Home > Suggested Itineraries > 3-Day Model Trip > Fuji Hakone and Izu > 3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Chokoku-no-mori Art Museum - sightseeing in Gora

3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Chokoku-no-mori Art Museum - sightseeing in Gora

Fuji Hakone and Izu

3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Fuji Hakone and Izu / Odawara - Chokoku-no-mori Art Museum - sightseeing in Gora - sightseeing in Owakudani - Togendai

The Hakone-Izu area situated inside the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park is one of the representative tourists' spots in Japan. As it is a popular resort, the tourists facilities and the traffic network are well-maintained. I started from the gateway city Odawara and took a mountain climbing railway to Hakone. This Hakone-Tozan-Tetsudo is the only mountain climbing railway in Japan. Since it climbs the steep incline of 80/1,000, the train makes 3 switchbacks on the way. It was the season of maple leaves colored in blazing scarlet, and I could truly enjoy the scenery from the window of the train running in a zigzag course. When flowers of as many as 10,000 hydrangea plants bloom along the route in June and July, the railway runs special "Hydrangea Train," which required reservation.

I got off at Chokoku-no-mori Station, one station before the terminal. The station's name "Chokkoku-no-mori" means a forest of sculptures. This forest is an open-air museum with the display of over 200 artworks in the area of 70,000 m2. The first piece that caught my eyes when I entered the park was a huge female figure in a colorful dress. This is a work by Niki De-Saint-Phalle, a French woman sculptor born in 1930. It is created in 1968 and titled "Miss Black Power". As I remembered Niki herself was beginning to be recognized as an avant-garde sculptress around that time, I could feel the driving force behind this energetic artwork.

There are artworks by Rodin, Henry Moore, Taro Okamoto and other artists who represent the modern to contemporary times. Those artworks standing against the Hakone Mountains looked so vivid as if they were breathing the fresh, clean mountain air. At the innermost part of the park, there is the Picasso Pavilion that collects the works of Picasso, the greatest master of the 20th century. I appreciated about 200 pieces, focused on his ceramic art.

I got back on the Hokone-Tozan-Tetsudo, and transferred to Sounzan Cable Car to climb the Hakone Mountains at the terminal Gora Station. This cable car climbs the incline from Gora to Sounji Station at the altitude of 767 meters in a straight line at the speed of 11.5 km per hour. I got off at the first station Koen-shita, and headed for the Gora Park with the area of 45,000 m2. There are French style landscaped garden with a fountain, a tropical botanic garden where 70 kinds of tropical plants grow luxuriantly and the Bugainvillea-kan Garden. This is a must-see spot for gardening enthusiasts. At the Hakuun-do Chaen teahouse with three tea ceremony rooms, I enjoyed tea made of powdered tealeaves and Japanese sweets at a tea ceremony room built like a rural home, which have been loved by the tea ceremony artists in Hakone.

The Hakone Art Museum next to the Gora Park is known for a beautiful Japanese garden. It exhibits about 150 pieces of artifacts including Haniwa, unglazed dolls made in the ancient times for the burial grounds and other earthenware, porcelain and ceramics of the Middle Ages. The Haniwa "A Boy with a Crown" figure, an important cultural property, expresses realistic attire and accessories. It arouses the viewers' imagination on the customs in the ancient times.

I left the Hakone Art Museum and got on the cable car again from Koen-shita Station to the terminal Sounzan Station. I transferred to Hakone Ropeway, and got off at Owakudani Station where we can see the eruption crater of the volcano formed about 3,000 years ago. In the slopes of the Kanmuri-ga-take in front of the station, the ground sends up columns of white smoke even today. I crossed the station and started to walk on the 670-meter long round Owakudani Natural Study Route. In about 15 minutes, when I got used to seeing through the white smoke and the smell of sulfur that assailed my nostrils, I arrived at a hot spring pond where white, milky water is boiling over bubbles. It is at a view spot called Enma-dai or platform for the king of hell, in a barren sight with not a single grass or tree. It is understandable that the people in the olden days were afraid of this scene and called it the "great hell". At a shop by the hot spring, they sell the specialty of Owakudani, black boiled eggs. The hydrogen sulfide contained in the hot spring and iron in the eggs bond together and the eggshells naturally turn black. The rich taste of the boiled eggs is a gourmand gift from the king of hell at the "great hell".

On the other side of the Owakudani Natural Study Route stands the Owakudani Natural Science Museum run by the Hakone town that introduces the nature of Hakone. The structure of the volcanic activities of Hakone is reproduced in a georama with abundant sound and light. We can enjoy the virtual experience of the volcanic eruption as if we were really watching it. As the dusk approached, I returned to Owakudani Station, and headed to the terminal Togendai of Hakone Ropeway. The gondolas going to the other direction were reflecting red beams of the setting sun. I saw Mt. Fuji crowned with snow on my right and the Lake Ashino-ko glowing in the setting sun on my left. I stopped clicking the shutter of my camera and determined to fully appreciate this wonderful view with my own eyes. My expectation grew high for the sightseeing around the Lake Ashino-ko the next day. I stayed at a public hostel at the Kojiri District, and enjoyed relaxed bathing in a hot spring of Hakone.