A quick guide to Nara and Hakone, Japan
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Japan and the beautiful city Kyoto, where I spent two days. In this article I will tell you some more about my round trip through the south op Japan last year. During my round trip, I went one afternoon to Nara and one day to Hakone.
I did not went for a long time to Nara, but I had exactly enough time to experience the Nara Park. This park is definitely worth the visit when you love animals (deers) and nature. The deers are walking around the park on loose and you can feed them with cookies, that you can buy at the beginning of the park. Actually, the feeding I would not recommend. I have tried it and it was not really a success. The minute I had cookies in my hand, all the deers where running towards me and pushed and bit me until I let the cookies fall down. At that time, the deers could be very aggressive, but it was also a bit funny.
The park itself is very beautiful and big and you can take a nice walk between the deers. You can stroke the deers if you want to; the animals are not scared. One little thing: the park is of course a tourist attraction, so if you are planning a trip to the Nara Park, take into account that it may be very crowded.
In the Nara Park, you can also visit the Todaji temple. The Todaji temple is one of Japan’s most famous and historically temples and has a beautiful architecture. The temple was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan. In the temple you can find the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall), what is the world’s largest wooden building with its 15 meters length. You can find the Todaji temple in the north of the Nara Park.
The next day, we went by train to Hakone (when you travel through Japan, the train would be a good transportation. It is easy, cheap and fast!). In Hakone we stayed a day and a night. Unfortunately, we did not have great weather. It was rainy and cloudy, but that did not screw up the fun!
When we arrived in Hakone after a ride by train and bus, we had a boat tour on Lake Ashi. From the boat, you should see Mount Fuji, but because of the bad weather we have not seen clear the mountain. You cannot decide what the weather would be like, but it would have been better when the air was clear without any clouds. In that way, you could see Mount Fuji much better. Because of the bad weather, the boat tour was not that fun. Through the windows we could not see a lot and it was not a great idea to go outside, while it was raining. Nevertheless, I think this would be a great tour and view when the weather is good, so I recommend to go during spring or summer. Next to this, the boat was a pirate boat, which was really nice.
After the boat tour, we went by Gondola up the mountain. On our way, there was again a possibility to see Mount Fuji, but also this time the weather was too bad to see the mountain very clear. Upstairs we could experience the Owakudani Boiling Valley. This is a boiling valley with hotsprings and the valley is known for its black eggs. Owakudani is an area that is created during the last eruption of Mount Hakone (3000 years ago). It is an active volcanic zone (!! Important: I read on the website that it is currently not possible to visit Owakudani due to increased volcanic activity in the area. Are you thinking of visiting Owakudani? Check the website before you are going, so you are up-to-date about if it is still closed or not).
Traditional Ryokan in Hakone
That night we stayed in Hakone, in a traditional, Japanese Ryokan. That was very exciting and a nice experience, so I would definitely recommend to stay in a Ryokan during your stay in Japan (even if it is just for one night, you have to try it!). What is special about a Ryokan? Well, it is definitely not like a standard hotel. The architecture (from the inside and outside) is all about Japanese details. Furthermore, mostly you can find a hot spring in every Ryokan. This is sort of a wellness department in the Ryokan where you can enjoy a swim and just relax.
Next to this, it is required to wear your kimono (which you chose at you arrival) during diner and breakfast. This is already a great experience in my opinion! I love to walk in my cute kimono. And the most unique thing about a Ryokan: you sleep, just as every Japanese, on the ground and you sit on pillows on the ground at a low table. It is just a typical Japanese hotel. Your stay in Japan is not completed when you do not stay for one night in a Ryokan.
Japanese and Western bedrooms
Unfortunately, we had not the honour to sleep in a traditional, Japanese bedroom, but we got a Western bedroom, which are also available. This room has a normal bed, like we are used to. It would have been fascinating to sleep like a real Japanese for ones. Last, most Ryokans have a lounge where you can do karaoke. That is so much fun and it is really popular in Japan. Everywhere in the city you can find karaoke bars and so in the Ryokan you also can find a karaoke bar. That night we enjoyed singing karaoke in the lounge of the Ryokan.
Overall, Nara and Hakone are definitely worth the visit. It is so different from Kyoto and Tokyo, while these places are more quiet, because of the nature. Kyoto and Tokyo are big and touristic cities, Nara and Hakone are more the places where you can go when you are a nature lover and love to see more from the country than just the most touristic places.
Have you ever been to Nara or Hakone? If you still have questions based on this article, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments. If you have other tips while visiting these places, also do not hesitate to comment.
Till next time.