The next stop took us around 2 hours outside of Tokyo, to the mountainous town of Hakone. It cost just 1300 yen each to get the train from Tokyo station to Odawara, which takes about 90 minutes. At Odawara, we were told to head for the hakone information desk. It was here that we were told about the Hakone free pass.
Priced at 5000 yen (£37) for three days, it covers all transport to, from and within Hakone. It seemed silly not to buy it. We made use of it straight away, by getting onto the Toikado line to Hakone-Yumoto station. It was a picturesque journey which only lasted around 15 minutes but it put is into the heart of Hakone.
From the train station, a fleet of buses were waiting to transport people all across the region. Three stops and five minutes on the K bus had us at the top of the street on which our hostel was located. The rooms, or rather pods, were small but comfortable. The mattresses were ironically the comfiest I’d experienced so far, this was a bonus after how unique the wooden pods were.
After finding out the buses back from Lake Ashi, located 25 minutes away from our hotel, stopped running at 5pm we felt it best to get down there ASAP. Fortunately we were only waiting five minutes before the K line bus tumbled up to our stop.
A winding road took us up through the thick forest areas of the hillside and over to the final stop of the line. It was lake Ashinoko and conveniently placed next to the tour boat port. A flash of the hakone free pass and a quick stamp before boarding a ship resembling something out of a grand 18th century naval battle. Certainly not your average your boat.
We sailed across the length of the lake, careful to take note of the beautiful waters and steep forested hills encompassing us on all sides. We were told if the direction in which to find Mount Fuji, but it was unfortunately too cloudy. It wouldn’t be the last time.
The 40/45 minute return journey over the lake in the fresh air was appreciated after spending most of the day on trains and buses, we made it back to our start point in plenty of time for our bus back.
After a bite to eat down towards the centre of hakone, we pondered what to do with the rest of the evening. It was recommended to us to try one of the local hot spas, so off we went out on the bus.
Just three stops away we reached our destination. With towel and swimming shorts in hand, we paid the 1200 yen admission (8/9 pounds) and stepped into the reception. Only to be hit with a sign stating no swim wear. This was going to be interesting.
Was it a blind ignorance or just denial that we’d be stepping into the spa in our birthday suits? Either way, it felt like a truly authentic experience. It was actually incredibly relaxing, sat in the steam baths outside on a cool evening is an idea which I would now always recommend. Once you get over the initial ‘well what’s going on here?’ Feeling, a visit to a hot spa is incredibly soothing. The perfect way to end a day of travelling.