Hakone Guided Tour to Mt. Fuji, Owakudani, and Lake Ashi

While vacationing in Tokyo, Japan, I decided to take a guided tour to Mt. Fuji, Owakudani Valley and Lake Ashi.  A tour bus would take us out of Tokyo to these majestic sites and I would end the day returning home on the famous bullet train or “Shinkansen”.
Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at nearly (12,400 ft) and is one of the country’s “Three Holy Mountains”.  It is only visible on clear days, very few times a year and I was fortunate to visit it on one of those days.  Mt. Fuji is no doubt more impressive in person than in picture.
On our way to Owakudani Valley, we stopped at the Gotemba Temple (aka Peace Park) – a temple high on a mountain facing Mt. Fuji.  The views were truly awesome.  Nearly as impressive were the temple grounds that had numerous shrines, statues and temple buildings.  Next to the view of Mt. Fuji, the most impressive site at the Gotemba Temple was the huge white peace pagoda.  A peace pagoda is a Buddhist symbol to promote peace amongst all nations.  I’m not sure how much peace it promoted, but it sure was remarkable looking.  I was truly impressed by the Gotemba Peace Park Temple.  I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the springtime when the cherry blossoms arrive.
Once we left the Gotamba Temple, it was over to Ōwakudani, the “Great Boiling Valley”.  Owakudani is a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs.
To get to Ōwakudani, we got to ride the Hakone Ropeway.  If you’ve ever been skiing on a very large mountain, you’ve probably ridden on something similar to this.  The Hokone lift offers a stunning view of both Mount Fuji (on clear days) and the sulphur vents just below the visitor’s center.  Unfortunately, our clear day was interrupted by brief snowfall, but that only made the “fear factor” all that much greater.
After Owakudani, it was off to Lake Ashi.  Lake Ashi is a crater lake at the foot of the Mount Hakone volcano. The lake is known for its views of Mt. Fuji and its numerous hot springs.  We took a large pirate styled boat across the river to take in all the sights the valley has to offer.
At the end of this 12 hour tour, I opted to head back into Tokyo on the Shinkansen or Japan’s famous bullet train.  What an incredible machine it is.  While waiting at the station for my train to arrive, another bullet train came barreling though.  It was a thunderous introduction to how impressive this train was.
It was a long day, but a day to remember no doubt.  I look forward to visiting Japan again some day soon.

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