prison and a lookout chamber. One can take a lazy stroll along the Old Tokaido road passing the stone pavements and the Hakone checkpoint and explore the Tokaido Museum that’s on the way. A stop by the “Amazake Chaya” – a tea house serving traditional Japanese wine and snacks is highly recommended during the visit.
4. Visit the lovely Fudo Falls
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The Fudo Falls is located in the lap of nature, close to Lake Chichubu. Reaching here requires a 30-minute hike through a well-maintained trail. There are handrails and resting areas throughout the trail for the ease of the journey. The fall is 50 meters deep and looks ethereal in its natural surroundings. Carry a bug spray if you plan to spend some time there admiring the pleasant scenery.
5. Visit the rustic Hakone Shrine
A visit to the Hakone Shrine is free. The shrine stands at the foot of Mount Hakone along the shores of Lake Ashi. The buildings of the shrine seem to be hidden behind the dense forest but with a closer look, one can see that the main building stands on the Lake Ashi while the others are built on the main street of Moto-Hakone. The shrine is characterized by typical Japanese architecture and lanterns adorning the shrine gates.
6. Explore the Gotemba Outlet Mall
Explore the Gotemba outlet mall located very near to Hakone. The mall features more than 200 different brands and has multiple F&B outlets and restaurants. There is also a 50 meters high Ferris wheel (kids are you listening?). Even if you don’t shop, you can skim through different fashion, sports, food, household goods, and electronics items.
7. Visit the royal Hakone Detached Palace
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Once used as a summer palace for the Imperial family, the Detached Palace has been open to the public from long back. It is located on the southern shores of Lake Ashi and is surrounded by a beautiful park called the Onshi Hakone Park. One can get an amazing view of the Mount Fuji and the surrounding mountains from the palace premises.
8. Experience the power of faith at Choanji Temple
The Choanji temple is a Zen Buddhist temple located at the foot of a hill in Hakone. What makes this temple strikingly different from the others are the statues of Rakan- the disciples of Buddha. There are more than 200 of them scattered around the temple and each of them is built in their own unique style.
Planning vacations are not easy, it takes meticulous planning and calculations, something which most people don’t prefer doing themselves. Readymade packages are the easy solution to it but it is almost similar to wearing someone else’s cloth, you get to wear something new but the fit isn’t perfect. Thankfully companies like Pickyourtrail are focusing on customized itineraries where people can put in their requirements and get their custom itineraries within minutes. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s time you do it for your next vacation.