I felt it was time to visit Hakone again since I wanted to redo last year’s river hike in the new green of spring. I was also hoping to see more water flow through Hiryu waterfall. Studying my Hakone map, I saw that I could start with another waterfall nearby, climb Mt Sengen via a different route, and then walk down the river and past the waterfall, effectively doing a shorter version of the original hike in reverse. I could easily extend it by walking some more of the old Hakone highway. An added bonus was that I could get to the trail entrance using the Hakone Tozan Railway, the steepest railway in Japan featuring three switchbacks. On the return, I could take one of the frequent buses crisscrossing the area. The weather was supposed to be sunny again but chilly for the season, ideal conditions for a spring hike.
Hiking inside the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
The upper section of Hiryu waterfall, the highlight of the hike
After a smooth ride with the Romance Car Limited Express, I arrived at Hakone-Yumoto station a little after 10am. As with my last few hikes, the sky was a disappointing white instead of the expected blue. I transferred to the colourful Hakone Tozan Railway for the eventful ride up. The mountain sides were peppered with Mountain Cherry trees (“yamazakura“) in full bloom. Announcements in Japanese and English noted the various highlights along the way. At 11am, I got off at Kowakidani (523m), two stops before the end station of Gora.
The white thread-like falling water of Chisuji waterfall
Looking downstream from the bridge near the start of the hike
A ten-minute walk brought me to the start of the hiking trail and Chisuji waterfall (千条の滝 chisujinotaki). Thin white threads of water tumbled into a small pond, reminding me of the pitter-patter of rainfall; I took a short break to listen to the soothing sounds. At 11h30, I crossed a wooden bridge and started up the hiking path through the forest, leaving the river behind. The surrounding mountains shielded the noise of traffic and birdsong reverberated among the bright green leaves; I could really feel that I was hiking inside the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
Views of the the Futago (twin) mountains of central Hakone
Hiking up to Kowakidani junction (left) Hiking up to Takanosu (right)
Through a break in the cedar trees, I had my first views of the day; I could see the small rounded hills, the heart of Hakone, dotted here and there with white “yamazakura“. A few minutes later, I reached the ridgeline, rejoining the last year’s hike. Although the hike continued to the right, I first turned left for the twenty-minute round-trip to Mt Sengen, along a path lined with Tsubaki trees, their flowers just past their prime. There was no view, but several cherry trees were still in full bloom, making it a nice place for a break. I then retraced my steps and walked up the other side to the ruins of Takanosu castle.
Easy walking under the cherry blossoms
Walking through the light new green of spring
I was glad to see that the next part of the trail had been completely fixed, and was now easier to walk. At 1h30, I reached Hiryu waterfall (飛龍の滝 hiryunotaki). This time, a lot more water was flowing through the jumble of rocks and boulders. I discovered another viewpoint on the other side that I had completely missed last time. I could fully feel the arrival of spring while walking down the narrow mountain path, surrounded by the bright green leaves on all sides and with the sound of the rushing river below. At 2pm, I reached Hatajuku where I caught a bus for Moto-Hakone.
The weather improved in the afternoon
Perfect weather at Ashi Lake
By now, the weather had improved and I arrived at Lake Ashi under a cloudless sky. Looking up at Mt Koma, I could see the ropeway going up the mountain. However, I was headed back down, along the old Hakone Highway. Even in dry, sunny weather, it was tough to walk on the wide uneven cobblestones, and it was with some relief that I arrived at the Amazake Teahouse at 4pm. After a snack of mochi and green tea, I caught the bus back to Hakone-Yumoto station, where I transferred to the Romance Car for the 90 minute ride back to Shinjuku.
See and hear the waterfalls of Hakone