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Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/24 19:46
Hi everyone,

We're travelling to Japan in june and were planning to visit Hakone. Since we are going in June, it would be Hydrangea season. I've read that unfortunately the Hakone Tozan Railway line from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora station is suspended untill autumn 2020.

This was one of our activitities for visiting Hakone. Is the bus replacing the railways any good? Or would I be better off doing something else? I guess there would be enough other things to do in Hakone, we were planning to stay there for one night.
by NipponTraveler27  

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/25 12:10
Plenty of flower locations are off the train line also.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/25 12:31
The replacement service is fine - people still get around Hakone and the bus is a fine alternative, and that was the case before typhoon #19 as well.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/25 12:45
If you want a "replacement" for the hydrangea, consider heading to Kamakura to get your ajisai fix:


Hakone has a lot of other things to see, but depending on your itinerary and where else you're going, if the hydrangea from the train was your main draw, it might be better to change your plans. That said, the bus is really only a small part of the Hakone loop, so while it would definitely be more fun to take the train, it's also not an issue to use the bus instead.
by scarreddragon rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/25 14:50

Honestly, if you are going to Hakone to specifically see the hydrangea and not for any other reason, I do think you would be disappointed with just using the bus. I took the bus a few times during hydrangea season and the view is not as good for hydrangeas as it had been at the Tozan line and the Tozan line stations. (We visited at least two Tozan Stations in 2016 which were just covered in ajisai.) I mean you could get off the bus at the Tozan stations, but just make sure you have change for bus fares cause it can add up fast and it will be a lot of starting and stopping.

It's possible there will be a special Ajisai bus though since there use to be special ajisai Tozan trains.

I agree with PP if you have the time Kamakura is a terrific option. Most of the areas is just covered in hydrangeas. If you're going to the Kansai area there are some great places out there as well. We're huge ajisai fans.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/25 15:43
Hase Dera at Kamakura is great for hydrangea, but I would have said end of May rather than June based on my previous visits. However, I'm no flower expert and every season is different. I see them in other places too, they seem pretty common.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/25 17:27
Thanks for all the replies, much appreciated! This is our first visit to Japan and we'd love to see the hydrangea's since we're missing out on cherry blossom season. Going to look into Kamakura, since I've heard it being recommended a few times.

I think we'll keep Hakone in, because it seems like there's lots of other things to do there. Kawaguchiko was on the list as well (mainly for the Pagoda) but we might scrap that one for Kamakura. Kawaguchiko is quite a long travel and there's a good chance that it'll be cloudy in rain-season.

So as it stands we'll get a good load of hydrangea's if we'd do Nikko - Hakone - Kamakura in between a few days (yes, it's a lot of nature lol).
by NipponTraveler27 rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/25 22:11
I believe the most famous places for hydrangeas in Kamakura are Hasedera and Meigetsuin. I have been to both at the very beginning of the hydrangea season, and they were nice but arguably not as impressive as some places I've been to in other parts of Japan (at least as far as hydrangeas go; both were very nice as temples and outdoor places). The problem with both of those places is that they become insanely crowded at the height of the season. I mean really insane, like having to wait in line for very long periods and then when you finally get in still being stuck in a long queue just to view the flowers. At Hasedera I believe that at least on weekends they have some sort of "take a number" system to minimize the chaos, but you are still guaranteed long waits. Now, this is in an "ordinary" year, and particularly on weekends (but weekdays are also bad; I went to Meigetsuin early on a weekday morning at height of the season last year and there were several hundred people waiting in line for the gate to open already 30 minutes beforehand, so I opted instead to visit some nearby temples that aren't famous for hydrangeas and had a wonderful time). I'm sure things will be much less crowded this year because of the coronavirus, but you still might want to think twice about going to Kamakura if your objective is to see a lot of hydrangeas. Even if the number of viewers is only half of the usual, it will probably still be crowded. (Do you want to be in a crowded place like that yourself? Trust me, it is not a serene nature experience. Viruses aside, the people are noisy and annoying.) I will say, if you do go, then make sure it isn't a weekend. But possibly so many people will be scared away that you won't have any problems. It could be an historic best year for going to these places. The hydrangeas don't give a hoot about the virus and will be blooming to beat the band.

If you want to see nice temples and almost certainly at least some hydrangeas, then Kamakura is a good place to go. If it were me, I would just avoid Hasedera and Meigetsuin. There are loads of other good temples there.

There are lots of other places to see hydrangeas in the Tokyo metropolitan area. If you aren't looking for massive plantings, you will see them in many parks, gardens, and temple grounds, as well as simply planted for landscaping along railroad track embankments and other places.

Two places I've enjoyed seeing hydrangeas in Tokyo without serious crowds are at hydrangea festivals at Toshimaen and Hakusan Jinja. I'm not sure what the status of Toshimaen is this year (the amusement park will close at some point in the near future but I can't remember when, and then I'm not sure what they will do with the hydrangea garden/festival). Both festivals could possibly be cancelled because of the virus, however. Depends on how bad it gets and how worried people are.

Here is a Japanese page from last year that identifies some recommended hydrangea viewing spots in the Tokyo area, but many of them are not actually in Tokyo and are hard to get to. You might find a few possibilities by using a translator.
The first on the list is actually Ueno Park by Shinobazu Pond (probably not because of the abundance of hydrangeas but I suppose because it is so central). Toshimaen and Hakusan Jinja are #3 and #5 on the list. But again, you should verify things before you go to any of these places. A hotel concierge or a good tourist information center should be able to help you by calling places to make sure they are open. As you get closer to June there will be more information available online on places to see hydrangeas in 2020 (google for it), and tourist information centers should be able to make suggestions as well. (I have never had much luck with hotel concierges as far as getting advice for nature experiences.)

If your trip includes Kyoto, there are a lot more places to see hydrangeas there, and many of them are not crowded.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/26 01:13
I was just looking at that list I linked to, and here's another suggestion. If you're going to Hakone, it looks like Odawara Castle Park (close to Odawara station) has hydrangeas (as well as Japanese Iris). It is #13 on that list. You might want to allow a little extra time after you get off the train from Tokyo in Odawara, before getting on your next train or bus. It's not likely to be crowded. Foreign tourists don't go to that castle very much because it isn't particularly famous and because they tend to get on their high horses about castles that have been reconstructed. Anyway, even if you are a purist about castles, you could just go to look at flowers. Here is their flower calendar and a map of the grounds (in Japanese but it gives you an idea):
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/26 01:19

I've not heard of hydrangea season being in May in Japan before. I've checked a few festivals and most seem to be in June or the start of July depending on location.

I went to Kamakura in June 2016, mid month and mid-week. I don't remember having to wait to visit Hasedera, it was crowded but I've been through worse. I didn't make it to Meigetsuin, however, I thought the unadvertised hydrangea near the parking area for Zeniarai Benten were just lovely and are worth a visit as well as Zeniarai Benten.

In Kansai, there are some great places. I really loved Yoshiminedera. However Yanagiya Kanon is a complete nightmare. We waited 1.5-2 hours for a shuttle bus before we and many Japanese just gave up on trying to make it to the festival. The shuttle buses were tiny and were not even running close to a schedule because of traffic.

I've wanted to check out a few places in Chiba for hydrangea, but we've been starting in Kansai lately so we get to Tokyo a little past peak making the Chiba hydrangeas a miss.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/26 02:53
Depending on the year and the location (and the variety of hydrangea) it is quite common to see a few hydrangeas in late May. (In fact, I have some pictures of early bloomers at Meigetsuin that I shot in 2016 on May 18.) I actually like to go to hydrangea gardens when things are just getting started and none of the flowers are pooped out yet. But it is true that the season doesn't "open" until June, and if you want festivals and lavish displays you definitely need to wait until then. In fact, depending on the year there might not be much happening early in the month. (Also, at higher elevations they bloom later.) Same thing goes for the classic Japanese iris (hanashobu; some other types of iris bloom earlier). One of the nice things about hydrangeas is that every individual blossom is unique and worthy of admiration. They are so exquisite... Throw in a dragonfly or a bumblebee for added interest, and it doesn't take a lot of flowers for a really swell nature experience. I do enjoy seeing hundreds of plants in full bloom, but I'd honestly rather see a smaller number by myself than hundreds of plants in the company of hundreds of people...

It's always good to get recent local advice on flower conditions, because every year things are different. Such information is typically not hard to get (at least for famous places) in Japanese, but not as easy in English. That's where a good tourist information center can be really helpful. If they are worth their salt, they should know whether the bloom has gotten underway, is at peak, or is past peak at major sites in the area. Unfortunately many of the TICs tend to be so focused on foreign tourist magnet sites and FAQs that the staff doesn't keep up with other things (hydrangeas not being on any "top ten" lists), or else they are worried about serving as many people as possible so they don't want to spend the time looking up things online for you, or making phone calls. I've had good luck at the JNTO TIC in Tokyo (near Yurakucho), and outstanding luck at the (JTB) Kansai TIC (in Kyoto Tower, not Kyoto Station). Some of the other ones, not so much.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/26 05:20
@Kim I would highly recommend checking out Michinoku in Ichinoseki if you like hydrangea and are in Japan at the right time of year. The forest is so huge that even when there are people it's easy to be alone as well.

But this is why I would actually recommend the parking area near Zeniarai Benten. While Hasedera had a lot of tourists, not one seemed to be paying attention to the gorgeous display near Zeniarai Benten. Most people going to the temple just wanted to get to the temple and the flowers were a little outside the temple.

I personally like hydrangeas when there are a mix of colors and love all the purples. I feel like they also have a longer bloom period than some other flowers like sakura. They can look particularly vibrant in the drizzle.

I don't make it to Japan in May anymore, and I use to tend to go earlier in May so would enjoy the azaleas instead. We've not gotten lucky with iris and seem to always miss them.

But I agree that many tourist offices or hotels don't seem as knowledgeable about hydrangeas vs. sakura.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Hakone Tozan Railway suspension 2020/2/26 07:19
Thanks for the tip about Michinoku. It indeed looks like my kind of place, and I like Tohoku anyway, so I will definitely try to get there. I apologize to the OP for taking the thread off track a bit, but it's good information for anyone who likes hydrangeas.

Many tourist offices stick to very standard advice and can be surprisingly ill-informed about topics other than what "typical" tourists are interested in. And they often won't dig for information that isn't already right at their fingertips. That's why I have been so impressed with the staff at the Kansai TIC in Kyoto. Those people will offer to go online for you to look things up on Japanese sites, will make phone calls to check conditions, and are clearly interested in helping you find places that match your own personal interests, not just the usual sites. They have steered me to what are now some of my absolute favorite places in Kyoto, including some I probably never would have gone to without their advice. I guess it helps that most tourists go to the TIC in the station instead, so the one in Kyoto Tower isn't usually crowded. I suppose maybe I should keep it a secret...
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

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