A Hakone is like a tour of modes of transportation. How does it go?
Shinkansen. For the trip from Shinjuku to Hakone, with a premium fare, you can take the Romance Car, which unfortunately is not romantic in any way.
Bus. Some routes are only serviced by buses, so better memorize those letters. Yes, they are identified by letters. This is the stop right outside the Hakone Yumoto station:
Boat. You can sail through Lake Ashi, seeing the tip of Mt. Fuji at one point.
Ropeway. From the end of Lake Ashi up to Mt. Owakudani.
Cablecar. From Mt. Owakudani down, we have to take the ropeway then cable car.
Railway. It’s different from a train – I don’t know how to explain it, but it is like the train’s grandpa.
Train. Finally, since I’m on the budget, I decided to take the normal train to go home.
All these are covered by the Hakone Free pass (JPY5,140). Is it worth it? I didn’t compute – I think I got more than enough rides on it to cover the flat rate. If you’re there for just one day… it might not be. I think the difference is less than JPY1,000 overall if ever, it will be way simpler if you just take the pass (and not worry about the fare)
The most fickle Japanese event for me, sakura blossom has such an un-Japanese trait: It does not follow schedule well. So if you only have one week to visit Japan, I suggest you do it in winter or autumn, or basically any other event with fixed dates. Believe me, the schedule changes so much, it’s pretty much either it’s there or it isn’t. For example, the full bloom was originally scheduled at March 25ish. Then it was moved to March 30 ish. Then to April 2 ish. Then the actual full bloom was April 7.
Oh, and this full bloom varies by location. So this schedule was for Tokyo. And to make it more interesting, this full bloom also varies by tree. Yes, BY TREE. For example, the Sakura watch says that the Tokyo full bloom starts at April 2 – but that’s only for some of the trees. The window is pretty short, and so timing your entire vacation credits and taking a leave for a week might be a tad risky.
The sad thing is that I was in New York for April 6-10 (I know, first world problems), so I actually missed the full bloom of the sakura in Tokyo. But oh well. I went ahead with my trip to Hakone, and lo and behold, it’s full bloom! So I’m really happy that I actually did a hanami. ❤