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09/26/2008: "Trip to Hakone Pt.2" mood: Good

So after finishing up the historical portion of this Hakone trip, it was time to move onto some driving. Hakone has some of the windiest, most wicked touges in all of Japan, and I needed to drive them myself. Touges in Hakone are world famous and can be found in countless video games, animes, and movies. If you've ever played a racing game at the arcade or on your playstation, chances are you drove on a digital version of Hakone touge without realizing it.

While there is many touges within the Hakone area, two are especially famous. The first, is Skyline. Skyline is a touge at the very top of the ridge of the mountain range to the west of Ashinoko lake. It is a special toll road that offers a surreal top-of-the-world experience with amazing views at every angle. The second, is Mikuni touge, connecting from the bottom of Skyline touge and working downhill towards near Sekisho. Mikuni is considered by many the most hardcore touge in all of Japan (those people need to go to Gunma's Irohazaka). Just at the entrance of Skyline touge, as well, is an especially famous stretch of road found in the Initial D series which is often frequented by local drifters.

To help illustrate, click on the map above for a blown up view of the area. You can see both Skyline and Mikuni touges to the west.

On the way to Skyline, I took another less traveled touge as a shortcut. This road was quite narrow and very high up with a sheer drop to the valley below.

This is a quick vid of the touge going up to Skyline then a bit of the Skyline touge itself. If you're wondering to yourself while watching the video, "Gee, why is Miki freaking out so much, it doesn't seem like he's driving very fast or crazy..." then you sir or madam would be correct. She is just acting like a sissy.

It's realllly high up though. I had to take a breather so I could snap a quick shot of my car.

At the end of the shortcut there was this tunnel that emptied out to the entrance of Skyline touge.


This is the sign for Skyline. If you look on the street in the background, you'll see many tire tracks from drifters tearing up the road. The opposite direction from where I'm looking is sort of the start of the drifting course people frequent.

Luckily for me, parked at the entrance was another R32 like mine, same color and everything, just hanging out. I took the opportunity to park next to him for a picture. This sign though is especially awesome. Drifters, or people who drive these roads in illegal ways are called roringu-zoku (rolling gangs), and this sign is explaining that they're actively fighting against these hooligans to try and stop the manly driving.

If you only learn one kanji in the Japanese language, it should be this one. This is the kanji for touge. The kanji is made up of three simpler kanji. The left section is the kanji for mountain (yama). The upper-right section is the kanji for uphill (ue / nobori). The bottom-right section is the kanji for downhill (shita / kudari). Makes sense right?

Oh dang is that two sexy Skylines parked on Hakone Skyline touge with a clear view of Mt.Fuji in the background? Yea I think it is.

This is the tollgate entrance to Hakone touge.

As you can see, the road has the feeling of really being on the top of a mountain. its skinny because it's the top of the ridge with nothing but open sky above you and large drops on both sides.

I stopped real quick for another shot of Fuji.

At the highest point on Skyline touge there is a parking area with a small restaurant where we stopped for some noodles.

Mmm mmm delicious.

Next to the restaurant there is another hill going to the highest point on the mountain ridge. It's pretty steep, but the climb is worth it because you can see for miles and miles... shocked smile

This is slightly left to the other picture. That lake below is Ashinoko lake and Hakone.

We were pretty tired so we popped a seat and rested for awhile. This high up it's almost completely silent. The only thing you can hear is a gentle wind over the grass.

The view of Fuji for this height is breathtaking.

This is the toll exit of Skyline and entrance of Mikuni touge.

In the middle of Mikuni touge there is a famous parking area which, from what I heard, was a famous stop on an old road that ran through here a long time ago. This rock has been maintained and repainted since old times as a traditional sign identifying the road. The sign also states that this current point has an elevation of about 3,000ft.

Next up! Owakudani (see MAP above). As I'm sure I've mentioned many times, Japan is a very volcanically active. As a result, throughout Japan there are many areas where sulfuric gases find their way out from the Earth's depths. Way back when, people didn't really understand what these were and often refered to them as Hells, or parts of Hell. Others, weren't as morbidly refered to. Owakudani is one of the nicer ones. To get to Owakudani you must drive to a large parking lot and hike a mountain path through a dead forest (the released sulfur gases killed them all) to this spot.

Owakudani is special because of all the natural boiling water pits heated by natural sulfuric gas. There is a famous legend attached to these water pits as well. It is said that if you venture to the top of Owakudani, and eat an egg boiled in the sulfuric pits, you will gain 7 years on your life.

This small shop sells these eggs which are boiled in the pit in the picture above.

What's cool about these boiled eggs is that during the process of cooking in the sulfuric pit, the shells turn jet black. Hence, the name of these eggs is kuro-tamago (black egg).

They taste the same as any normal boiled egg though (and by that, I mean delicious!) and added 7 years to my lifespan.

So here we found ourselves at the top of Owakudani without any more time. I finished up eating my eggs and ran back down the path to my car to return back to Yokohama.

Having social responsibilities like work and school puts a real damper in my touring and sightseeing Japan. It was fun though, and I'll surely return to do more.

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