Hakone in Japan: Our highlights and tips

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Between Mount Fuji and Onsen – welcome to Hakone! Hakone is only about an hour outside of Tokyo, but the contrast to the big city couldn’t be greater. With its mountainous landscape and the location on Lake Ashi, the Hakone region is one of the most attractive landscapes in Japan.

In this blog article we will tell you what to expect on a trip to Hakone. We will show you the most beautiful sights and highlights in Hakone and share our personal tips.

1. Hakone in Japan: What to Expect Hakone is located around 250 kilometers west of Tokyo in the Mountains of the very scenic
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Hakone is often referred to as a small town, but actually it is the entire region meant, which is quite extensive.

Hakone has no real center or rather several touristically relevant centers. So orientation is not that easy. In addition, the distances between the places are not exactly small if you rely on public transport. (We will tell you more about this at the end of the blog article.)

Hakone is particularly well-known for two things: On the one hand, Hakone is one of the most well-known places in Japan to soak in the traditional springs, the so-called Onsen to bathe. On the other hand, Hakone is not far from Mount Fuji, so you can take a look at the national shrine on a clear day. (We’ll tell you why a stay in Hakone is no guarantee that you’ll actually see the mountain.)

Hakone is a very popular local recreation destination for Tokyo residents. Since you can get to Hakone fairly quickly from the metropolis, Hakone is well frequented, especially on weekends. (We can confirm that, since we happened to be there on a weekend.) There is a lot going on, especially at the tourist hotspots.

Mount Fuji seen in Hakone: Info & Worth knowing Hakone is not in the immediate vicinity of Mount Fuji, but with lucky take a look at the highest mountain in Japan. However (and now we come to the big BUT): The weather really has to be right and unfortunately that is not the case as often as one would like.

Generally speaking: In Winter (December and January) has the greatest chance of seeing Mount Fuji. During these months, there are only a few days when Mount Fuji is completely shrouded in cloud. In summer, on the other hand (especially in July), the chance is very small. Most days you won’t see Mount Fuji here.

The time of day also plays a role: in the morning the chance of seeing Mount Fuji is a lot higher than in the afternoon.

We would not recommend you to travel to Hakone just for the view of Mount Fuji. There are better or closer places for that – for example Lake Kawaguchi. We are the best example of this: the two days we were in Hakone (May), Mount Fuji was permanently shrouded in clouds.

Onsen in Hakone: Information & Interesting Facts Hakone is known for its hot springs, the so-called Onsen, famous. Onsen have a century-old tradition in Japan. A visit to a traditional onsen is therefore associated with certain rules and labels.

In Hakone you have rough Spoken two ways to visit an onsen: Either you book accommodation that has a private onsen or you visit one of the public onsen in Hakone.

Important to know: In a traditional onsen men and women bathe separately from each other. Bathing is also done without bathing suits, ie naked. If you are traveling as a couple, then our best recommendation is to book a private onsen. We will give you more information further down in this blog article.

2. Things to Do in Hakone: Our Tips Ashi Lake Hakone is located on the shore of Lake Ashi, called Ashinoko in Japanese. Lake Ashi is a crater lake formed by an eruption of Hakone Volcano thousands of years ago. (Which, by the way, is still active.)

The lake is of course made for a boat trip: Several companies offer boat trips over the Ashi Lake. We would recommend that you ignore the sightseeing pirate ships and use one of the normal ships instead.

The ships leave from (among other places) the southeastern shore of Lake Ashi, more precisely in Moto-Hakone or in Hakonemachi-ko. We combined the boat trip on Lake Ashi with a subsequent gondola ride (Hakone Komagatake Ropeway). We will tell you more about the gondola further down in this blog article.

Info about the boat trip from Moto-Hakone to the Gondola (Hakone Komagatake Ropeway) Price: 1.450 Yen (return return trip); 2.600 Yen (round trip & gondola combined ticket)

Duration: approx. 15 minutes (one-way)

Departure: eg from Pier Moto -Hakone

Hakone Shrine The Hakone shrine is the most famous Shintō shrine in the region. The shrine is especially famous for one of its red torii. (That’s what the entrance gates of Japanese Shinto shrines are called.) The torii towers on the shore of Lake Ashi and is one of the most popular photo motifs in Hakone.

The associated shrine is located on a small hill in the forest directly behind the torii. This is of course worth seeing, but in our opinion it is not one of the really big highlights. Good to know: The shrine itself already closes to 10: 15 Clock its gates (last entry at 16 o’clock).

But you can visit the red torii around the clock. Unfortunately, it is extremely busy, especially in the high season . But we wouldn’t be in Japan if everything wasn’t in order: A line of people usually forms in front of the attraction. So everyone can pose in front of the torii and take a picture without anyone else. If you don’t feel like waiting, you should come either early in the morning or in the late afternoon when most of the day visitors have already left Hakone.

Hakone Shrine Visit Information Entry: For free

Opening hours: 9 to 16: 16 o’clock, last access at Clock (The famous red torii on the shore of the lake is around the o’clock.)

Hakone Komagatake Ropeway To avoid confusion here: There is in the Hakone region two gondolas. In this chapter, we describe those that takes you from Hakone-en to Komagatake Peak, one of the peaks of Mount Hakone.

The Hakone Komagatake Ropeway is the lesser-known ropeway of the two. In about seven minutes you can get from the shore of Lake Ashi to the hill station at over 1.300 meters above sea level. The mountain station has seen better days, but the highlight is different anyway.

An easy hiking trail takes you in about 15 minutes to the actual summit. There is the Hakone Mototsumiya Shrine. This shrine was the alleged origin shrine of the Hakone shrine, which is now (much more easily accessible) on the shore of the lake.

On a clear day you can see Mount Fuji during the cable car ride and from the summit. However, you have to be a bit lucky for that – unfortunately we didn’t have it. Nevertheless, we found the ambience on the mountain top very special and mystical. Our tip: Take something to wear with you. It’s a lot cooler up there than on the lake shore.

Information on the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway ride Price: 1.600 Yen (ascent and descent); 2.600 Yen (Combined ticket for ascent and descent and boat trip)

Operating times: 9 to 16: 30 Watch

Valley station: on the north shore of Lake Ashi in Hakone-en

Hakone Ropeway (Between Togendai and Gora) The second and more popular of the two gondolas in Hakone departs from Togendai and goes over the volcanic area (Owakudani) to Sounzan. This gondola has a total of four stations, where you have to change trains in Owakudani.

Owakudani is also home to the Visitor Center for the Volcanic Zone. If you haven’t seen sulfur springs before, you could stop by here. The region is also known for the black eggs (Kuro-tamago), which you buy and eat here. The eggshell turns black due to the sulfur content.

Important to know: Due to volcanic activity, the Hakone Ropeway is periodically closed. You can always find the latest information on the ropeway’s official website: Hakone Ropeway.

Another important tip for orientation: The Hakone Ropeway functions as a connection between the lake shore of Lake Ashi and the hinterland. So it doesn’t just lead to a mountain peak, but can be climbed from both sides.

Info to ride the Hakone Ropeway Price: 2.000 Yen (Round trip from Togendai to Owakudani); 2.500 Yen (Round trip from Togendai to Sounzan terminus)

Operating hours: February to November from 9 to 10 p.m., December and January from 9 to 09: 15 Watch

Bottom station: on the north shore of Lake Ashi in Togendai

More Highlights in Hakone We couldn’t visit all the sights in Hakone in two days, so we’ll leave you with some information about other highlights in this chapter.

Hakone Open Air Museum This open-air art museum is said to be well worth seeing. Abstract sculptures by Japanese and international artists are on display in a spacious park. It’s a pity that we missed this highlight.

Price: 1.650 Yen

Opening hours: 9 to 15 o’clock (last entry at 16: 30 Watch)

How to get there: By Hakone Tozan Railway (Chōkokunomori station) or by bus (several Lines)

Public Onsen in Hakone We ourselves had an onsen in our accommodation, so we didn’t go to any public one. Most public onsen are located in Hakone Yumoto. There are also two of the better known and recommended onsen baths: Yuryo and Tenzan.

Both baths also offer private onsen. It is important to know that men and women bathe separately in a traditional onsen. So if you are traveling as a couple, we would rather book a private onsen. In the Tenzan Onsen it is said that it is not a problem if you have a tattoo. (Traditionally, you are not allowed in an onsen with a tattoo.)

Price: approx. 1.450 Yen (regular admission), approx. 5.000 until 6.000 Yen (private onsen, price per hour)

3. Eating & Drinking in Hakone: Our Tips Kaiseki – Japanese Haute Cuisine Hakone is the perfect place to try kaiseki. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese meal served in multiple courses (often seven or more) and small portions. The dishes are artistically prepared and the ingredients perfectly matched. Appetizers, miso soup, sashimi, fried dishes and much more are served, as well as desserts of course.

In many ryokans (traditional guesthouses) in Hakone Dinner will be served as kaiseki. It is not uncommon for it to be served directly at the table in your room. Traditionally you sit at a very low table and take a seat on a so-called zaisu (a chair without legs). A kaiseki meal has similarities to haute cuisine and is definitely a culinary experience.

4. Where to Stay in Hakone: Our Tips Where to stay in Hakone ? The Hakone region is very extensive – so there is a correspondingly large selection of places where you can stay overnight.

The gateway to the Hakone region and something of a tourist center is Hakone Yumoto. You arrive here by train from Shinjuku (more information on how to get there will follow). In Hakone Yumoto there are some guesthouses and most notably some public onsen.

One of the most popular places to stay is Gora. Gora is higher than Yumoto, and you feel more in the mountains here. There is also a lot of accommodation here, but it tends to be more expensive than in Hakone Yumoto.

If you want to stay in nature, then it is worth going to the Ashinoyu regions , Hatajuku or Sengokuhara to search for accommodation. And last but not least, you can of course also spend the night on the lake shore in Moto-Hakone. But there are comparatively few accommodations there.

Tips for accommodation in Hakone The most popular place to stay in Hakone is a so-called ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel. Ryokans are usually quite puristically furnished: the rooms are covered with tatami mats. You sleep on a futon, a Japanese bed. Breakfast and dinner are often served directly in the room and are usually included in the room price.

Staying in a ryokan is a very special experience that we can really recommend. It has been our experience that ryokans in Hakone tend to be quite expensive. It is not uncommon for an overnight stay to cost 250 Euro or even more (Price per person incl. breakfast and dinner).

We can recommend the following accommodations in Hakone Ryokan Yoshimatsu: Beautiful ryokan near Lake Ashi. Some rooms have a private onsen and you can even enjoy the view of Mount Fuji.

Onsen Guesthouse Hakone Tent: Traditional, stylishly furnished accommodation with shared bathrooms, but comparatively affordable. Not a classic ryokan, but still highly recommended.

5. More Tips for Hakone Getting to Hakone from Tokyo With Japan Rail Pass If you have a Japan Rail Pass, the best way is to take a Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Odawara Station. The journey takes just about minutes and is free with the Japan Rail Pass.

Odawara Station is on the eastern edge the Hakone region. Depending on where your accommodation is located, you can continue your journey either by taxi, Odakyu Line or bus from Odawara Station.

The Hakone Free Pass covers onward travel by public transport away. We will tell you later in this blog article what exactly the Hakone Free Pass is.

Without Japan Rail Pass If you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, you have two options: Either you also take a JR Train (Shinkansen or one of the slower trains) to Odawara Station. (From there, continue as described above.)

Or you can take the route between Tokyo (Shinjuku Station) and Hakone-Yumoto with the Odakyu Limited Express Romancecar return. The ride lasts 85 Minutes, but here you land directly in Hakone-Yumoto and therefore more central than in Odawara.

On the way: Local public transport The Hakone region is more extensive than expected, so it is difficult to get around without public transport. Public transport is quite extensive with buses, train lines and even gondolas and a funicular. Extensive is even an understatement, because to be more precise, it feels like Hakone has more transportation than many big cities.

A little tip (which also explains why there are so many different means of transport): In Hakone it is possible (and also common) to draw a circle through the region in one day, on where the most important sights are located, including the Hakone Shrine, the Hakone Ropeway including the Owakudani volcanic area and a trip by boat.

You can basically start this circuit anywhere and also ride in both directions. To be used (listed in clockwise direction starting from Hakone Yumoto):

Bus Ship Hakone Ropeway Hakone Tozan Cable Car and Hakone Tozan Railway You can find a reasonably clear map with the means of transport in Hakone you here: Hakone Route Map.

Bus ride in Hakone The bus network in Hakone is very well developed, although it takes some time to get used to it . The main bus company is Hakone Tozan. There are numerous lines.

The buses run at different intervals – usually every 16 or 30 minutes. If you are not traveling with the Hakone Free Pass (information will follow soon), you can buy your ticket directly on the bus.

This is how it works: You take a boarding ticket when entering the bus. Then use the display on the bus to check the fare to the station where you want to get off. Have the exact amount ready and throw it into the cash register next to the bus driver when you get off the bus. There is also a change machine in case you don’t have the exact money with you.

Hakone Free Pass With the Hakone Free Pass you can use (almost) all means of transport in the Hakone region unlimited use for a certain period (2 or 3 days) . This means that you can also do the sightseeing circuit above at no additional cost. In addition, you get reduced admission to some sights.

The Hakone Free Pass is available in two variants: Either including a return trip from Tokyo ( Shinjuku Station) or Hakone area only. If you have the Japan Rail Pass, the second option is sufficient, as the route from Tokyo to Odawara is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

You can either get the Hakone Free Pass directly in Tokyo Shinjuku Station or then locally in Hakone at Odawara Station and Hakone-Yumoto Station, among others.

You should calculate whether the purchase of the Hakone Free Pass is profitable for you . If you plan to do the classic sightseeing loop, then the pass is pretty much worth it. Quite apart from that, it is of course more convenient to be able to use one ticket for all means of transport instead of always having to buy new tickets.

Price Hakone Freepass including round trip from Tokyo: 5.650 Yen (2 days), 6.85 Yen (3 days)

Price Hakone Freepass (only on site): 4.450 Yen (2 days), 5. Yen (3 days)

6 . Conclusion: Trip to Hakone If you get a insight into rural Japan. without having to travel too far, then we can recommend a trip to Hakone. Bathing in a onsen, staying in a typical ryokan and enjoying a kaiseki meal is of course quite an experience.

We personally still found Hakone on our itinerary through Japan to be one of those destinations that sparked the least in its entirety – if you can can say at all, because we don’t want to miss our days in Hakone. So that’s criticism on a high level because we really had a great time. Maybe it was simply because we were pretty unlucky with the weather and unfortunately didn’t see Mount Fuji either.

Since Hakone is pretty easy to get to, you should (if you have enough time) do this one Definitely give the region a chance – especially if you want to get to know the Onsen culture of Japan.

Transparency: Invitation & Affiliate Links We were picked up by All Nippon Airways (ANA) invited to Japan – thank you very much for this great opportunity! So that you are familiar: The outward and return flights as well as the program for the first 5 days (Tokyo, Hakone, Osaka) were financially taken over by ANA. We were free to organize the program – we were on our own the whole time. We decided to extend our stay in Japan at our own expense.

This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you ever been to Hakone? Which sights can you recommend? Do you have any other tips for Hakone? We look forward to hearing about your experiences!