Popular tourist destination still recovering from typhoon

A popular getaway near Tokyo is still trying to recover, a month after one of the strongest storms in decades barreled through it. Hakone was heavily damaged after it was caught in the path of Typhoon Hagibis. The town is now struggling to get tourists back in time for one of its peak seasons.

At this time of year, the station of Hakone Gora is full of tourists who are looking to bask in the autumn colors and bathe in the famous hot springs. Hakone is a short trip from Tokyo and draws around 20 million visitors a year.

Foreign tourists at Hakone Gora Station.

A tourist from the UK said she wants to spend time at the hills in the area, as well as in the hot springs. Everyone who visits is amazed by the beautiful scenery, which includes a clear view of Mt. Fuji.

But Typhoon Hagibis has disrupted the travel plans of many.

A visitor from Germany told us that when he booked the hostel, the staff told him that the typhoon had damaged the area and that some trains were not running.

Typhoon Hagibis hit Hakone in October

A month ago, Hagibis brought one thousand millimeters of rain to the town of Hakone in just 48 hours -- the highest amount in the country and about one third of Hakone's annual rainfall.
One month later, scars remain. Some sections of a railway were damaged, and a train line carrying tourists to the town is still out of service.

Recovery has been challenging, and is a work in progress.

Some walkways in Sengokuhara were damaged by the typhoon, prohibiting tourists from entering.

Sengokuhara is one of Hakone's most popular sites. It's home to a large silver grass field with a promenade, and people visit especially in the autumn when the foliage changes color.

The heavy rain had brought severe damage to the promenade and made it impossible to enter the area, but the town has since made some repairs, enabling it to re-open. Many tourists now visit and take pictures of the beautiful landscape.


At one point, nearly 40 percent of the town's hot springs were not operating. Now, almost all of them are back online. But business is still slow for some. The town's tourism association says it has been difficult, but things are starting to return to normal. Mamoru Sato, a managing director of the Hakone Town Tourist Association, told us that it was first time for the town to experience a disaster of this scale. The association received many inquiries from people about whether the roads had reopened and whether the hot springs were operating. It had double the usual number of phone calls.


Now it's autumn foliage-viewing season and tourists are returning. The town, small business owners and the tourist association will cooperate to greet them and to try to operate normally.

Japan's government has pledged 26 million dollars to the tourism industry following the disaster. It hopes this will help towns like Hakone recover and attract tourists like before.

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