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Japan Hour

Train Adventure To Hakone - Part 1

Highlights include a museum dedicated to an inspiring historic figure, a store that sells Odawara's famous fish cake and a temple known for its statues of Buddha's disciples known as Gohyakurakan.

Hop on board as we embark on a two-day trip in Hakone on the Odakyu Odawara Line, Daiyuzan Line and Hakone Tozan Line. Our journey will span 54.9km and cover 33 stations in total. We will start from Isehara Station and head west through the quiet countryside. Our goal is to reach Gora Station by 6pm on the second day. How far we advance will be determined by the number we get after spinning a roulette wheel at each station. Furthermore, we also must find famous spots or specialities near each station. They have to be in a list previously prepared by local tourist associations, railroad companies and magazines. If we fail to find at least one item which is on the list, we have to go back according to the number we get on the roulette. 

We begin by spinning the roulette and land on a two. So we board the train at Isehara Station in central Kanagawa at 9.25am and advance to Tokaidaigaku-mae Station, two stops away. We ask some students and are told about Shonan Crepe. However, it is not open yet. So we drop by the Hadano Branch Office of Town News, a local newspaper, and enquire about other famous spots. We learn about a hot spring called Sazanka, which is located on a hill. From its open-air bath, we can see the mountains of Tanzawa. It is the only hot spring in this area with water flowing directly from the source. After checking out Sazanka, we go to Shonan Crepe. Its crepes are 1.5 times bigger than regular ones and come in more than 200 varieties, such as fresh blueberry and salted Mont Blanc and even savoury ones such as pizza crepes. 

We spin the roulette again and get a five this time. As Sazanka is on the list of famous places, we get to advance five stops and take the 12.30pm train from Tokaidaigaku-mae to Kayama Station. The train crosses the Sakawa River, which flows into Sagami Bay, and enters Odawara City. It is already past 1pm by this time. A resident here suggests we visit a museum dedicated to Ninomiya Sontoku, a famous figure who studied while carrying firewood on his back. He moved up the ranks from a peasant to working for the shogunate in the late Edo period. Also called Ninomiya Kinjiro, he was also a philosopher. He learnt how to write by writing letters on the sand. His handwritten documents and clothes are displayed at the museum. His house, which was built more than 250 years ago and where he was born, has also been preserved here. 

After this, we catch the train departing at 3.20pm. The Sontoku Museum is included in the list of recommended places so we can proceed to the neighbouring station of Tomizu after getting one on the roulette. A local we speak to recommends we go to Suwanohara Park, which is owned by the prefecture. However, it is located along the Daiyuzan Line, which we are planning to take later. We then go to Papillon, an old-fashioned cafe which has been recommended by another local resident. It serves various kinds of pasta, such as Papillon spaghetti. A Japanese pasta simply seasoned with soy sauce, it has mushrooms and seafood. It has always been the most popular dish since the cafe opened about 40 years ago.

Papillon is on the list of famous spots so we can move forward. We get a three on the roulette so take the 5.50pm train to Odawara Station. We arrive at 6.10pm and decide to spend the night here. But we first ask around about popular spots and specialities. Odawara Castle is recommended and so is Suzuhiro, which sells the area’s famous Kamaboko or traditional Japanese fish cake. Its version is made with a high-grade fish called Guchi. The store’s most popular item is Kinjo Kamaboko, known for its texture and chewiness. We buy some Kamaboko before heading to see Odawara Castle, which is usually lit up at night. The castle repelled attacks from Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen during the Sengoku period. Both Suzuhiro and Odawara Castle are included in the list of famous places and specialities. We spend the night at Kunimi Hotel Odawara.

The following morning, we spin the roulette and get a three, which means we will proceed to Gohyakurakan Station, three stops away from Odawara Station. At 8.25am, we take the train on the Daiyuzan Line and proceed to Gohyakurakan. Spanning about 10km, this railway line connects Odawara Station to Daiyuzan Station in Minami Ashigara City. Our train heads north from Odawara and we reach Gohyakurakan Station at 8.30am. A local tells us to visit the Gyokuhoji Temple, which has statues of Buddha's 500 disciples called Gohyakurakan. Gohyakurakan is on the list of famous places. 


1)    A traditional delicacy of Odawara is a fish cake called Kamaboko
2)    A must-visit spot in Odawara is Gyokuhoji Temple with statues of Buddha’s 500 disciples, called Gohyakurakan


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