There are many reasons to visit Hakone, a mountain resort within easy access of Tokyo, from the delightful striking sculpture gardens of the Hakone Open-Air Museum and the spectacular vistas across the Suruga Bay to the region’s famous onsen, or hot spring, baths.
But many hapless visitors have found themselves wandering the windy mountain roads of Hakone in downpours so heavy that they render any outdoor activities virtually impossible.
Hakone is one of the wettest places in Japan, with an average annual rainfall of 3,538.5mm in the 30 years from 1981 to 2010, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. This ranks it sixth among Japan’s wettest areas .
Central Tokyo, by comparison, had less than a third of Hakone’s rainfall, with an annual average of 1,009.5mm during the same period.
So, there is more than a distant chance that when you arrive in Hakone, eager to explore the area’s natural beauty and take in fresh mountain air, it will be raining.
Whether the local community and its many wealthy benefactors recognized the weather factor as a deterrent to visitors, or whether simply by chance, the area also has a number of indoor facilities that are large and engaging enough to while away rainy afternoons and make any visit worthwhile.
On the western side of Mt Hakone, in Sengokuhara, which is famous for its tall pampas grass field, there is the Pola Museum of Art.
Housed in a light and airy building, the museum’s collection boasts paintings by European artists who are particularly popular in Japan, including Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.
There are other cultural pursuits. If you can make your way to Kowakudani, a famous onsen area of Hakone, it is well worth visiting the Okada Museum of Art, a private museum that houses a massive collection of paintings and ceramics from Japan and other parts of East Asia.
The museum’s collection was put together over many years by Kazuo Okada, founder of the pachinko machine and casino equipment manufacturer, Universal Entertainment.
These days, Mr Okada, who was ousted from his own company by his son and has been locked in legal battles with his former business partner, Steve Wynn of Las Vegas casino fame, may have less time to spend enlarging his collection.
However, in his heyday, Mr Okada managed to amass an enormous cache of ceramics from all over Asia, religious sculptures, Chinese bronzes, Japanese paintings and more. The sheer number of art works on display in such an unlikely location is bound to dazzle even experienced museum goers.
Among the treasures of the Okada collection are paintings by Ito Jyakuchu, a painter of the Edo period whose recent popularity guarantees long lines at any Jyakuchu exhibition, woodblock prints by Kitagawa Utamaro and a decorative bowl by Ogata Kenzan from the Edo period, which has been designated an important cultural property.
While not everything on display will interest all visitors, there is bound to be something among the numerous objects to delight even the most casual observer.
There is a Japanese garden behind the museum where visitors can enjoy an easy stroll, should the weather improve, and a footbath in front of the entrance where it is possible to sip a drink from the café while warming one’s cold feet in the hot onsen water.
Kaikatei, a teashop, which also serves udon noodles, is a lovely Japanese building from the Showa era (December 25 to January 7, 1989) in the grounds of the museum.
For lunch, it is also possible to take a quick walk (or drive) up the hill to Kihinkan, a restaurant in the Hakone Kowakien compound, which serves delicious soba (buckwheat) noodles.
See our post on Kihinkan here : http://japonica.info/hakone-a-mountain-refuge-for-weary-urbanites/
If an overnight stay is part of the plan, there are many splendid ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) in the area where guests can enjoy the area’s famous hot spring waters.
On this occasion we stayed at Hakone Suishoen in the Kowakidani area.
The original Suishoen, which was the summer home of the Mitsui family (founders of the Mitsui group of companies), is designated a national cultural heritage and currently houses the main dining room.
The guest rooms at Suishoen are beautifully furnished with modern amenities enhanced by traditional Japanese touches, such as the bedside lampshades, which look like they have been made of wood.
Hakone’s proximity to Tokyo – just a two-hour drive or train ride – its natural scenic beauty, the variety of lodgings and cultural facilities on offer all contribute to Hakone’s reputation as Tokyoites’ perfect weekend getaway, even if it rains.
Address : 493-1 Kowakudani, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture
Phone : 0460-87-3931
Website : www.okada-museum.com
Admission : Y2,800
Opening Hours : 9:00-17:000
Closed : occasionally for display renewal
Address : 519-9 Kowakidani, Hakone-maachi, Ashigarashimo-gun,
Phone : 0460-86-0852
Website : https://www.hakonesuishoen.jp/eng/
Rates : from Y39,500/person including dinner and breakfast