Lake Ashi: Scenic and adventurous

Asia | | December 13, 2010 at 1:07 am


Also known as the Hakone or Ashinoko Lake, Lake Ashi refers to a crater lake in Hakone of the Japanese district Kanagawa. Adorning the island of Honshu and its Hakone National Park, this picturesque water body stretches by the side of the active Mount Hakone caldera’s southwest wall. Lake Ashi is scenic in the sense that it offers several hot springs as well as the amazing Mt. Fuji views. Many comfortable ferries as well as boats cross the lake via which you can enjoy the stunning vistas. A majority of these boats are complete mock-ups of pirate ships. The reason that it is also adventurous is that there are many hiking trails here.

Besides these two activities, there are some more attractions around Lake Ashi. Therefore, many tourists choose to reside in the surrounding resorts. One of the best close by highlights is the ride on the Hakone Ropeway that leads you to the Great Boiling Valley. Starting from Togendai, the aerial tram will take you to Sounzan that is the upper end of cable car funicular railway, which also links to the Tozan Line. This is the mountain railway line for going down towards Odawara as well as to the famous Tokaido Shinkansen for reaching Tokyo.

Boating is one of the best activities taken up here. Catch a boat from any of the two companies operating here namely, Izuhakone Sightseeing Boats and Hakone Sightseeing Boats. These run at both the southern end between Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi and at the northern shores’ Togendai and Kojiri. To cruise from one end to the other of the lake, it takes somewhat half an hour for 970 yen. If you have a Hakone Free Pass, that is only valid for the Hakone Sightseeing Boats. Viewing Mount Fuji is mind-blowing from the cruise, but for that, you must be lucky to have clear visibility, as clouds and mist block the vista. Come here during the cold season and that too either in early morning or late evening, as the visibility is comparatively better.

Among the different trails here, I took up the ‘Lake Shore Trail’. This one of the Lake Ashi is milder, but is labeled as an intermediate track due to the distance as well as small sections in southwest. I had taken up a 14 mile loop anticlockwise that encompassed single track, fire roads, and paved walkways. As you start from the east, you will come across many shops and restaurants. If the day is clear, you will be able to spot Mt Fuji as the backdrop on this trail. Moving towards the north, there are only sidewalks and pavement on which a large shrine’s entrance can be seen. Going further, there is a walkway of stone slabs offering an uneven ride. Then, you come on an elevated road over the lake that is closed for vehicles sheltered by trees after which you go below a gondola cableway. In some time, you will go towards the lake down passing via the campground holding good cottages and then will be on the shore at the north end. From here, you will be on fire road that will lead you to the Ashinoko Skyline trail in the west side of the lake and offer some great views. In this west side completely, the trail goes on some height offering some better views.

From west to the south end, the trail is rough with many rocks. To the near east, a single track joins a paved path to reach a stoplight after which you take a left to reach back to the starting point. Lake Ashi is easily reachable by bus from Odawara, Yugawara, Mishima, Atami, and Gotemba.

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