Hakone is one of the most popular destinations for a day trip from Tokyo. It’s a good place to visit in any time of the year and there are loads of things to do here! I’ve been here a couple times before and if you are visiting Tokyo for some time, you should definitely consider a visit to Hakone as well!
It is famous for its hot springs, which might be one of the main reasons for its popularity with local tourists as the Japanese love to take a bath in hot springs. Try to book at least one night with a traditional ryokan (guesthouse) to experience a full kaiseki menu and a nice hot bath in a natural hot spring!
Hakone is a great destination all year round, you can enjoy the cherry blossom season in spring, go on hikes or boat tours in summer, watch the leaves turn yellow and red in fall and enjoy the hot springs in winter!
The sulphurous hot springs of Owakudani
Owakudani came into existence when Mt. Hakone erupted about 3.000 years ago and literally means “Great Boiling Valley”. It is especially good to visit in winter. That’s because if you breathe in the sulphurous air in summer, I imagine it can be quite unpleasant! The entire area is a volcanic zone and at the time of writing this post is currently a no-entry zone due to volcanic activities! Too bad, I would have liked to visit it this year again.
Once you arrive here, take a walk up to the hot springs and enjoy the natural spectacle. There is a specialty food sold around Owakudani, which is a black egg, boiled in those very sulphurous hot springs. The shells turn black due to the sulphur and it is said, that your life will be prolonged by 7 years per egg. I had three of them, by the way.
On clear days you will be able to see Mt. Fuji from here, this was actually my first time seeing the holy mountain as well (about 6 months before I climbed it, too). There is a hiking trail here too, leading to the neighboring mountain, but as it is a no-entry zone at the moment anyway, I can’t really recommend going on a hike from here.
Once you have enough of the stinking hot springs up here, make your way down to the lake and get on a boat ride!
A boat cruise on lake Ashinoko
If you have purchased a Hakone Free pass (which I would recommend as it covers most of the public transport as well as entry fees into some museums around here), you can get onto one of the sightseeing boats that leave from Hakone-machi. It takes you on a beautiful cruise across the lake to Moto-Hakone. The pass is only valid for the pirate ships, though. Which isn’t too bad, right?
Enjoy the ride on the boat and the views of the mountains surrounding you. If you’re lucky, you get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji from here!
Pay a visit to the gods at Hakone Jinja
Once you’ve arrived in Moto-Hakone and you still have some time left before you want to head home, you should visit the famous Hakone shrine! Take a walk around the beautiful lake and make your way up the path with the red lanterns on each side. Go up the stairs to your right to visit the shrine (and remember, this is a place of religion and respect!) and also don’t forget to take a picture at the great red Torii gate standing in the lake. It is one of Japan’s most famous motive for photographers (probably next to Mt. Fuji, cherry blossoms or monkeys sitting in a hot spring… hope to get to see that last thing, too!).
How to get to Hakone
From Shinjuku you have several options to get to Hakone. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can go to Shinagawa station via the Yamanote line and take a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Odawara. From there take the Hakone Tozan Railway to Gora. This will not be covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
If you do not have a Japan Rail Pass, you should probably consider getting the Hakone Free Pass. A 2-day pass will be about ¥ 5,140 if you purchase it at Shinjuku station, and ¥ 4,000 if you purchase it in Odawara. But you have unlimited use of any public transportation that is associated with Odakyu within the Hakone Free Area. You also get discounts on some tourist attractions like museums etc. A round-trip from the Tokyo area to Hakone by Odakyu Railways is included.
If there is no volcanic activity at the moment, you can take the Hakone Tozan railway up to Gora, which will be a beautiful and scenic ride in spring, starting from Hakone-Yumoto. From Gora you continue up to Owakudani. This trip is entirely covered by the Hakone Free Pass as well. But remember, it is a no-entry zone at the moment!
If you need help to plan your itinerary, use this site!
To help me plan all my trips and itineraries in Japan, I mostly used the Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide)*. I’ve used it a lot when I was living in Japan and found it a great help this time as well!
Have you been to Hakone before or planning a trip? Maybe you have a few more tips on visiting Hakone? I would love to hear from you! Let me know below in the comments!