Hakone is a mountain area with beautiful nature and spectacular views of the iconic Mount Fuji. Just a short train ride away from Tokyo, it is a popular weekend escape from the big city for both the Japanese as well as international tourists.
Half the fun of visiting Hakone is the chance to ride different modes of transport, like switchback train, cable car, ropeway/ gondola, and even a pirate ship! And along the way, you get to enjoy the scenic mountain and landscape views where Mt Fuji is the crown jewel. Hakone also has some of Japan’s best onsen/ hot spring baths so this is a great place to try out this unique Japanese tradition.
Lake Ashi/ Ashino-ko is the center point of Hakone and the ropeway trip up to the lake is an experience in itself, with a fantastic view of Mt Fuji and a stop at Hell Valley where steam from sulfur-rich hot water springs creates an alien-world like landscape. Once up at Lake Ashi, you can take a sightseeing cruise across the lake on a pirate ship that would not seem out of place in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Hakone also offers some nice walks and hikes, like walking along the lake to Hakone-Jinja Shrine and its famous red torii gate right by the lakeshore. We also loved the walk on Japan’s longest suspension bridge with a spectacular view of Mt Fuji – Mishima Skywalk.
Hakone Travel Guide
Hakone is a mountain area close to Mt Fuji made up of several small towns located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
There are three main railway stations in Hakone: Hakone-Yumoto Station, Odawara Station, and Gora Station. Most visitors start at the onsen/ hot spring resort town Hakone-Yumoto, as they arrive at Hakone-Yumoto Station – the transit hub of Hakone.
Here we give you our ultimate Hakone travel guide, with all of Hakone’s top attractions and sights and the best place to see Mount Fuji organized in a detailed step-by-step Hakone itinerary.
When To Visit Hakone
Hakone is a beautiful area to visit all year round but is particularly lovely in autumn (October/ November) when autumn colors cover Mt Fuji’s landscape. Hakone is especially popular during weekends and holidays and can at times feel a bit touristy and busy.
Try to plan your Hakone trip to a weekday and avoid public holidays. Staying a night in Hakone will allow you to beat the crowds and avoid the tourist buses.
We visited Hakone in the first week of December. There were still some autumn colors left and a clear and crisp sky so we were able to see Mount Fuji clearly. Mornings are the best time of day to see Mount Fuji free of clouds. Usually, clouds cover up Mt Fuji in the afternoon and the mountain is impossible to see.
A Brief History Of Hakone
During the Edo period (1603-1868), Hakone was an important post station on the Tokaido road, the busiest road in Japan which connected the city of Edo (now Tokyo) with Kyoto. Kyoto was then the capital of Japan until Edo/ Tokyo became the new capital in 1868.
Hakone was the official checkpoint along this main road, called Hakone Sekisho, as it was on the Kanto region border (greater Tokyo). All travelers on their way to the capital city Kyoto had to stop here and show their travel permit and have their luggage examined by officials of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Hakone got its city status in 1880. Six years later, in 1886, the Japanese Imperial family constructed their summer residence in Hakone – the Hakone Imperial Villa.
Nowadays, Hakone is all about the tourist industry, both domestic and international, with views of Mt Fuji and its many onsen/ hot spring resorts as its main attractions.
What To Do In Hakone –
The Ultimate Hakone Itinerary
The map above: Top Hakone attractions. Purple = Hakone Itinerary (1-9), Black = Other Things To Do In Hakone.
Here we give you our recommended Hakone Itinerary. This is the same itinerary as we did during our 2-day trip to Hakone in the first week of December before we headed on to visit Fuji Five Lakes.
It is possible to do this itinerary as a day-trip from, for instance, Tokyo, if you start out very early. However, I would recommend that you stay the night in Hakone and spend two days on this itinerary as the area has a lot of great ryokans and hotels with some of Japan’s nicest onsen/ hot spring baths. With two days in Hakone, you also get more time to enjoy this scenic mountain area, do some hikes, and explore its many attractions fully.
This Hakone itinerary takes you on a round-trip through Hakone’s main attractions by five different means of transport called the Hakone Round Course.
Enjoy, and have a great time in Hakone! ♥
Hakone Ropeway, Hell Valley, Lake Ashi, Mishima Skywalk
The map above: Hakone Itinerary (1-9)
Hakone’s attractions are spread out over a big mountain and valley area. But it is easy to get around between the different areas of Hakone by bus, train, and ropeways.
Here is an overview of this Hakone itinerary:
- Switchback Train & Cable Car
– From Gora Station to Sounzan Station
- Hakone Ropeway
– From Sounzan Station to Togendai Station
- Owakudani Volcanic Valley
- Lake Ashi
- Pirate Ship Sightseeing Cruise On Lake Ashi
– From Togendai Station
- Walk Along Lake Ashi Shore
- Onshi-Hakone Park
- Hakone-jinja Shrine & Floating Torii Gate
- Mishima Skywalk
If you want to do this itinerary with a guide, you should consider booking this day-trip tour from Tokyo to Hakone which is very similar to our recommended itinerary.
The 9 Best Things To Do In Hakone
1. Hakone-Tozan Switchback Train & Cable Car – Gora Station
You will most likely arrive in Hakone at either Odawara Station (train from Tokyo/ Shinjuku Station or Tokyo Station) or Hakone-Yumoto Station (direct by Romance Car train from Tokyo/ Shinjuku Station).
The Hakone Tozan Line is an old switchback mountain railway from 1919 that takes you through the scenic landscape of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, up the mountain to Gora Station. It runs from Odawara Station via Hakone-Yumoto Station and ends at Gora Station – a 1-hour train ride in total.
The line has three switchbacks which they use to ascend the steep sections of the 15 km rail tracks. The railway can climb one meter vertically for every 12,5 meters horizontal distance. The maximum gradient is 8%.
Take the switchback train Hakone-Tozan Line from either of these two stations (Odawara or Hakone-Yumoto) to Gora Station, which is the starting point of Hakone Ropeway. You get fantastic mountain and forest scenery from the train, so make sure to grab a window seat.
From Gora Station, take the cable car/ funicular, which takes you up the 1153 m high summit Sounzan in 10 min. At Sounzan Ropeway Station, take the Hakone Ropeway.
2. Hakone Ropeway – Sounzan Station
Hakone Ropeway departs from Sounzan Station (lower station) and has stops at Owakudani Station and Ubako Station along the way. The ropeway cars depart every minute and take you on a 4 km ride (30 min) to the Togendai Station (top station)
Along the way, the ropeway makes a stop at Owakudani, a steaming volcanic crater (see below). If the volcanic activity is too high, the ropeway will not operate for safety reasons, and you will have to take a bus instead.
You get amazing views of Mt Fuji from the ropeway, especially between Owakudani Station and Ubako Station! The Hakone ropeway is great fun and one of the highlights of Hakone.
The Hakone Ropeway is included in the Hakone Freepass, and we ended up taking the ropeway back and forth a couple of times. 🙂
- Opening hours Hakone Ropeway: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (March – November), until 14:15 December – February.
- Ticket price Hakone Ropeway: 1480 JPY = US$ 14 (adult one-way), 740 JPY = US$ 7 (child one-way), 2600 JPY = US$ 25 (adult round-trip), 1300 JPY = US$ 12 (child round-trip).
- How to get there: Take the cable car from Gora Station to Sounzan Station. The Hakone Ropeway departs from Sounzan Station.
- Hakone Ropeway’s Official Webpage
3. Owakudani – Hell Valley
After about a 10 min ride on the Hakone Ropeway, the ropeway will make a stop at the mysterious Owakudani Station at 1044 meters. As soon as you step out of the cable car, you will understand why it is also called “Hell Valley.” The volcanic smoke and strong sulfur smell hit you immediately. The volcanic valley landscape looks like something out of Star Wars. But sadly, no Yoda or baby Yoda/ Grogu is to be found.
The volcanic crater, also called “Great Boiling Valley,” was created 3000 years ago as the Kami-Yama Mountain erupted and collapsed. You will notice that the ground in the valley is yellow, this is crystallized sulfide, and the smoke is hydrogen sulfide.
Many of the onsen/ hot springs in the Hakone area get their water from Owakudani.
A specialty and must-try snack here is Tamago – boiled eggs that are turned black from the sulfurous water. You can buy these black boiled eggs everywhere in Hakone, like the tourist shops beside the ropeway station. The locals say that these black eggs give you a long life. Eating one black egg will apparently increase your life by seven years! Well worth a shot if you ask me. 🙂
Next to Owakudani Station, you will find the Hakone GeoMuseum, where you can learn about volcanoes and how this mysterious valley appeared, the history of Hakone, and other interesting things in the area. Opening hours: 09:00 am – 16:00/ 4 pm.
After a stop at Owakudani, the ropeway will continue further up and take you to its end station – Togendai Station.
4. Lake Ashi/ Ashinoko – Togendai Ropeway Station
As you step out of the Togendai Ropeway Station (top station of Hakone Ropeway), you will be greeted with fresh mountain air and a panoramic view of Lake Ashi/ Hakone Lake or Ashinoko as it is called in Japanese.
Lake Ashi was created in the same eruption that made Hell Valley when Kami-Yama Mountain erupted some 3000 years ago and made this crater that turned into a big lake. The lake is huge, covering 7 km² and with a depth of 43,5 m (143 ft). Several cruise boats make trips on, and many of them are designed as old European pirate ships.
The lake is surrounded by several onsens/ hot springs, ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), historical sites, and Hakone Shrine with its red torii gate right by the lakeshore Onshi Park. You can do hikes in this area along many trails with different levels of challenge.
We stayed at an amazing hotel – Hakone Hanaori Hotel, right by the lake and conveniently located right by the Togenday Station (a few minutes walk).
If you want to stay here too, you can check-in and leave your luggage at the hotel before proceeding with this itinerary.
5. Hakone Pirate Ship Sightseeing Cruise Across Lake Ashi
It is time to hit the sea and jump on the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise with its European-inspired pirate ships. The cruise line has been crossing Lake Ashi since 1950. The cruise boats depart from Togendai Port next to Togendai Ropeway Station.
Ok, I must admit that this felt a bit touristy, but hey, it was great fun. And from the deck, you will have a stunning view of Mount Fuji and get tons of fresh mountain air.
The pirate ship sightseeing boat takes you across Lake Ashi to the opposite south end of the lake. The boat first stops at Hakone-machi port and then continues to Moto-Hakone port before turning around and going back to its start, Togendai Port by Togendai Ropeway Station.
Jump off at the first end port of the cruise – Hakonemachi-Ko Port.
6. Walk Along Lake Ashi – Hakonemachi-Ko Port
After you have stepped off the pirate ship at Hakonemachi-Ko port, turn left and walk along the cozy walk path along the Ashi lakeshore.
Old Edo Hakone Checkpoint – Hakone Sekisho
You will soon walk past Hakone Checkpoint, the old Edo checkpoint Hakone Sekisho marking the Kanto region border (greater Tokyo). Here you will find a replica of what this old checkpoint looked like during the Edo period, kind of like an open-air museum.
Continue north along the lakeshore until you reach Onshi Park.
7. Onshi-Hakone Park
Onshi-Hakone Park dates back to 1886 and was once the summer retreat for the imperial family in Japan but is now a lovely public park right by Lake Ashi’s shore.
There used to be a summer palace where the imperial family would stay during the warm summer months, but the palace was sadly destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and then the Northern Ito Earthquake in 1930. You can, however, see the foundations of the palace.
You will find the Lakeside Panorama Pavilion or Lakeside Observation Building right behind the ruins for the summer palace, which is said to have Hakone’s best view of Mt Fuji. Make sure to go up to the balcony on the 2nd floor to enjoy the lake view with Mt Fuji as a backdrop.
The park has a criss-cross of walking paths perfect for a stroll. You can enjoy the cherry blossoms during spring in summer, the blooming lilies, and in autumn, the autumn colors.
We visited the park in the first week of December, and the trees in the park still had beautiful autumn colors. Grab a cup of coffee or green Matcha tea at the coffee shop Ryokushian (opening hours: 10:00 – 15:30).
- Opening hours Onshi Park: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
- Ticket price Onshi Park: Free
- How to get there: Take the cruise boat across Lake Ashi, and the park is on the lake’s shoreside. From JR Odawara Station, take a bus heading for Hakone-machi and get off at Onshi-Koen Mae bus stop (1-hour bus ride).
- Onshi-Hakone Park’s Official Webpage
Old Edo Cedar-Lined Tokaido Road
Walk out of the park and continue north along Lake Ashi, on the old Tokaido Road. This old road was the main road between Edo city (now Tokyo) and Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1868). The road is lined with beautiful tall cedar trees planted over 400 years ago to protect travelers from the bad weather. The road is approximately 2 km long.
Continue walking north along the shore until you reach the iconic Hakone Torii Gate, which stands right by the lakeshore, almost out in the water.
8. Hakone-Jinja Shrine & Torii gate
Hakone Shrine, or Hakone-jinja, is a beautiful Shinto shrine set in a wooded grove at the foot of Mount Hakone on Lake Ashi’s shores. Its star is its red torii gate which is a Hakone signature as it rises from the lake right by the lakeshore. The shrine actually has three torii gates in total, where the two other torii gates are located at the main street of Moto-Hakone.
The lakeshore floating Torii gate is a mandatory photo spot in Hakone. So grab your camera (or phone) and have your ultimate picture-postcard shot with Mount Fuji in the background (see the photo below).
The floating Torii gate was constructed in 1964 as a peace gate celebrating the Treaty of Peace With Japan and the Treaty of San Fransisco in 1951.
Hakone Shrine’s floating torii gate should not be mistaken with the famous Itsukushima’s floating torii gate on the sacred Miyajima Island outside Hiroshima.
On your way up to the main hall or Honden at Hakone Shrine, you walk through an atmospheric staircase flanked by lanterns and tall trees, also a fantastic photo spot.
According to legends, a nine-headed dragon or sea monster lived in Lake Ashi. The wandering monk Mangan defeated the dragon and founded Hakone Shrine in 757, although the original shrine was located at the Komagatake peak of Mount Hakone. It was relocated to Lake Ashi in 1667. The shrine was popular among samurai as they would pray for strength before battles. And travelers who would come here to pray for a safe trip.
The defeating of the dragon is celebrated at the Hakone Summer Matsuri Festival.
Hakone Summer Matsuri Festival – July 31. – August 5.
If you happen to be in Hakone at the end of July and the beginning of August, you will be able to enjoy the fantastic Summer Matsuri Festival. The 5-days-long festival takes place at the shore of Lake Ashi and the Hakone Shrine, with lots of food stalls selling delicious street food and drinks, Japanese people in their yukata (summer kimono), and fireworks in the evenings.
The festival kicks off with the Kosui Festival on the 31st of July, where sake and red rice are offered to the lake dragon by Hakone Shrine’s priests.
On the 1st of August, it is time for the Hakone Shrien Reidai Festival. Then ceremony is held at the Hakone Shrine by the Shinto Buddhist priests, praying for a long and healthy life for all its visitors. You can enjoy a kendo tournament (“way of the sword” – a modern Japanese martial art), poetry recitals, samurai sword exhibitions, etc.
The 2nd of August is the day for Gojinkousai, where traditional Japanese boats sail from Hakone Shrine to Sekisho on Lake Ashi. There are fireworks in the evenings of both the 2nd and 3rd of August (close to Komagatake Ropeway near the Prince Hotel).
On the 4th of August, the Kojiri Dragon Festival is dedicated to the dragon of Lake Ashi. A local “Soran” group performs traditional “Soran” music. There are fireworks in the evening by the lakeshore.
The 5th of August is the last day and the highlight of the Hakone Summer Matsuri Festival. In a quite dramatic and unique show they set fire to a shrine gate on the lake, lanterns float on the lake, and there is a huge firework show in the evening. It is a spectacular sight! Many food stalls sell Japanese street food like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, shaved ice, and fruits. There are also games and other activities to participate in—lots of fun for both grown-ups and kids.
- Opening hours Hakone Shrine: 09:00 am – 16:00/ 4 pm
- Ticket price Onshi Park: Free
- How to get there: Hakone Shrine is a five-minute walk from the Moto-Hakone boat pier at Lake Ashi.
- Hakone-jinja Shrine’s Official Webpage
Walk back to Motohakone-Ko at the south end of Lake Ashi, and jump on the Tokai Orange Shuttle Bus (Route N) to Mishima Skywalk Bus Stop (769).
9. Mishima Skywalk Bridge
Mishima Skywalk, or Hakone Seiroku Mishima Bridge as is its official name, is Japan’s longest suspension bridge, opened in 2015.
It is a pedestrian bridge with a length of 400 meters hanging 70,6 meters above a valley. The walk over the bridge is great fun with a fantastic panoramic view of Mount Fuji and Suruga Bay.
On the other side of the bridge, you are welcomed by an observation deck and a whole range of “activities” like a climbing wall, zip-line where you glide alongside the bridge, a tree park where you can climb along the top of trees along rope bridges, a children’s playground, segway guided tours and a dog run area. There is also a cafe and a restaurant here.
- Opening hours Mishima Skywalk: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
- Ticket price Mishima Skywalk: 1100 JPY = US$ 10 (adult), 500 JPY = US$ 5 (secondary school children), 200 JPY = US$ 2 (primary school children). Younger children are free.
- How to get there: Take the Tokai Orange Shuttle Bus (Route N) from Bus Stop 5 at the South Exit of Mishima Station (JR Line) bound for Motohakone Port. Get off at Mishima Skywalk (a 20 minutes bus ride), and you are right by the bridge.
Or take the Hakone Tozan Bus at Hakone-Yumoto Station (OH51) bound for Hakone Port (Route H). Get off at Motohakone Port (OH67) (a 35 minutes bus ride). Transfer to the Tokai Orange Shuttle Bus (Route N) bound for Mishima Station. Get off at Mishima Skywalk (a 20 minutes bus ride).
- Mishima Skywalk’s Official Webpage
That’s it, our ultimate Hakone travel guide and itinerary. This itinerary takes you to the best attractions in Hakone with all the best things to do and see in Hakone.
Although you can do this Hakone itinerary as a day trip from Tokyo, I recommend that you spend the night at one of the many great onsen ryokans in the Hakone area as we did. If you spend a night or more in Hakone, check out our section Other Things To Do In Hakone below.
After Hakone, we traveled on to Fuji Five Lakes and stayed at Lake Kawaguchiko. You can check out our recommended itinerary and guide to Fuji Five Lakes and particularly Lake Kawaguchi here. To be honest, we liked Fuji Five Lakes better than Hakone. So if you have limited time and want to see Mount Fuji, I recommend that you go to Lake Kawaguchi instead of Hakone.
Also, make sure to check out what else you should not miss when going to Japan in our recommended 2-weeks Japan itinerary.
The 4 Best Places To See Mt Fuji In Hakone
When visiting Hakone, seeing Mount Fuji is probably high up on your list. Here are the best places to see the iconic Mt Fuji in Hakone:
- Hakone Ropeway
You get a beautiful view of Mt Fuji from the Hakone Ropeway, between the two stations Owakudani and Ubako.
- Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
Jump on one of the sightseeing boats, like the pirate ship, doing cruises across Lake Ashi in the middle of Hakone. Make sure to be out on the deck and ready with your camera when the boat gets to the south end of Lake Ashi, close to Hakone-machi Port, where you can see Mt Fuji the best.
- Onshi-Hakone Park
You get a fantastic panoramic view of Mt Fuji and Lake Ashi from Onshi-Hakone Park on Lake Ashi’s south shore side.
- Mishima Skywalk
Japan’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, Mishima Skywalk, has one of the best most beautiful views of Mt Fuji in Hakone.
Other Things To Do In Hakone
Onsen/ Hot Spring Baths
Hakone has for centuries been one of the most popular places in Japan for onsen/ hot springs. You will find a lot of ryokans with indoor and outdoor onsen baths in the Hakone region. You can usually use the onsen facilities even if you are not staying the night at the ryokan (you can buy a day ticket).
The onsen public baths in Hakone are famous for their high-quality water that makes your skin super soft. Many of the outdoor onsen baths have lovely views of valleys, rivers, forests, and mountains, and a few even have a view of Mt Fuji.
Some of the best onsen/ hot spring baths in Hakone are:
Tenzan Toji-Kyo Onsen (in Hakone-Yumoto) has several awesome outdoor pools beautifully surrounded by forest and next to Haya-kawa River. Tattoos are allowed.
- Hakone Kamon
Hakone Kamon (in Hakone-Yumoto) has six large outdoor onsen baths with a sauna. You get served a cup of tea after the bath, or you can order the bento (box lunch) package that you get to enjoy in a private lunchroom. It is a hotel, but you can also visit during the day for a soak in the onsen.
- Hakone Yuryo
Hakone Yuryo Onsen (in Hakone-Yumoto) is a fairly new and idyllic hot spring resort (you can stay the night or just come for a bath), which opened in 2013. Has both indoor and outdoor baths with nice forest views. Here you can take private baths with your family only (no other guests). Free shuttle bus every 10-15 min from Hakone Yomoto Station. No tattoos are allowed. Has a restaurant.
Yunessun Onsen (in Kowakidani) is a big and modern family-oriented public bath complex or onsen amusement park. It has both a fun water park with water slides (requires bathing suits) and 23 traditional Japanese onsen baths (the Mori-no-Yu complex). In some pools, the water is mixed with coffee, green tea, and sake and has a unique color. There is also an indoor swimming pool. No tattoos are allowed in the onsen/ hot spring bath but are allowed in the swimsuit area “Yunesan” if you hide your tattoos or wear a rash guard (can be rented). Buy your ticket to Yunessun Onsen here.
- Hakone Green Plaza Hotel
Hakone Green Plaza Hotel (in Sengoku) has a huge outdoor onsen bath with a fantastic Mount Fuji view (one of very few in Hakone). Located a short walk from Ubako Staton along Hakone Ropeway. No tattoos are allowed.
The Hakone area has some world-class museums that are well worth a visit:
- Hakone Open-Air Museum
Hakone Open-Air Museum is a lovely hillside park with sculptures and installations by leading Japanese and international artists. Check out the Picasso Exhibition Hall with over 300 Picasso artworks. There is a playground with some fun exterior walls and a cool spiral stained-glass staircase. Enjoy the outdoor footbath at the end of your museum walk—great fun for both kids and grown-ups.
- Pola Museum of Art
Pola Museum of Art was opened by the Pola group, a company manufacturing and selling beauty products. The museum houses the private art collection of the company’s late owner, Suzuki Tsuneshi. The museum building is super cool and modern, made of glass. You can enjoy modern and contemporary paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and glassware at the museum, by Japanese and European artists like Monet and Picasso. It is located a short bus ride from Gora Station.
- Hakone Art Museum
Hakone Museum of Art opened in 1952. You can enjoy displays of Japanese ceramics and pottery from prehistoric times (some are over 5000 years old) through the Edo period (1600 – 1868). The museum has a beautiful landscape garden and a moss garden with stone paths between maple trees and a tea house. The gardens are especially nice during autumn when it is full of autumn colors. It is located in Gora, just across the Koenkami Station on the cable car/ funicular from Gora Station.
- Okada Museum of Art
Okada Museum of Art shows paintings, sculptures, and pottery from Japan, China, and Korea. The museum is surrounded by a lovely Japanese garden, teahouse, and cafe with an onsen foot bath.
- Enoura Observatory & Open-Air Contemporary Art Museum
Enoura Observatory is a fantastic outdoor museum with contemporary art installations and an observation deck with a sea view. There are a limited number of tickets per day and two admission times each day to choose from. You should buy tickets in advance online if you want to visit this art museum.
- Narukawa Art Museum
Narukawa Art Museum is by far the museum in Hakone with the best Mt Fuji view. From the museum’s panorama lounge and cafe, you can see Mt Fuji and the floating torii gate of Hakone Shrine from across the lake, which is stunning. The museum houses arts in traditional Japanese-style painting/ Nihonga. The museum is located just across the street from Moto-Hakone sightseeing boat pier on Lake Ashi’s south shore. Buy your ticket to Narukawa Art Museum online here.
- Hakone Venetian Glass Museum/ Hakone Glass no Mori
Hakone Glass no Mori houses a collection of more than 100 pieces of Venetian glassware, both modern and classical pieces like vases, goblets, lamps, and sculptures. The museum is in an Italian-style building. A lovely strolling garden with a pond and several large glass sculptures and a cafe surround the museum.
Odawara Castle is a rebuild of the original Odawara Castle who was originally constructed in mid 15th century. It was controlled by the Hojo Clan, who controlled the region around today’s Tokyo. The original castle was destroyed in 1703 by an earthquake and was rebuilt in 1960.
The castle is beautiful, bright white, and three stories on the outside and four stories on the inside. Inside the castle, you can learn about the castle’s history and see displays of armor and swords. You have a lovely view of the park surrounding the castle and the Gora city from the top floor.
The park surrounding the castle is stunning during cherry blossoms (late March-early April). You will also find a small Ninja Museum and Samurai Museum on the castle grounds. Odawara castle is only a 10-min walk from Odawara Station (east exit).
Komagatake Ropeway (not Hakone Ropeway) takes you from Lake Ashi to the Komagatake peak (1357 meter high) of Mount Hakone. When the weather is nice, you can get a panorama view of Lake Ashi and Mount Fuji from the mountain top. You can also visit the original Hakone Shrine, Hakone Shrine Mototsumiya here. This area has several hiking trails with lovely mountain scenery.
Hakone Botanical Garden
The Hakone Botanical Garden is a lovely botanical garden in the highlands of Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. Here you can enjoy over 1700 different alpine plants and flowers. The park is the perfect place to go for a stroll. It is closed during winter.
Choanji Temple belongs to the Soto school of Zen Buddhism. It was established in 1356 and is atmospherically set on a hillside forest. You can walk along the trails and find over 200 different stone statues of Rakan/ disciples of Buddha scattered around the temple ground.
The temple is magnificent in November when the forest is full of autumn colors.
Gotemba Outlet Mall
The biggest mall in Hakone lays Gotemba – Gotemba Outlet Mall. Here you can shop in more than 300 shops and restaurants. The mall has a food court, a 50-meter high Ferris wheel, a hotel, and a public onsen/ hot spring bath. You can find outlets of big international brands in everything from fashion, sports, food to electronics.
How To Get To Hakone
The easiest and most convenient way to get from Tokyo to Hakone is to take the Romance Car Train on the Odakyu Line. The train goes directly from Shinjuku Station in central Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto Station (a 1,5-hour train ride). From the train, you can see Mt. Fuji on a clear day.
The Odakyu Line goes directly from Shinjuku Station in central Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto Station in Hakone. You can either take the convenient direct Romance Car (1,5-hour train ride, 2330 JPY = US$ 22) or the Kyuko regular express train (2 hours, 1220 JPY = US$ 12), where you have to transfer at Odawara Station to get to Hakone-Yumoto Station. This is, however, not covered by the JR Pass.
With A JR Pass
The JR-trains only go as far as to Odawara Station. If you have a JR Pass, you can take the Komada trains on the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Odawara Station in Hakone (35 min). These trains are fully covered by the JR Pass but not covered by the JR Tokyo Wide Area Pass, JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass, JR East Tohoku Area Pass, and JR East-South Hokkaido Pass.
Or you can take the local or rapid trains on the JR Tokaido Main Line (from Tokyo Station, Shimbashi Station, and Shinagawa Station) or JR Shonan Shinjuku Line (from Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station, and Ikebukuro Station).
From Odawara, you will have to use trains that are not JR (not covered by the JR Pass) and transfer to Hakone-Yumoto Station. However, the non-JR trains and buses are covered by the Hakone Free Pass, which I recommend.
The Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus takes you directly from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Lake Ashi in the middle of Hakone (2 hours). The bus departs every 30 min from Shinjuku Station and costs 2000 JPY = US$ 19 one way.
Odakyu bus company also runs direct buses from Haneda Airport to Hakone, costing 2300 JPY = US$ 22, and takes 2,5 hours.
Hakone Free Pass
Odakyu’s Hakone Free Pass is a discount pass for traveling to and within Hakone. It is a great deal and will save you a lot of money.
The Hakone Free Pass gives you unlimited use of Odakyu buses, trains, boats, cable cars, and ropeway in Hakone and discounted tickets on many tourist attractions in the area. You can buy the Hakone Free Pass at Odakyu stations and travel branches, and you can choose two or three-day passes. It also gives you discounted round trip from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Hakone.
The 2-day pass cost 5700 JPY = US$ 54 from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo(including the roundtrip Tokyo – Hakone), while a 3-day pass cost 6100 JPY = US$ 57. If you buy it inside the Hakone area (for instance, at Odawara Station and use your JR Pass to get to Odawara), a 2-day pass costs 4600 JPY = US$ 43, and a 3-day pass costs 5000 JPY = US$ 47.
The other option is to book this guided Hakone tour from Tokyo, which includes the Romancecar train from Tokyo, the Hakone Ropeway trip, and the pirate cruise ship on Lake Ashinoko.
Fuji Hakone Pass
If you plan on combining Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes, you should consider buying the 3-day Fuji Hakone Pass, as we did. It is a good deal, and it saved us quite a bit of money.
The Fuji Hakone Pass gives you discounted round-trip travel from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Hakone/ Fuji Five Lakes, and unlimited free use of most transport (bus, train, cable car, ropeway, boat) in both Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes area. It costs 9780 JPY = US$ 92 including the round-trip from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Hakone, and 7180 JPY = US$ 67 from Odawara Station (without the roundtrip to Tokyo).
How To Get Around Hakone
Hakone area has a fantastic network of trains, buses, cable cars, ropeways, and boats, making Hakone an easy place to explore by public transport. In this itinerary, we take you on a circled trip around Hakone by five different means of transport – called the Hakone Round Course:
- Switchback train (Hakone Tozan Railway) from Odawara Station to Gora Station
- Cable Car from Gora Station to Sounzan Station
- Hakone Ropeway from Sounzan Station to Togendai Station
- Pirate Ship Sightseeing Boat across Lake Ashi (from Togendai Station to Hakone-machi port or Moto-Hakone port)
- Bus back to Odawara Station or Hakone-Yumoto Station, or on to Fuji Five Lakes as we did
If you don’t want to drag your luggage around on this circled trip through Hakone, you can deposit your bags with Hakone Baggage Delivery Service at Hakone-Yumoto Station. They will deliver your luggage to your hotel in the Hakone area.
You have to deposit it at the baggage office by 12:30 m, however, to get it delivered to your hotel within Hakone from 15:00/ 3 pm.
Vise versa, you can hand in your bags at your hotel by 10 am, and your luggage will be delivered at Hakone-Yumoto Station after 13:00/ 1 pm. If you have a Hakone Free Pass, you will get a discount.
Where To Stay In Hakone
Hakone has a wide range of hotels and accommodation options, and some of Japan’s best onsen ryokans/ traditional Japanese inns. The hotels and ryokans are surrounded by stunning serene nature with amazing mountain views, some can even brag about Mount Fuji view.
The hotels are, however, scattered around a pretty large area, and most are located around three areas: Hakone-Yumoto (the transit hub in Hakone with Hakone-Yumoto Station), Gora (with Gora Station), and Lake Ashi.
We chose to stay by Lake Ashi which is in the middle of Hakone (the first hotel in the list below).
Hakone Ashinoko Hanaori
We stayed at Hakone Ashinoko Hanaori hotel and wow, what a hotel! The hotel is located on the shore of Lake Ashi in the middle of Hakone, right next to Lake Ashi sightseeing ship port, and the top station of Hakone Ropeway (Togendai Station). This is also where buses arrive and depart from other places in Hakone and the Fuji Five Lakes area. The hotel is modern with lovely big rooms, comfortable beds, and private bathrooms. We even had a balcony and a great panorama view of Lake Ashi.
The hotel has a lovely onsen/ hot spring and an outdoor foot bath perfect for enjoying a cup of tea or coffee while taking in the lake view. Or you can go all in and book a room with your own private onsen. The dinner and breakfast were great too, with so much to choose from, both Japanese and Western dishes (buffet style).
You get to choose from a wide range of Yukatas (summer kimonos) to wear inside the hotel. This hotel is the perfect spa getaway, very relaxing, and right in the middle of Hakone. If you don’t want to take the Hakone ropeway up to the hotel, you can opt for the free shuttle bus from the train station.
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Hakone Yuyado Zen
If seeing Mount Fuji from your hotel room is on your bucket list, then you should consider staying at this hotel. This hotel is no. 1 on TripAdvisor, and for a good reason. The food (traditional Japanese kaiseki dinner with lots of small dishes) is amazing, and the hotel is beautifully nestled in the forest with a view of majestic Mt Fuji. And the outdoor private onsen/ hot spring bath is great too.
To get to the hotel, take the Hakone Ropeway to the Ubako Ropeway Station or take the bus to the Palace Hotel bus station, and the hotel staff will pick you up from there.
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Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort And Spa
The only large international hotel chain with a hotel in Hakone is Hyatt Regency Hotel. The hotel is modern with large comfortable rooms, with private bathrooms, that all have a terrace or balcony from where you can enjoy the mountain view. Here you can have spa and massage treatments and try the two indoor onsen /hot spring baths. If you arrive by train or bus, you can get picked up by the free hotel shuttle bus from JR Odawara Station, or Gor Station.
You get free drinks during cocktail hour every evening (16:30 – 17:30) that you can enjoy in front of the fireplace or out on the balcony. In the evenings you can wind down in the restaurant with a dinner and a couple of drinks in the cozy bar.
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A traditional and authentic ryokan/ traditional Japanese inn where you stay in Japanese-style rooms and sleep on futon beds. The property is beautifully located next to a river, and this place has been a ryokan for over 130 years. You can walk to the hotel in about 10 min from Hakone-Yumoto Station.
The rooms have tatami flooring and you can choose between garden or river views. Only a few rooms have private bathrooms, but the common bathrooms are spotlessly clean. In the evening, you can soak in the public hot spring baths or book a private onsen, and have a delicious traditional kaiseki dinner with seasonal local dishes. Staying here is the ultimate and authentic ryokan experience, like stepping back in time.
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Emblem Flow Hakone
A little budget-gem of a hotel with a great location next to Gora Station in Hakone and within walking distance to Hakone open-air Museum. The cozy hipster-style rooms and common areas are fresh, stylish, and spacious. You can enjoy a small onsen/ hot spring and a restaurant. The TV in the rooms has Netflix, and the hotel has big family rooms that can house up to eight people. If you are looking for a cheap place to stay, you can opt for the bunk bed in the mixed dormitory room.
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