Complete with a grass deck, this “green park floating on a lake” is a beautiful way to travel.  

Thousands of tourists visit the onsen town of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture every year, and one of the most popular things to do there is hop on a sightseeing cruise around Ashinoko (Lake Ashi).

This crater lake offers majestic views of Mt Fuji, and now there’s an even more comfortable way to enjoy the sights, thanks to a new sightseeing boat called Sorakaze.

▼ Sorakaze (literally “Sky Wind”) began operating on 23 February.

Sorakaze travels from Hakone Sekisho Ato to Kojiri Port and back again in approximately 40 minutes, stoping at Motohakone and Hakone-en ports along the way.

▼ Passengers can embark and disembark along the route.

Our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma was able to experience the cruise firsthand as part of a press tour conducted by the Fujikyu Group, taking a round trip tour that costs 1,800 yen (US$11.44) for adults, 900 yen for children, and 300 yen for pets.

Based on the concept of a green park floating on a lake, this boat helps to connect passengers with the natural scenery around it, and as it runs along the route closest to Hakone Shrine, it’s decorated with lucky cranes and Mizuhiki knots.

The boat has capacity for 550 passengers, but it doesn’t feel crowded in the slightest, with plenty of places for people to sit and enjoy the views.

The seating options are fantastic, with a number of raised tatami mat floors where people can stretch out and relax.

This area by the window even has horigotatsu (sunken kotatsu) seating for a more traditional Japanese feel.

Another coveted spot is the cocoon chairs, where you can swing your cares away while gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows.

There are plenty of window-side seats so passengers can move about and try them all during their journey.

The outdoor spaces are equally enticing, with this shaded area resembling a patio, complete with pot plants.

Up on the third floor “Kaze Deck”, you’ll find an open space covered with natural grass, and a wooden feature that cleverly resembles Mt Fuji.

On the fourth floor Sora Deck, there are stepping stones with a gravel design inspired by the precincts of a shrine…

▼ …and another Mt Fuji-shaped feature, which will add extra interest to commemorative photos.

Unfortunately on this day, Mt Fuji was hidden behind clouds so we weren’t able to truly show how stunning the views are. However, Masanuki was able to capture some images of Hakone Shrine’s famous “water torii gate“, which looked beautiful in the sunshine.

The contrast between the blue of the lake and the vermilion of the torii gate was a stunning sight to behold. If you look hard enough, you might even be able to make out the kanji “平和” (“peace”) on the top of the gate, which can only be seen from the lake side.

▼ The gate goes by the official name “Heiwa no Torii” (“Torii Gate of Peace”).

Snacks and drinks are popular accompaniments to sightseeing journeys like this one, and if you don’t have any on hand, you can always pick some up at the on-board store.

The shop, located on the first floor of the vessel, sells food, drinks and original souvenirs. According to staff, the most popular item is Hakone Yusen’s original craft beer (1,000 yen).

Masanuki can’t ever resist a good ice cream, so as soon as he saw the Mt Fuji Premium Vanilla Gelato on the menu for 650 yen, he wasted no time in purchasing it.

▼ Complete with a Mt Fuji-shaped chocolate, this was a tasty ice cream that made the journey even more memorable.

With so much to see, eat, and do on the boat, the 40-minute round trip passed by in no time, and when Masanuki disembarked, he felt renewed after taking in the expansive green-filled views.

▼ “Gojousen arigatou gozaimashita” (“Thank you for boarding”)

Summertime is the perfect season for boat cruises, so if you’re looking to stay cool on the water, Masanuki highly recommends a trip on the Sorakaze. Those wanting even more adventure can always opt for this Tokyo ferry boat, which will take you to a mystery island in the Izu archipelago!

Related: Hakone Yusen Sora Kaze
Images © SoraNews24

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