Owakudani is an amazing and odd place. Up in the mountains with Mount Fuji out in the distance is this boiling volcanic valley. The incredible Hakone Ropeway will take you up the mountain and into this strange place. As you go over the top of the hill and enter the valley you will be transported into a strange, almost hellish (but still beautiful) landscape where smoke rises up from the discolored earth.
Below the surface of the valley are boiling sulfur pits (so the area is a little bit on the stinky side) where eggs are boiled. The sulfur turns the shells of the eggs a dark black and eating these is one of the main attractions of the area. It is said that eating a black egg from Owakudani will add seven years to your life — unfortunately, this does not add up as you eat more eggs in one sitting, so your best bet is to visit every seven years as I plan to do!
There are also hiking trails and other snacks to try near Owakudani Station. This is just one of three stops as you take the Hakone Ropeway — you will want to take a whole day or more to explore the sights around the ropeway stations.
At the end of your ropeway ride you will arrive at Lake Ashi. Here you can take a pirate ship to the other side to find some great food, walking paths, and an awesome shrine. This area is full of fun kid-friendly spots that I can’t wait to take my son to when we travel to Japan!
So, how do you get to Owakudani?
A short train ride from Tokyo is Odawara Station where you can take the scenic Hakone Tozan train up into the mountains. As you climb, the train will run into switchbacks where the train will stop and the conductor will exit the train and re-enter at the other side of the train…which is now the front!
When you exit the train at the last stop (Gora Station) you will then get on the Hakone Tozan Cable Car who’s last stop will drop you off at the first station of the Hakone Ropeway. When we entered the ropeway station there was a woman hollering, “Mask for the chemical gas! Mask for the chemical gas!”
Its a tough call, but I would say almost more than anywhere else, Hakone is a must-visit stop on your trip to Japan. It is close enough to Tokyo that it would make a fine day-trip, but there is also so much to do that you could easily spend a week exploring the area.
Are you planning on taking a trip to Japan with your family and want to brush up on some of the basics? Check out the first volume of “Let’s Go to Nihon!” by clicking on the image below.