Using the app, Get Your Guide, has come in clutch for various trips I’ve taken in Belgium and Amsterdam. Booking a well-organized and well-run tour is the best way that I’ve found to immense myself in a new culture and landscape. So, I searched and found the tour, “From Tokyo: Guided Day Trip to Hakone, Owakudani & Mt. Fuji” by Shinki Bus Tours Co., Ltd.
Arriving at the meeting point:
From the Conrad Tokyo hotel, I took the Toei Ōedo Line via the Shindome metro station to the Tochōmae Station. After exiting, I walked extremely fast toward the Shinjuku Center Building meeting point. After a quick call to the tour operating group for guidance, I made my way up to the street level and found the tour guide, Hiro San, and the bus.
My first impressions were that I greatly appreciated that the tour was only 22 people. The bus was a small motorcoach and my seat was comfortable. Immediately, my tour guide gave me a printed itinerary of the day’s events. It felt good to immediately feel taken care of.
Rest Stop #1
Our first stop was the Hiratsuka PA Service Area for a bathroom and snack break. It was clean and easy to maneuver around. I was able to browse a delicious array of Japanese snacks and refreshments.
Since this was my first encounter with a Japanese mini mart, I immediately thought of the show “Old Enough!” By the power of Google Translate and intuitive assumption, I figured things out, bought my snacks and was back on the bus in no time.
Our first official stop on our tour was at Lake Ashi. Lake Ashi is in the Hakone area of Kanagawa Prefecture in Honshū, Japan. It is a caldera lake with views of Mount Fuji on a clear day. However, this was not a clear day.
During a small break, I was able to walk up and down the pier area of Motohakone. I snapped a few pictures of the landscape and of a cute dog, before making my way to the waiting area of the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise.
Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
The coolest thing about the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise is that it’s on a styled pirate ship. The water taxi to Hakone Ropeway and our lunch spot was a delight. I was able to take lovely photos of the bright vermillion gates as we made our way to the Hakone Kaizokusen Togendai-ko stop.
Lunch at Rade
For those that prepaid lunch, our guide led us to Rade, a traditional Japanese tempura restaurant, down a bit from the Hakone Railway.
Upon our group’s arrival, our meals of the TEMPURA SET MEAL cuisine was already prepared and presented on tables for us, ready for dining. As I was a party of one for the trip, I was sat at my own table with a view that overlooked Lake Ashi.
Yes, a part of me was kind of forlorn for being the single person, and felt a bit singled out. But, on the other hand, everyone else on the tour was with a large group. So, I understood. Plus, I had a lovely view of the restaurant and Lake Ashi from my seat.
The tempura, pipping hot udon soup, bowl of rice and assorted pickled vegetable meal was absolutely delicious.
What’s funny is that when I booked my tour, the lunch was described as a Western style meal. I questioned what this would be, as I didn’t want a hamburger from McDonalds so early in the trip. Thankfully, the only thing Western about the meal was the seating arrangement.
I didn’t have to worry about a thing. My only wish is that I could have the full time to truly sip and savor the dishes. However, I was extremely mindful of our tour’s time schedule.
The meal was prepaid and taken care of by our guide. Once the time was near for us to continue the next part of our tour, he returned to Rade to get our group and lead us back to Hakone Ropeway.
Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani Station
Again, on a much less cloudly day, I imagine you would see breath giving views of Mt Fuji as you take the Hakone Ropeway up to Hakone Owakudani. Here, we were able to view the volcanic steam vent area and really understand the geological significance of the area.
I bought some little gifts from the giant tourist area. I did not partake in the black egg delicacy. Instead, decided to purchase black egg cookies and other little tokens.
Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station
Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station was our final major stop on the tour. Unfortunately, the cloud cover shadowed the view of the Fuji Five Lakes below. But – wow – exploring and walking around the line 5th station showed a beautiful, dramatic view of the top of Mt. Fuji.
It was here that I saw my first shrine, Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha. It was brilliantly beautiful and striking against the cloudy sky.
Rest Stop #2
Rest stop #2 was an experience in mental patience and releasing control. On the way back to Tokyo, we encountered unavoidable traffic due to a traffic accident. This added an hour to our time, sitting in stop and go traffic. The good thing is that I was able to catch up on my American shows via streaming. The bad? The time added to the itinerary.
However, once we got to the accident, I was very thankful for the safety of the driver and the day’s experience. There’s nothing like passing by a car that spun out of control, flipped over to the opposite lane, and is now resting on its side. Also the work crew in the originating lane were already replacing the infrastructure of the rail system and divider. Which is unheard of in Los Angeles. Immediately fixing an issue at the root cause for the good of the society? Who would have thought it was possible…..
I believe that Rest Stop #2 was the other direction of the Hiratsuka PA Service Area. From this, we had a little under an hour until arriving at Tochōmae Station for drop off point.
Tour Ending and Final Thoughts
Overall, I am extremely happy that I chose this tour. There were a few other, larger tours with similar reviews. However, this tour was small, comfortable, did NOT stop at the outlet malls and gave me everything I wanted visually, activity wise and adventure wise. It was an extremely full day that I feel was worth the price paid.
From Tokyo: Guided Day Trip to Hakone, Owakudani & Mt. Fuji
Meeting Point at Shinjuku Center Building
Shinjuku City, Tokyo, Japan