In the last series of mountains when traveling southwest from Tokyo before reaching the volcano-leveled plain that stretches in front of Mt. Fuji is Hakone National Park, 64 miles, two hours and another world away from the hectic bustle of Tokyo.
Japanese who go there to relax usually spend their time taking a hot-springs bath before dinner, dining in their rooms (if at an inn), and going out for a stroll in the evening in the hotel's or inn's yukata (a cotton kimono undergarment) and geta (wooden clogs) or sandals. Then they cap the evening with another bath before going to bed.
A cooler-than-Tokyo retreat during the summer, Hakone also offers cherry blossoms in early April and radiant autumn foliage in November.
The Fujiya Hotel opened in 1878 and still operates in Miyanoshita. It keeps guest registers dating back more than half a century. One American businessman recently found his father's signature in a 1932 guest book.
The journey from Tokyo Central Station to Miyanoshita involves a Bullet Line train to Odawara, a transfer to Yumoto, and then one of the oldest railways in Japan--the mountain-climbing Hakone Tozan Railway, to Miyanoshita. The eight-mile ride, 35 minutes of doubling back and forth, offers breathtaking views of gorges and mountains. From Miyanoshita Station, the Fujiya is a five-minute walk.
Days can be spent swimming (in summer), golfing, hiking, taking hot-springs baths and sightseeing. The Hakone Art Museum (ancient Japanese and China art) and the Chokoku no Mori (Woods of Sculpture), a hillside park filled with modern sculptures, both located up the hill from Gora, the terminal station of the Hakone Tozan Line, are worth seeing.
The highlight of Hakone, however, is a cable-car / ropeway / boat ride. From Miyanoshita, take the Hakone Tozan train 10 minutes to the end of the line at Gora and buy a round-trip ticket for Togendai. If the evasive Mt. Fuji isn't hidden by clouds or a heavy mist, the first view of it will come as the ropeway rises over the crest of a mountain ridge. Hundreds of feet straight below are the smoking sulfur pits of Owakudani (Valley of Great Boiling). Togendai, the ropeway terminal, is located on the shores of Lake Ashi, where ferryboats ply back and forth every 30 minutes.
Fujiya Hotel, 359 Miyanoshita, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture. Telephone 0460-2-2211. Tokyo reservations office: 573-3911. Cost: Ranging from $80.65 (off-season weekdays) to $145.16 (peak season) per couple for standard rooms, $120.97 to $217.74 for deluxe. Includes 10% tax and 15% service charge. (Peak seasons are April 28-May 5, July 20-Aug. 31 and Dec. 30-Jan. 5. Prices calculated at exchange rate of 155 yen to $1.)