Popular Mt Hakone tourist site reopens 6 months after volcano scare

A popular tourist site on Mt Hakone was reopened Friday, ending a six-month period in which it was shut down due to a heightened volcanic alert level in the hot-spring resort area near Tokyo, local authorities said.
The Owakudani valley district, famous for its sulfur vents and geothermal hot springs, had been closed to visitors since the Japan Meteorological Agency raised the alert level for Mt Hakone to 2 on a 5-point scale on May 19, warning people not to approach the crater.
Restrictions on entry were lifted after the agency lowered the alert level to 1 on Oct 7, deeming there to still be potential for volcanic activity but that the mountain was safe.
The town of Hakone decided to reopen the Owakudani area about a month after the warning was lifted due to the completion of repairs on volcanic gas detectors that were broken during the violent weather associated with Typhoon Hagibis, which hit the country last month.
The Owakudani site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but some walking routes remain closed due to the possible danger of volcanic gas releases.
From Friday, Hakone Ropeway passengers were permitted to alight at Owakudani Station. The ropeway resumed operating in late October, but the station was only used for transfers and visitors were not allowed outside.
Souvenir shops and restaurants also reopened in the area famous for eggs boiled and blackened in the natural sulfur-rich hot-spring water. Local legend says that anyone who eats the eggs will extend their life by seven years.
"I was waiting for this moment for a long time and left my home late at night (to drive here). I cannot wait to buy the black eggs," said a 47-year-old man from Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, who drove some 130 kilometers to visit.
The town hopes to attract an influx of tourists with the impending peak of the fall foliage season. Hakone attracted 21.26 million visitors in 2018, including 596,000 foreigners, up 9.2 percent from the previous year.

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