{Japan: Explore} Outracing Typhoon Wipha For A Chance to Eat Owakudani’s Black Eggs

Owakudani Hello Kitty

Even Hello Kitty loves the black eggs at Owakudani!

In a Nutshell:

  • Where: Owakudani, a famous volcanic valley in Hakone (1.5 hours outside of Tokyo)
  • When: October 15, 2013
  • *Notes: Owakudani can be reached via Hakone’s Ropeway (820 Yen for a one-way trip to Owakudani from Sounzan), I would recommend purchasing the Hakone Freepass if you are planning on completing Hakone’s Round Course, local tradition says that eating a black egg extends one’s life by 7 years, a bag of 5 eggs costs 500 Yen

Full Report:

As we approached Hakone via Shinkansen from Tokyo, we were dismayed to see that the weather was getting exponentially worse and worse as the minutes ticked by.  By the time we reached our hotel (the Fujiya), the rain was coming down in sheets and a chilly wind was blowing all about.  A talk with the concierge only confirmed our worst fears, the storm wasn’t going away any time soon…..in fact, a typhoon was on its way!

And not just any typhoon, news reports all said the same thing: Wipha would be the worst typhoon to hit the Kanto region in over a decade.  As M and I were only planning on staying in Hakone for two nights, it looked like we would be spending most, if not all, of that time stuck in our hotel.

Or would we?  I was bound and determined to see what I could of Hakone before the typhoon actually hit.  After checking to make sure the Hakone Ropeway was still open, M and I decided to try and get to Owakudani for a chance to eat their famous black eggs.  The eggs are black because they are boiled in the sulphuric geysers that are spread throughout Owakudani’s volcanic valley.  Local tradition holds that eating a black egg extends one’s life by 7 years.  While no one actually believes this myth, visiting Owakudani and eating a black egg is one of the most popular attractions in Hakone.

After suiting up in our rain gear (rain jackets and rain pants), M and I left the hotel and walked to Miyanoshita station.  From there, we took the Tozan Railway and the Sounzan Cablecar to get to the start of the Hakone Ropeway.  One plus about the bad weather was that very few people were out and about so we got a car all to ourselves.

Hakone ropeway to Owakudani

Hakone ropeway cabin

At first, being in the Ropeway car was pretty exciting.  As we peered out of the rain-splattered windows, we could see bits and pieces of Hakone’s beautiful scenery through the fog.  But as the car climbed higher and higher, our spirits began to droop.  The wind was so strong that our cable car was rocking back and forth, and a combination of the rain and fog (both inside and outside of our cabin) made it harder and harder to see anything.  By the time we’d hit the halfway point on our ride, visibility had hit zero.

Hakone ropeway station

Hakone Ropeway Window 2

Hakone Ropeway Window 4

Hakone Ropeway Window 5

Hakone Ropeway Window 6

Things only got worse once we reached Owakudani’s Ropeway Station.  The weather outside was beyond dismal and there were no black eggs being sold in the station itself.  I had no idea on how to get to the stores selling them or if they were even open during the storm.  A number of us clustered at the station’s doors and debated on whether to venture outside and search for the black eggs.  After a few moments had gone by, several of us decided to make a run for the nearest store.

Owakudani fog

View from Owakudani Station’s front doors.

Owakudani fog 2

Owakudani fog 3

As we ran down the main pathway away from the station, there was lots of shrieking and yelling going on as the storm hit us full blast.  Everyone was soaked within seconds, and the wind was so cold that my hands turned to ice and I could barely hold on to my umbrella.  Speaking of umbrellas, they were pretty useless since the wind turned everyone’s inside-out.  And then through the fog, a beautiful sight emerged: a store with its lights on!

We all rushed in and were greeted by a statue of Hello Kitty hugging a black egg, as well as the store workers shouting out enthusiastic “Irrashaimases”.  In the back corner was what we’d all been looking for: a booth selling black eggs!  They were being sold in packs of 5 (500 Yen) and there were tables conveniently set up where we could stand and eat them.  I was so cold that my hands were shaking and I did a terrible job peeling my egg as chunks of white kept coming off with the shell.  But it was nice and hot and while it tasted no different from a normal boiled egg, I was thrilled to finally be eating an Owakudani black egg!

Owakudani Black Eggs 1

Owakudani Black Eggs 2

Owakudani black eggs 9

Owakudani black eggs 5

Owakudani black eggs 6

A small packet of salt was conveniently included with the black eggs.

Owakudani black eggs 7

You think this side looks badly peeled, you should see the other side! The yolk was peeking through!