The Hakone Ropeway (箱根ローウェイ) and The Great Boiling Valley (大湧谷)
Hakone, Japan 2011
I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been on a ropeway, but getting a chance to in Hakone was refreshing way to see the landscape around me. I had heard about the ropeway and Lake Ashi tours before, and had even seen some pretty cool pictures of it. Some accounts say that if you go on the right day, the tour is amazing, while others say it can be a bit of a drag if it’s cloudy.
A little birthday luck must have been on my side because, it was a sunny day with almost no cloud cover…I LOVED IT! One of the great things about taking the ropeway on a clear, sunny day is that striking visual image you get of Lake Ashi, with Mount Fuji ascending subtly behind it. It’s hard to explain how this juggernaut of a mountain can be subtle, but in certain lights it almost looks like it’s been oh so gently brushed into the distance with the softest of water colors. Perhaps the mountain’s height and distance has something to do with this cool effect and why Mt. Fuji becomes so difficult to see when there are any clouds.
Inside the Hakone Ropeway Cars
I am happy that the weather was so forgiving during this tour. In many parts of Japan, summer means warm temperatures coupled with sickening humidity, the kind of humidity that violates you. You know what I mean? The humidity the reaches it’s wet little hands into our shirts, under our shorts and into our no-no places, touching us where we don’t want to be touched. Luckily, there was no humidity to speak of…whew. Good thing, too, because this was the air-conditioning system that the ropeway cars used:
The seating puts you a lot closer to your fellow riders than say a train, but the seats were comfortable enough. The cars moved slowly and steadily, no surpises. At times, the kid in me wondered when we were going to reach the tower that sent the car zooming, jet-coaster-style, down the rest of the ropeway. But nope, none of that happened..nice and steady.
You do get a sense of being pretty high up, so if you don’t like heights this may be a bit of an issue, but it wasn’t so bad.
What Are the Different Stops on the Hakone Ropeway?
The Ropeway is made up of four different stops: Togendai (とうげんだい or 桃源台; 741m above sea level..I think that’s right), Ubako (うばこ or 姥子; 878 m), Owakudani (おおわくだに大 or 湧谷; 1,044m), and Sounzan (そううんざん or 早雲山; 757m).
How Long is the Ride Between Stops?
It takes eight minutes to get from one checkpoint to the next.
Is the Hakone Ropeway expensive?
A one day ticket cost me ￥2,500. So for me, that’s about as expensive as getting on the TX going to Akihabara and coming back. Here was the pricing chart that they had posted:
My Favorite View from the Ropeway
I know for many, the view of Lake Ashi and Mount Fuji are what the Hakone Ropeway is famous for. I liked this view, but it wasn’t my favorite. I’d say my favorite view along the ropes was the view of the Owakudani fissure when returning to Togendai station. They looking like ancient ruins:
A Few More Hakone Ropeway Photos
Owakudani on the Hakone Ropeway
Owakduani is a special stop along the ropeway because it’s actually a volanic fissure. The cool thing about Owakudani are the kanji in it’s name, for starters. 大, おお, or “o” means large, big or great, 湧, わく, or “waku” means boiling, 谷, たに, or “tani” (when you say it in the word it becomes “dani”) means valley. Owakudani (大湧谷)-Great Boiling Valley! So when people ask me where I went for my birthday, I won’t just say I took a ride on the Hakone Ropeway, I’ll say “I walked through a Great Boiling Valley.” Sounds cooler don’t you think?
OwakudaniI here this place is actually big business for Hakone, for hot spring water and the like. It a visually stunning place to be, but certain parts really didn’t smell so nice. Most likely it was because of the sulfur. You know what sulfur smells like, right? It smelled like boiled eggs, or like a giant kept breaking wind and over and over again, just to get on your nerves. Some of the pools, streams and small cascades of water had these gray, mud-like deposits that seemed like they may have been causing the smell, but I couldn’t verify it. I didn’t want to touch of of that stuff. It was a nice place to get some good hiking in, and a nice view. There was this one sign though, that I found a little unsettling for tourists…maybe it was how it was worded. It talked about how the dangerous gases in area, how there used to be dangerous landslides here, etc. I thought “Hmm, maybe it’s time to go touring in another spot.”
Luckily, there were no landslides, just a nice view, and an interesting look a famous, Japanese landmark.
More Owakudani Photos
Hakone Ropeway and Owakudani Video
More Hakone fun to come!!