The hunt for Mt Fuji in Hakone

Thursday 24th October

It is hard to think of Japan without considering its number one icon, Mt Fuji. So our second last stop in Japan was in the area called Hakone, where we would get great views of the famous mount.

Alas, that was not to be. The fourth typhoon to affect our travels, Francisco, was approaching and the rain that preceeds a typhoon was falling.

We figured we may as well follow the suggestions for a day out, so armed with our rain coats and umbrellas we headed for the hills.

First spot to see Mt Fuji is on the Hakone Ropeway between Togendai amd Owakudani. We managed to get a view of Lake Ashi, but nothing beyond. In fact on our return journey we were in heavy cloud and couldn’t even see the next pylon, so ropeway cars appeared out of the mist. It was quite eerie.

A bonus to the Ropeway journey is a stop off to view the “Volcano Smoke” at Owakudani. Busloads of tourists joined us on the walk to see the sulphur steam bubble out of the ground. We could have had a “black egg” – boiled in the hot sulphuric water, but choose not to.

We continued on the Ropeway and then onto the Cable Car to Gora on the other side of Mt Komagatake.

Whilst there were very few passengers on the journey to Gora, returning to Togendai was quite the opposite, because this is the direction suggested for a one day tour around Mt Fuji sights.

The second best spot to see Mt Fuji is from one of the three “Pirate Boats” that travel up and down Lake Ashi, complete with captain and bosun and sails – all plastic. The boats are beautifully decked out for the 30 minute, 6km voyage from Togendi in the north to Hakone Machi-Ko at the southern end. On the Green Pirate Boat, we paid for the priviledge of first class seats so we had a better view of the shore line and the clouds hovering just above it.

We stopped at Hakone Machi-Ko but did not bother with the third best spot to see Mt Fuji, from the Observatory in the Hakone Detached Palace Garden. We did, however take the Ancient Cedar Avenue to Moto Hakone-Ko. These tall, stately cedars once lined the route to Edo (Tokyo) and the walk was made even more delightful in the grey mist.

As we returned to Togendai on the Red Pirate Boat, the clouds dropped even further, so even the shoreline was obliterated, except for one brief moment when blue sky appeared.

The Hakone district is beautiful and boasts opportunities to enjoy it during all four seasons. Autumn is the time to see the Silver Grasses, so we hopped on the local bus to see the grass fields of Sengokuhara a little north of Lake Ashi.

I love the opportunity to photograph flower and bugs, but I am usually looking for soft or dappled sunlight. In the greyness of this wet afternoon, the raindrops on the grasses and the mist in the trees above created a challenge that was dull but stunning.

So thanks for the journey through Hakone. Bruce has promised to bring me back in another thirty years to see what I have missed today. I don’t think I can wait that long.