Hakone, A Japanese Paradise

I had an awesome birthday! It was one of the most relaxing birthdays that I’ve ever had. I can’t say it was the best birthday because back home I remember having a couple of small get-togethers with family and friends that were quite cool. But this one definitely ranks up there somewhere, but for different reasons. When some of my friends asked what I was doing for my birthday, I joked and told them I was going to the mountains to do some much needed ninja training. In a way I wasn’t kidding, I did kinda go to the mountains. I took a small two-day trip to Hakone, and all I can really say about it was that Hakone was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. So amazing in fact that I’m going to devote most of this week’s post to Hakone. It’s one of the places that I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time, and because I had a little time off, I jumped at the opportunity.

Where is Hakone?

Hakone is located in eastern Japan in the Kanto region (in the Kanagawa prefecture).

How Long Does it Take to Get to Hakone?

Of course it depends on where you’re coming from. Coming from Tsukuba, using the regular East Japan Rail it’s about a two-and-a-half hour train ride to the area of Hakone that I was in. That’s not too shabby considering that in extreme cases summer traffic (a heck of a lot of kids being out of school) the ride can take as long as five hours. YIKES!!

You could also use the Shinkansen, Japan’s fast as hell train, to speed things up a bit. Is everything better with the Shinkansen?

Now, if you’re in Tokyo, though, Hakone is closer to you and you could get there in under an hour-and-a-half (with no Shinkansen!). It’s a pretty sweet deal.

After being here in Japan though, I realize that I may have become just a little bit “road-trip spoiled.” Five hours isn’t that bad. Because the United States is a freakin’ ginormous country by comparison, a four to five-hour trip was pretty standard from what I recall. But here in Japan, not being the largest of countries, you can really get to someplace cool with a four to five-hour drive.

I was lucky enough to take the car route (about four hours I think), which gave me chances to stop and enjoy some of the things around me (a huge thank you to the mystery crew…I told them I wouldn’t plaster them all over my site, but I have to say thanks). Yes, the drive was much longer than the train ride would have been. But I am so glad I went by car. Here’s exactly why:

The train would have been faster, but you can’t press the emergency stop button anytime you want to stop and explore a bit or hit the back roads and take pictures of something.

This was that kind of setting that you see in pictures, the kind that you dream about: sweeping quilts of deep green grass as far as your eyes could see (the kind that makes the kid in you want to go trampling & tromping around in), wistful wisps of white clouds stroked into the sky’s light blue canvas, the natural serenade of songbirds, a quaint peaceful town in the background.

My words and pictures can only describe so much. I wish that anybody reading this could have just been in my body for just that short period of time, to see what I saw for that that brief moment. I think I stood out there for like twenty minutes…awestruck. It was like Mother Nature was showing me her cleavage, sending me into a speechless trance. The weather was absolutely perfect, I don’t know if it was because of the typhoon that had passed several days prior or if it was because of the elevation, but it was a warm summer day with almost no humidity…sigh… “Did something happen to me in my sleep last night? Is this heaven?”

“Beep! Beep!” A car horn, snapped me back into reality, and it was on to the first ryokan that I have ever been to.

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  • Nanami

    It’s very pretty and relaxing looking. Reminds me of some of the places pretty far out here in WV. ^ ^

  • Nice to see you enjoyed your birthday. :)

    That landscape looks beautiful. I sooo wish I had the ability to teleport anywhere. It would definitely make it into my 3 wishes if I happened across a magic genie. ;p

    • Donald Ash

      Lance didn’t I tell you? I’M a magic genie…wish away kind sir…wish away.

      • Haha, awesome. I guess one of my wishes will be to make it into the JET program (I’m applying this fall). If I make it in, I’m definitely going to be paying you a visit. :D

        • Donald Ash

          I’m looking forward to it, Lance :)

  • Mia

    Beautiful!! Great place to take time and reflect on life.

    • Donald Ash

      RIght? I thought so, too, Mia.

  • Sean Patton

    That looks like an absolutely fantastic place to relax. I’ll be sure to check it out this fall, hopefully with the added bonus of a colour change in the trees!

    Those pictures and the feelings you described reminded me of a trip I took last year that included Yosemite National Park in California. There was a hidden meadow way up in the mountains at Yosemite (close to 9,000′ elevation I think) with carpets of golden grass dotted with pine trees extending towards mountain peaks in the distance. I walked out from the road towards a little creek and sat there for about half an hour, unable to do anything except stare. It was the most peaceful I have ever felt.

    Here’s a picture of it (not mine). The place is called Toulumne Meadow:

    • Donald Ash

      That’s a cool looking place, Sean. I would definitely chill there :) . I’ve always wanted to visit Yosemite. I hope that on one of my visits home I can just splurge, take a month-and-a-half and just go all over the country.

  • Jon

    Beautiful. @-)

    And I LOL’d at your Mother Nature simile. :))

    • Donald Ash

      Heh, heh, Mother Nature can be quite sexy sometimes. She’s old as hell, but she’s still got it.

  • Petaris

    It looks beautiful there. One of the places I would like to visit is Hokkaido. I have seen pictures and it looks beautiful too. :)

    • Donald Ash

      Petaris! Thanks for dropping by to post. Hakone is definitely one of the nicer places I’ve been to in Japan (I can’t claimed to have traveled a whole lot, but it was nice). Hokkaido is on my list, too. One of these days, I plan on making that excursion, too. But when, I don’t know just yet. Road trip?

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