On our week long family vacation to Tokyo, by day six we were officially ready to adventure outside the concrete Tokyo metropolian area. It was easy to set our sights on the lakeside/mountain town of Hakone, it looked beautiful and seeemed easy enough to get to... Bbut little did we know that all-in-all it would take eight trains, one cable car, two “rope ways”, one pirate ship and a bus to get to/thoroughly explore all of Hakone. That’s right, we took FIVE different forms of transportation to see some black smelly eggs (will explain more below), a brief glimpse of Mt. Fuji, and an oversized Torii gate. While that may seem absurd, we all unanimously agreed that getting the opportunity to enjoy Japan’s wilderness while spending a ton of quality family time was 100% worth it!
After 2.5 hours of travel, our first actual acitivity in Hakone consisted of taking the “rope ways” (I usually call these things gondolas) up over the Ōwakudani Valley to see geothermal vents. Due to the volcanic nature of this area, sulphur is constantly being pushed through the mountainside into giant vents of stinky steam. The pungent smell can only be described as “rotten eggs” but fortunately we maintained a far enough distance away so the smell wasnt too offensive.
While geothermal activity is pretty cut, dry and easy to understand, what I couldn’t wrap my head around were the “black eggs” that this area is famous for. Do chickens live on these mountainsides? Are the eggs black when they are laid? Who discovered this phenomenon? What exactly causes the eggs to be black? Is the inside black as well or just the outside? I needed answers so I turned to Google which informed me that no, chickens do not live in this area - the eggs are brought to the super heated sulfuric water that pools alongside the mountain and are boiled which turns just the outside black. While I was relieved that my questions were solved, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed that these “mystical” black eggs were actually a kitschy tourist trap. We did get a picture in front a large black egg statue because ”When in Hakone”.....
Do you see all of the yellow at the base of the vents? That’s the solid form of sulfur!
When we returned to the gondolas for the second leg of the rope way we were treated to a partial view of Mt. Fuji! It had been heavily covered in clouds, but just as soon as our gondola started to descend we were able to capture a glimpse of the majestic cone shaped mountain peaking through the clouds! Seeing Mt. Fuji was on all of our bucket lists so this brief but lucky sighting was a definite highlight of this day.
After a pirate ship ride across Lake Ashi (why did it look like a pirate ship? We may never know...) we landed on the shores of Hakone’s tiny town. At this point we were about a 15 minute walk away from Hakone Shrine, a must see for myself, and although it was cold and getting darker by the minute I drug my family along the coastline to see this massive, ancient Torii gate. When we arrived at the gate there was an intimidatingly long queue... Although I’ve gotten very used to long lines in my past few years of traveling, I started to feel a bit guilty that I made my mom, dad and sister walk through and now stand in the bitter cold for - let’s be real - a killer photo op! They were nice about it though (because they’re the best) and after a few minutes we finally got our moment alone with the torii gate. It’s location in the lake makea it a “floating torii” and a truely beautiful site. I love all things Japanese culture and this certainly did not disappoint.
Below you can see the floating torii gate at Hakone Shrine in the distance!
Hakone was just one of many incredible days spent in mainland Japan with my family. I definitely intend on posting more (although no garauntees how long it make take me to get through everything) so stay tuned! Thanks for reading and until next time.,.
We're Kara, Ben and baby Zoe also known as the Lesniaks. We’re a Marine Corps family currently stationed in Yorktown, Virginia after a three year tour in Okinawa, Japan. Enjoy our adventures, travels, photos, thoughts, and life together!
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