Looking to get away from Tokyo for one day? Love hiking? If you do, try hiking the Kyukaido in Hakone! I’ve been to Hakone several times before, but I’ve always visited Owakudani, the lake and, of course, the shrine. I knew that Hakone used to be a checkpoint to control the old highway (Tokaido) connecting Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo) during the feudal period. But I’ve never been to the Tokaido before, so I was really looking forward to hiking a part of the old path now.
There is still some part of the old Tokaido left, named the Kyukaido, although it doesn’t seem to be very popular. We didn’t meet many people on the hike, but it was quite an adventure!
The first part of the Kyukaido
To be honest, at first I was quite exhilarated to hike this old path. It consisted mainly of these stony and rocky path, leading directly into the forest and away from the highway and the cars. Since it was raining just the night before, the stones were very slippery and a little bit difficult to hike. But walking in the quiet forest felt very nice and calming.
So I was quite disappointed when the first part of the Kyukaido hiking trail ended in merging with the road again and we had to walk for quite a bit (at least 30 min or more) next to the road. It was hot, loud and humid, and we were sweating buckets on this part. I didn’t enjoy walking next to the road at all, I admit that.
So I was glad when we finally arrived at the next part of the hike.
The Amazake Chaya
This time, we stayed on the rocky path through the forest. It was still quite close to the road, but at least we were not walking right next to it anymore. The path soon led away from the noisy road and after a while we emerged at the Amazake Chaya, an old tea house that provides some sweet sake (amazake) and snacks to exhausted hikers like us.
We arrived at the tea house at a perfect moment, for me at least. I was exhausted from the hike and my clothes were clinging to me because I sweated like nothing good. We had already used up all of our water supplies (wasn’t that much from the beginning) and so I used this occasion to stock up on some water and snacks before continuing.
After resting up for a bit, we continued down the Kyukaido to Moto-Hakone and the lake.
I probably enjoyed this last part the most, because we were quite deep in the forest now, no roads or cars nearby. The path itself is quite beautiful here, too. After almost another 45 minutes we finally arrived at the lake, Ashi-no-ko.
Paying a visit to the gods at Hakone Shrine
One of my favorite shrines in Japan to visit (that I have visited so far, but I’m sure there are more beautiful shrines to visit in Japan!) is definitely the Hakone Shrine with its path decorated with red lanterns. This path leads to a staircase to the right, leading up to the shrine itself and a staircase to the left, leading to the big red Torii gate in the lake.
The atmosphere around the shrine is very peaceful, even with hordes of tourists trodding around the place. It is definitely worth a visit, so if you are in Hakone, don’t skip it!
Don’t forget to visit the big red Torii in the lake when you get down from the shrine. It is very famous and one of the most popular motive for photographers (of course I had to take one, too!).
After paying a visit to the shrine, we strolled along the lake to the bus terminal and took the first bus back to Odawara. Since we had started our hiking trip a little bit later than our other trips, the sun had already started setting and we didn’t have time to visit anything else. For me, it was ok, since I have been there several times before, but I wish I could have shown Owakudani to my friends, too.
At the time of writing this post, the area around Owakudani is closed and declared a no-entry zone due to volcanic activities. So, we had to skip on this, this time.
How to get to the Kyukaido
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 Hakone-Yumoto (about 16 min). This would be an extra cost of ¥ 310, the rest is 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.
From Hakone-Yumoto take a bus to Hatajuku and get off the bus. The hiking trail starts here.
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!