Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park On a Budget
SightsThe best sights of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park are its natural features. Mount Fuji, for example is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and has become a renowned symbol for Japan with its stunning snowcapped peak. The ancient eruptions of Mount Fuji are what began the creation of another prime feature of the park-the Fuji Five Lakes. Forming an arch around the norther half of Mount Fuji, the lakes include Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Motosu, Lake Sai, Lake Shoji, and Lake Yamanaka. Also in this general area of the park are the beautiful Shiraito Falls, Aokigahara (also known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees), and Lake Tanuki.
Hakone is another designated hot spot of the park, literally, because of its hot springs. Owakudani, located in Hakone, is a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs that have become very popular with tourists. Another attraction of the area is Ashi Lake-known for its views of Mt. Fuji, its numerous hot springs, historical sites, and ryokan. The lake is located on the Tokaido road, the main link between Kyoto and Tokyo. The Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands is also popular.
Then we have the Izu Peninsula and its Islands. Some of the main sights of the peninsula include the volcanic Mount Amagi, the Atami Hot Springs, and the Atagawa Tropical & Alligator Garden. As far as the Izu Islands go, the archipelago consists of a chain of volcanic islands, each with a unique character, and many places of scenic beauty.
NeighborhoodsFuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is divided into four general areas-Mount Fuji area, Hakone area, the Izu Peninsula, and the Izu Islands. Each area has its own unique features. The Mount Fuji area is home to the famous mountain and the 5 Fuji Lakes at its base. Fujiyoshida is the main city of this region, with a few attractions of its own and a number of places to eat and spend the night. Hakone is a mountainous area, but also has a few town hubs located around Ashi Lake. It is known for its scenery of Mount Fuji and has a number of onsens (bath houses with hot springs) and vacation resorts. Izu Peninsula is mostly scenic and home to the cities of Atami, Mishima, Shimoda, and Shuzenji-while the Izu Islands preserve volcanic island scenery. All in all the islands have two towns (Oshima and Hachijojima) and six villages.
ActivitiesThe array of volcanic mountains makes Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park a prime location for hiking. There are a number of climbing routes that ascend Mount Fuji as well as the peaks of the Mount Amagi mountain range. Over time, the volcanic activity created the lakes surrounding the mounts, and so any of the park's lakes are now great for fishing, swimming, boating, and other water activities. Some of the most popular include the Fuji Five Lakes and Ashi Lake. Be sure to take a dip in the region's hot springs as well.
As far as the Izu Peninsula goes, it is recognized in the scuba diving community as the most popular destination for mainland Japan diving, with different kinds of opportunities on the east and west coasts. Some scuba companies include Mar Scuba Tokyo, Japan Underwater Explorers, and Scuba Diving Japan.
In addition to soaking up the untouched natural beauty of the Izu Islands, visitors also engage in all sorts of marine sports like swimming, scuba diving, surfing, and fishing.
Food and DiningJapanese cuisine largely consists of rice or noodle dishes, seafood, sushi, and broth bowls like miso soup. Within Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park there are a number of towns and cities serving up a whole range of local fare from street food to sit-down restaurants. Fujiyoshida, in the Mount Fuji area, is known for its udon noodles, while black eggs are a tradition at Owakudoni of Hakone. Here it is custom to make hard-boiled eggs in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric, and consuming them is said to increase longevity of life, 7 years for each egg. Also from the Hakone area, a store called Sagamiya, located near the tourist info center, serves up freshly baked mountain brownies.
TransportationThe most common starting point for reaching the park is Tokyo. Here, the two main ways of arriving by plane are Narita Airport or Haneda Airport. Travelers can navigate to cities near the park which include Odawara, Fuji, and Numazu.
If you are interested in Mount Fuji, take the JR Tokaido line from Tokyo through Odawara to Kozu and change for the JR Gotemba line. From the Gotemba station, you can take a bus to reach the climbing routes for the mountain.
If you wish to reach Hakone, take the Shinkansen on the Tokaido line to Odawara, and then in Odawara, change for the Hakone Tozan line.
For the 5 lakes from Shinjuku, take the Azusa, Super Azusa or Kaiji trains on the Chuo line, and change in Otsuki for the Fuji Kyuko line to Kawagichiko station.