Thursday, March 14, 2013

Odakyu Romancecar

While planning my trip to Tokyo, trying out the onsen in Hakone ranked rather high on my to-do list. After doing some research for our little excursion, we decided to go with the Odakyu package which included a 1 night hotel stay in Hakone (with dinner & breakfast), a 1 night hotel stay in Shinjuku (at the Best Western) along with the Odakyu express train from Shinjuku station to Hakone. Below is the newest of their trains, the gorgeous VSE 50000.

I was a little confused initially as Odakyu was a department store much like Macy's here in the US and yet Odakyu, along with other large Japanese department stores like Keio, seem to also like running side train businesses! In this case, Odakyu, co-located at the Shinjuku train/metro station runs its own private train line from Shinjuku to Hakone. Just imagine hopping on board the Bloomingdale's Express Train from New York to Boston or Macy's high speed rail line from San Francisco to Oakland...  In any case, may I present the VSE Super Express 50000!

Getting excited already! Here's the Hakone area map depicting the various types of trasnportation covered by the Hakone Freepass (transportation pass) starting from Odawara station off to the right. I should also mention, if you do decide to get the Hakone Freepass, Odakyu may just end up buying a train ticket for you that only goes from Tokyo Shinjuku to Odawara since the Odawara-Hakone Yumoto section is covered by the Hakone Freepass. This might lead to some confusion when you exit the station at Hakone Yumoto but just show both tickets to the train station employees as you exit and they'll understand.

Just some of the cute figurines advertising what transportation types the Hakone Freepass covers:

The famous Lake Ashi pirate ships (ferry) that covers three stops offers some great views from the water.

A number of bus lines that criss-cross the Hakone area are included, as are the slow Hakone Tozan Railway, the Sounzan Cablecar and the Hakone Ropeway which are not shown here. Here we're just about to depart from Shinjuku station!

A view of the tracks just outside the station and going through tunnels. I guess by now, you've noticed we were lucky enough to book the front seats with a great view. There's no extra cost for this seat selection but just make a request for the 'observation deck' when you make your booking with Odakyu. We booked a little over a month in advance but then again, this was for travel in January so demand was probably a bit lower than usual.

Enroute to Hakone, we passed by Odawara castle.

It was quite interesting to compare the difference in scenery as we slowly moved from the urban city views to the more rural, less densely populated areas. There is definitely a lot more greenery and hills than you would see in Tokyo. And I must say I can definitely see the resemblance of the train track imagery that is ubiquitous in Japanese anime.

And finally, we're here! Gently rolling into Hakone-Yumoto station at last!

One last note, if you do decide to go with this Odakyu package, be sure to check the timetable here to see which train you'll take. There are only a couple of the VSE 50000 trains (indicated by a 'V') as most of the other trains they operate are the older EXE 30000 series. In fact, their oldest trains may not even have an observation deck so do take note if that makes a difference to you. Happy travels!

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