This post is part of a series on the highlights from our 2017 trip to Japan. You can find the other posts here!
While we spent most of our time in Tokyo and Kyoto, we did manage a few shorter side trips to Hakone, Miyajima and Hiroshima!
Miyajima and Hiroshima
While we were based in Kyoto, we decided to take a short day trip out to Miyajima and Hiroshima.
Miyajima is an island a short boat ride away from Hiroshima, famous for the Itsukushima Shrine and its ‘floating’ torii gate. We spent the morning there, around high tide, and it was just beautiful!
There were wild deer all over the place – it was clear that they were used to tourists, because some of them were bold enough to walk right up to people to tug at their bags or pockets, looking for food!
After Miyajima, we spent a more sombre afternoon at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. It’s hard to describe the experience – it was incredibly sobering and moving to learn about and begin to understand the impacts of the atomic bomb, both immediate and long-term. It made me realise how easy it is to take peace for granted, and how devastating war really is. I would definitely recommend a trip to the Peace Memorial Museum if you’re visiting Japan.
We spent two days and one night in Hakone, and explored the region via the round course, which saw us take five different methods of transport: train, cablecar, ropeway, boat and bus!
The train journey to Gora and the cablecar trip to Sounzan were not the most scenic parts of the round course, but the ropeway from Sounzan to Owakudani was pretty great!
Owakudani is an area around a crater that formed during the last eruption of Mount Hakone (3 millenia ago). You can walk around the area and observe sulfurous gases rising up from the mountain, which is pretty cool!
Owakudani is famous for its ‘black eggs’, which are chicken eggs boiled in the hot spring waters. The water, which contains sulfur and iron, turns the eggs black. There are a couple of stores at Owakudani Station that sold black eggs – and the ‘black’ theme was even carried through to the soft serve (though it was dark chocolate flavour, not egg, thankfully!)
And best of all – it was just clear enough that we could catch a glimpse of magnificent Mt Fuji rising in the distance from the station.
We caught the ropeway down to Togendai – and from there, we hopped onto a pirate ship for a cruise on Lake Ashi to Hakone-machi!
The pirate theme was kind of kitschy/touristy, but it was still an incredibly fun leg of the journey!
The next part of our trip involved a fairly leisurely walk to the Hakone Checkpoint, and through the cedar-lined section of the old Tokaido. The walk through the Cedar Avenue was my favourite part – it was so beautiful and peaceful, and very cool to think of the centuries of passengers who had walked the path before us!
We spent the night at Ichinoyu Honkan, a traditional ryokan (inn) that was founded in 1630.
This was definitely one of the biggest highlights of our whole holiday – our room included its own private onsen (hot spring bath), that was partially open-air and located right next to the river. Words cannot describe how decadently relaxing it was to soak in the hot spring waters, watching the leaves in the trees rustle and listening to the river rush by!
It was also fun to enjoy a more traditional Japanese cultural experience – complete with yukata and a sumptuous multi-course dinner and breakfast!
We spent our last day in Hakone at the Hakone Open-Air Museum. I am not an art aficienado, but I really enjoyed walking around the museum and taking in all the interesting installations and sculptures!
And that’s it for our short side-trips! Next up, highlights from Kyoto – probably my favourite of the Japanese cities that we visited during this trip!