Only 60 miles from Tokyo, Hakone is a great destination for a quick getaway from the city. A breath of fresh air – here you have onsens, mountain and lake scenery, it is a place to recharge (and we definitely needed that after an active week in Hokkaido).
We were actually in Kyoto the days before and spent the final few days with my parents there before they returned home (more on Kyoto soon). We wanted to see Mt. Fuji, the original plan was to go to the Fuji Five Lakes area but travelling from the west made it difficult to reach from Kyoto (with multiple changes required and potentially more expense on private rail lines). Hakone looked like the next best alternative, with a direct Shinkansen service from Kyoto to Odawara. Arriving at Odawara station, we headed to the nearby bus station and caught the Tozan Bus towards Hakone.
THINGS TO DO
We had only two days to explore Hakone and there are many things to do here. Firstly, this is onsen heaven and our hotel luckily came with one. It’s the perfect place to soak those sore leg muscles after a long hike or all day sightseeing. Many of the hotel resorts have hot spring facilities, and if not you have a choice of independent onsens dotted around the valley.
These incredible towering trees are more than 350 years old and was part of the Old Tokaido Road that stretched from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo). Other parts of the Tokaido trail I recommend is the hike towards the Amazake-chaya Tea House (starting from the Moto-Hakone bus stop), you will pass through amazing forest and see the original cobble stoned path that was once the old road.
After drinking tea and eating some delicious glutinous rice sweets, I headed back to Moto-Hakone the same way; if I had more time I would have loved to continue the route and explored more.
There is a short walk to Hakone Shrine and at its base a red Torii gate (featured cover photo) that faces the lake, beyond the gate it looked like you could walk further possibly right up to north side of the lake (check local hiking maps for more information).
We also visited Owakudani, a volcanic valley created by a violent eruption thousands of years ago, it looks like a mining quarry until you get closer the steam and volcanic gases released from the grounds. This popular attraction is also one of the ropeway stations where you can alight and take a closer look at the valley. There are some shops and resturants here, you will probably see people eating the black shelled eggs which have been cooked from the hot spring water nearby. It is said that if you eat one of these boiled eggs it will prolong your life expectancy by another seven years…
As well as the activities we did above, there are other options like the Hakone Open Art Museum, boat cruises and the Hakone Ropeway. For us these were a little bit touristy and pricey, we preferred the more natural sights with the hiking around the lake and forests. Though we didn’t see Mount Fuji due to cloud cover, we would happily come back to Hakone again.
WHERE TO STAY & EAT
We stayed at the B&B Pension Hakone hotel, which is five miles to Moto-Hakone and Lake Ashi. Using the local bus service we were able to travel around fairly easily. Breakfast was included with our stay but there are no restaurants nearby, so you may need to rely on the hotel resturants. Moto-Hakone has a few more choices but we didn’t check these out. There is a Family Mart down the road from the hotel which sells meals and snacks (as well as the 7-Eleven store at Moto-Hakone); these are recommended if you are on a budget.
- There are various ways to get to Hakone, either by rail or connecting bus services. We relied on the buses as it was cheaper and our JR Rail Passes did not cover the private lines that run through Hakone. If you are unsure which bus to catch, go to to the information desks at the train or bus station and they will point you in the right direction (ask for a English route map).
- Have the correct fare ready as no change is given, alternatively you can use an IC card. The Hakone Freepass allows unlimited rides on most of the transport within it’s valid zone; we didn’t get one due to the cost but if you plan to do a lot within the 2-3 day pass validity this may be useful and cost effective.
- Weekends and public holidays can be the most busiest times and local attractions maybe crowded. We went during the week and it was very pleasant. However, you can escape the crowds if you plan your activities carefully.
- Despite it’s close proximity to Tokyo, the weather here can be different. While we experienced warmer temperatures in the city, it was cooler in Hakone (with some rain). Bring waterproofs in case and dress accordingly for the outdoors.
- Mt Fuji views are not guaranteed.
- For more information on visiting Hakone and on the activities check out Japan-Guide.com
Gallery Preview below, to see the full album of our Hakone escape click here