Be awed by storm clouds of volcanic steam that gather over the active volcano, Owakudani (大涌谷), the Great Boiling Valley. Created around 3,000 years ago, today the crater-valley is a popular tourist site, despite the ominous and evocative name. The volcanic valley is still alive today with active sulfur vents and hot springs. Once called the “Grand Inferno” or “Great Hell” thanks to the streams of white sulfuric smoke reaching toward the sky, it was renamed when the Meiji Emperor and Empress visited Hakone in 1873 because locals hesitated to invite the two to a place with such a foreboding name.
Marvel from the Hakone Ropeway, 130 m above the valley bottom. Sulfur and water vapor pour out at about 100°C. The terrible landscape creates an image of hell that had even famed Japanese Buddhist monk, Kūkai, offer a prayer to Bodhisattva at the sight. At sunset, the sunlight from Lake Ashi glitters off the waters to offer a beautiful sight one might not expect next to the nightmarish landscape.
While here, be sure to try the legendary kuro-tamago—hot spring hard-boiled eggs with shells turned black by the iron sulfide in the volcanic waters—these treats are only available at Owakudani. Eating one is said to add seven years to your life. At the top of the observation deck overlooking Owakudani you might even spot the majestic Mount Fuji on a fine day, this being one of the best spots to see it from.
Access Owakudani by the Hakone Ropeway from Owakudani Station, or by bus. Although it is advised that people with asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, pacemakers, and pregnant women not enter the valley due to high volcanic activity. The volcanic gas concentration and temperature are constantly measured at the Hakone Ropeway stations to ensure the safety of guests and the site may be temporarily closed due to high levels of gas or volcanic activity.
Volcanic alerts were lifted on Friday Nov 15th 2019, ending a six-month closure that saw most parts of the Owakudani area temporarily closed to access due to an increase in volcanic gases.
The area is now safe to access, though it is advised that those with respiratory problems, heart conditions, pregnant women or young children do not enter the valley due to slight risk from volcanic fumes.
From the starting station of Hakone-Yumoto, it takes a little over half an hour to reach Owakudani Station. From Owakudani Station, visitors may ride the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani. The Izuhakone Bus also leaves from Hakone-Yumoto Station and stops at Owakudani Visitor Center.
The Hakone Shrine is a Japanese Shinto shrine on the shores of Lake Ashi in the town of Hakone in the Ashigarashimo District of Kanagawa Prefecture. It is also known as the Hakone Gongen. [Wikipedia]
Lake Ashi is a scenic lake located in the Hakone area in Kanagawa. Also commonly referred to as Hakone Lake or Lake Ashinoko, the lake is best known for its views of Mount Fuji on a clear day. The lake was formed over 3000 years ago when Mount Hakone erupted. Lake Ashi also offers a Hakone sightseeing cruise that tours around the lake on a "pirate ship", and is included in the Hakone "Free Pass" tourist sightseeing route. The 30-minute cruise has voiceover guides that offer information about the lake's history in Japanese, English, and Chinese. You can board the cruise from either Hakone-machi town or Moto-Hakone port. From Lake Ashi's main bus stop, Hakone Shrine is a mere 5-minute walk away. The iconic red torii gate of Hakone Shrine standing amongst the crystal clear waters of Lake Ashi makes it a prime photo spot for tourists and locals alike.
Daiyuzan Saijoji is a temple with a deep connection to the tengu, those creatures who occupy a special place in Japanese folk religion. For example, folklore has it that the tengu, in a variety of different ways, supported the Zen priest who first built Saijoji TempleThe Daiyuzan Saijoji Temple in Minamiashigara is a breathtaking temple of Soto Zen Buddhism. The temple grounds, which were built more than 620 years ago, contain around 30 ceremonial halls and other temple buildings. The temple is surrounded by an impressive cedar forest. In the temple the novices receive their formal religious training to become monks. There are 3 impressive halls on the temple grounds that are worth visiting: the Hondo, Kaisando and Myogaku halls. The temple has a deep connection to the mythical creatures of the Tengu, those creatures that have a special place in Japanese folk religion. For example, it is said in folklore that the Tengu supported the Zen priest who built the Daiyuzan Saijoji Temple in various ways.