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With fantastic views of the beautiful mountains, lakes, and hydrangeas in Hakone, visitors looking to enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace should ride the Hakone Tozan Railway. This article introduces popular photo spots along the line and cu―mo Hakone, a new sightseeing facility.
Picture courtesy of Pixta
In 2019, the Hakone Tozan Railway celebrated 100 years of service connecting the Hakone-Yumoto and Gora Stations.
The first mountain railway in Japan, Hakone Tozan got its start in 1907. A Japanese businessman rode the alpine railway in Switzerland, and lobbied for a similar transportation system back home. His efforts led to the establishment of the Hakone Tozan Railway, which has attracted countless visitors to the area.
Picture courtesy of PIXTA
Since the mountains in Hakone have particularly steep slopes, the railway's construction faced various difficulties. A 43 meter-high scaffold had to be built in order to construct Deyama Tekkyo (also known as Hayakawa Bridge), which is now a famed spot for fall foliage.
If you're planning to visit Hakone, don't miss the spectacular view of the red train crossing this vivid green bridge.
Picture courtesy of PIXTA
The Hakone Tozan Railway has the steepest gradient of any track in Japan. For every 12.5 meters it runs, the train climbs one meter vertically!
Because of Hakone's high altitude, hydrangeas bloom two to three weeks later here than in Tokyo. Although the dates vary by station, the last flowers bloom in late June. Hydrangeas along the Hakone Tozan Cable Car route are located at an even higher altitude and tend to bloom a little later.
During this time of year, the Hydrangea Train operates, with a sign depicting flowers on the lead car. The route is even lit up at night, creating a dreamlike atmosphere.
Now, let's take a look at three recommended sightseeing spots along this spectacular railway!
This is the first station along the Hakone Tozan Railway. Located at the lowest altitude, the hydrangeas here bloom in mid-June, earlier than other stations along the route. The best photo spot is on the first floor of the station. Simply face the direction of Hakone-Yumoto Shotengai (shopping street) and point your camera toward the tracks.
While you may not see as many hydrangeas here, your photographs of the passing trains are sure to impress!
At this station, passengers can take photos of hydrangeas as the trains pass though. It's easy to catch the wooden waiting room, station sign, and hydrangeas blooming by the platform all in one shot.
Keep your eye out for trains coming out of the tunnel. You'll be able to capture a composition with the hydrangeas and train from either platform.
The edge of the platform at Miyanoshita Station is an ideal spot to snap a photo of oncoming trains. When you see a train approaching from the distance, snap a photo to capture a backdrop of mountainside hydrangeas and the signal lamp!
In 2020, a new commercial facility called cu―mo Hakone opened at Sounzan Station, a transfer station for the Hakone Tozan Cable Car and Ropeway.
The the name "cu―mo" is derived from the Japanese word for cloud (kumo). After a long journey, visitors can relax like they're floating on a white, fluffy cloud. Step outside and you'll be greeted by the crisp air and sprawling view of Sagami Bay and the Miura Peninsula!
The observatory is open to all visitors. It is furnished with a complimentary ashiyu (foot bath) to help soothe your feet after the trip up the mountain.
Inside the facility, there are shops carrying more than 250 types of original items and souvenirs. The most popular are "New Bell," a smoothie topped with cotton candy, and the freshly baked "Kumopan" (Cloud Bread).
Picture courtesy of Hakone Ropeway Co., Ltd.
New Bell (750 yen after tax) is a banana and apple smoothie topped with cotton candy. This adorable beverage is rather filling and has a refreshing taste.
Kumopan (250 yen after tax) is a slightly sweet bread made with miso paste, which pairs surprisingly well with custard cream.
The highlight of the facility is the huge white mailbox towering up to the sky. Built to stand exactly 4,485 millimeters high, it plays on a Japanese phrase: "shiawase hakobu" (bringing happiness). This lucky number may just help the postcards sent here bring happiness to their senders and recipients alike!
You can also find limited-edition postcards sold exclusively at this facility. These can be mailed to your friends in Japan, or overseas.
*As of June 2021, the facility is only open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Consider a visit to Hakone on your next outing. Made even more convenient by a one-day railway pass, Hakone is the perfect place to admire the hydrangeas during the rainy season in June!
Hakone Tozan Railway official website: https://www.hakone-tozan.co.jp/en/
Be careful not to step beyond the yellow line on the platform when taking photographs.
In cooperation with Hakone Ropeway Co., Ltd. and Hakone Tozan Railway Co., Ltd.
Main image courtesy of PIXTA