Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
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Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is located southwest of Tokyo and stretches far out into the sea in the form of an island chain. It is divided into four areas: The Mount Fuji and Hakone areas in the north, and the Izu Peninsula and Izu Islands to the south. The landscape has been shaped by millions of years of volcanic and tectonic activity.
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is home to Japan’s most iconic symbol: Mount Fuji. The isolated and majestic volcanic peak commands the skyline in all directions and has played a major part in shaping life in the surrounding region. It has also been the natural soul of the nation since ancient times. In the park you can wander through timeless forests, explore lava caves and bathe in hot springs. You can even swim with dolphins off the coast of the southern islands.
Sengokuhara Susuki Grass Fields
One of Hakone’s most photogenic natural spots can be found in the northern region of Sengokuhara. Blanketing the hills at the base of Mount Hakone are tussocks of tall pampas grass, a sight uniquely beautiful in the autumn months, when the grass turns golden. A walking path cuts through the centre of the field, allowing visitors to wander through the swaying leaves and take in views over the golden hills. During the summer months, the grass is a brilliant green, but it’s generally not advised to visit during the spring when the field is cleared for regrowth.
Hakone Shrine and Lake Ashi
Concealed by woodland near the shoreline of Lake Ashi is the region’s main Shinto shrine, marked out by a red torii gate that famously rises out of the water. The image of the gate, which frames the tranquil Lake Ashi and mountains beyond, is a recognisable symbol of the union between Japan’s natural beauty and sacred sites. As such, many visitors to Hakone flock here to take that perfect picture, though for a shot of the floating gate against the forest and snowy peak of Mt Fuji, it’s best to head to the opposite side of the lake.
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At the heart of Hakone is Ōwakudani, a sweeping geothermal valley created by the eruption of the Hakone volcano 3,000 years ago. On a clear day, those hiking around the valley can take in views of Mount Fuji, while from the Hakone Ropeway, bubbling hot springs and clouds of white smoke can be seen drifting over the crater. Many visitors make the journey to Ōwakudani to try the region’s special black eggs, hard-boiled in natural sulfurous hot springs. It’s believed that eating one of the eggs will prolong your life for seven years.
Streaming down a 20-metre-wide (66-feet-wide) stretch of moss-covered rock, the majestic Chisuji Falls form the basis of many hikes through the forest of Hakone’s Kowakudani region. Summer evenings bring a flock of genji fireflies to the area, while in the autumn, the surrounding maple trees transform the forest into a blaze of colour. Walking trails here are suited for a gentle, pleasant stroll, so if you’re looking for a challenging climb, this isn’t the hike for you.
Hakone Gora Park
Every season puts on a show in Gora Park, a French-style landscape park that ascends the slopes of Gora. Spring brings bright azaleas and pale pink cherry blossoms, while in summer, the park’s central fountain is surrounded by blossoming hydrangeas, before autumn’s blaze of red and orange maple leaves give way to snow and Christmas lights in the winter. The park, Japan’s first French-style landscape garden, offers a peaceful retreat no matter what time of year you visit. When not stopping to smell the roses, guests can enjoy workshops that include glassblowing, flower-arranging and pottery-making.
Mount Kintoki is a mountain for hiking beginners and is popular for its beautiful view of Mount Fuji from its summit. There are several hiking courses, but the most common trail is the one that begins from Mount Kintoki’s trailhead and takes a little under 2 hours one way to complete. It is recommended that you begin your hike in the morning. There are several spots on the way to the summit where you can get a clear view of the beautiful landscape. There are two tea houses (where visitors can rest) located on the summit for soba or udon noodles with drinks. When hiking, be sure to wear shoes and clothes that are easy to walk in. It may also be much colder near the summit, so it is ideal to wear clothes that can maintain your body temperature. It may also be reassuring to have a hiking pole with you to lighten to burden on your feet.