Japan in December (part 1) - Christmas in Hakone

12:38 AM

Because Japan is still my favourite country to date, I'll start on its part of its itinerary first! Taiwan and Korea can wait. The other countries I have been to are also beautiful and unique in their own ways, but Japan just has this otherworldly appeal that I can't quite fathom. Maybe it's the distinctive culture and its people? Or maybe it's their food that I will never get sick of. I think I'm just biased. Haha.

To start this Christmas off, I thought I should write about the Christmas spent in Hakone since it's quite recent. :)

We visited Hakone in between our stay at Tokyo. Initially, we were not sure if we wanted to visit the mountainous town at all. But as luck had it, we found a relatively cheap deal on one of their ryokans on Christmas Day. And so, that was how we came to spend Christmas in Hakone!

Whilst in Hakone, we got our hands on a 2 Day Hakone Free Pass as it covers all the transportation in Hakone (such as buses, boats and cable cars) at about S$67. It also covers the train ride from Shinjuku to the Hakone-Yumoto station (otherwise priced at around ¥1000 one-way).  It is also much for convenient and saves some travelling time, since you don't have to purchase tickets at every stop you make for the next ride.
They also have an option for a 3 Day Pass, but the 2 Day one was sufficient for us since we planned to only spend a night there.

Like many travellers would, we followed the Hakone round course to cover most of the popular sights.

After arriving at Hakone-Yumoto, we skipped the shopping area cause we thought of leaving it for the day after when we're heading back to Tokyo. Instead, we went straight up to the cable car to get the views over Owakudani, the volcanic alley that produces the clouds of sulphur you see in the photos below.

And then there's the famous black eggs cooked in the hot sulphuric springs! It's believed to add seven years to one's life if consumed. For ¥500, you get five eggs that taste like your ordinary eggs so it's sort of a touristy gimmick?
But I mean, why not for the experience and photos right. It's not everyday that you eat eggs with black shells? LOL.

From Owakudani, people will usually then take another cable car to catch the sight seeing cruise across Lake Ashi.

At Lake Ashi, there is also the Hakone Shrine that is home to the extremely popular red torii gate with a walkway you see all over Instagram. We had plans to take a photo there but what we didn't expect was an extremely long queue of people lining up to take a picture under the red gates. By long, I mean at least an hour wait long.

Maybe it's the time we went (about 4PM), but we weren't going to queue an hour just for that... So here's a picture with a random red torii gate on the road instead. :')

After a day of sightseeing, we realised that a lot of photographers and locals started gathering at Lake Ashi, with their tripods all set up and mats laid out.
Being the typical Singaporeans we are, we thought there must be something happening so we decided to stay to see. That turned out to be one of the best decisions we made that night. Albeit blaring, the ephemeral sparks and embers in such close proximity made the Christmas fireworks one of the most breathtaking ones I have ever seen.

When the fireworks ended, there was a moment of appreciative silence among the whole audience before everyone applauded for the performance that night. We couldn't help but do the same, even though there wasn't any of the fireworks crew around to hear it. Even when the show ended, we still spent the next couple of minutes just soaking in the atmosphere under the midnight sky.

We decided to call it a day and continue the rest the day after — the Hakone Checkpoint, Gora Park and Hakone-Yumoto shopping district. But in the end, we woke up too late the next day and decided to just grab lunch and shop for souvenirs at Hakone-Yumoto.

Wasted, I know. But still, I'd say the experience with the fireworks already had our hearts so full. We knew that Hakone just wouldn't have been the same if it weren't for the spectacle that night.

If you do plan to spend any festive periods in Japan, you definitely have to catch their fireworks display. They do a lot of them during Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival) too, when they're celebrating the end of the season. The best ones are always in wide open areas with surrounding nature.

That's it for our short trip in Hakone! Can't wait to share the next one in the winter wonderland, Shirakawa-go!!

Check out my other travel posts:
▶ 33 Days Around Japan, Korea and Taiwan
 Japan in December (part 1) - Christmas in Hakone 
▶ Japan in December (part 2) - Winter Wonderland in Shirakawa-go
▶ Japan in December (part 3) - Borderless Digital Art Museum
▶ Japan in December (part 4) - 5 Days in Nara, Okunoshima, Hiroshima, Miyajima & Kinosaki Onsen
▶ Japan in December (part 5) - 11 Towns and Cities in 23 Days

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