Located at the foot of marvellous Mount Fuji, Hakone is a place famous for its natural hot springs and a magnificent view of the calm Lake Ashi. It is often a top destination among the Japanese in Tokyo to drop by here for a short trip or an onsen bath. Also, this is a great place to have the full view of Mount Fuji, either from the land or from the water.
Travel to Hakone is a breeze by the Odakyu Limited Express “Romance Car”. It is just a merely 85 minutes away from Shinjuku on Romance Car. However, there is a need to top up ¥ 890 (one way) from the normal ticket and seat reservations are required on the “Romance Car” limited express train.
Alternative travel options:
- Express train (1 hour 35 mins.)
- Regular train on Odakyu Line (2 hours 14 mins.)
- Odakyu Highway Bus (2 hours 30 mins.)
If you are planning to travel to Hakone, I suggest you to get a Hakone Free Pass, a special sightseeing pass that includes not only the return transportation between Hakone and Shinjuku, but also unlimited ride on transportation such as trains, buses, cable car, sightseeing cruise and ropeway in Hakone area.
Hakone Free Pass
Cost: ¥ 5,140 (2-day pass), ¥5,640 (3-day pass)
It may look expensive at the first glance, but it saves quite a lot compared to paying for each mode of transportation separately. You may purchase the Hakone Free Pass from Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center at Odakyu Line Shinjuku Station West Exit, or the Tourist Information Center in Shinjuku Station. This pass also enables you to get some discount from certain facilities. Simply present this pass at hot spring resorts and souvenir shops.
Now, I will share some activities or things you can do in Hakone.
1. Make a pit stop at Odawara
Odawara is a city in western Kanagawa Prefecture, located along the Odakyu Line moving towards Hakone. There is an elegant castle surrounded by a beautiful park that is worth to stop by.
Odawara Castle was built around mid-15th Century. It was demolished during the war and also destroyed by an earthquake. The structure seen today is a rebuilt in 1960 based on the drawings from Edo Period. It is best to come here during spring as the castle is a famous spot for cherry blossom viewing.
Getting Here: 10 minutes’ walk from Odawara Station’s East Exit, along Ohoribata Street
Opening Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
Fee: ¥ 500 (castle keep), ¥ 300 (museum only), ¥ 300 (castle keep and museum)
2. Ride on the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani
Hakone Ropeway connects the Sounzan Station (at Hakone Tozan Cablecar’s terminal) to the Togendai Station (at the shore of Lake Ashi). It stops at Owakudani Station and Ubako Station along the journey. During the ride, you may able to get the view of the Owakudani Valley, Lake Ashi and if you are lucky, you will be able to see Mount Fuji from here!
The ropeway opens all year round, except for maintenance.
Admission Fee: ¥730 onwards; cost covered by Hakone Free Pass
3. Eat the black egg in Owakudani
Owakudani is a popular tourist site for scenic views and volcanic activity. The area around the crater was created due to the eruption of Mount Hakone thousands of years ago. This place is also very famous for its local specialty – the black egg (kuro tamago). It is cooked in the natural hot spring water and the shell is blackened by the sulphur. It is said that the black egg will prolong one’s life by seven years!
Getting here: Owakudani is accessible through the Owakudani Station along the Hakone Ropeway.
Sounzan is accessible from Hakone Tozan Railway and cable car with a transfer at Gora Station.
Togendai is on the shores of Lake Ashinoko and connected by boat with Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi.
4. Eat other black colour food in Owakudani
Not just the black egg, but the ramen and ice cream are black too!
5. Take the sightseeing cruise and sail along Lake Ashi
Lake Ashi is another well-known attraction in the Mount Hakone area, formed by a volcanic eruption. You could enjoy a picturesque view of both lake and Mount Fuji on the cruise ride here. The journey takes about 40 minutes from one end of the lake to the other end.
Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
Opening Hours: 9.30 AM – 4 PM or 4.30 PM
Fee: ￥1000; cost covered by Hakone Free Pass
6. Pray at Hakone Shrine
Also known as Hakone Jinja, this place is a shrine at the foot of Mount Hakone, along the shores of Lake Ashi. Its torii gate stood spectacularly on Lake Ashi, as though it is floating on the water, making it very insta-worthy.
There are cedar trees lined along both sides of the path that leads towards the shrine, creating a holy atmosphere in the shrine.
There is this special 9 headed dragon purification basin in the shrine with holy water coming right out from each of the dragon head. People usually wash their hand and fill water into their bottles.
Over here there is also a famous Baby Wishing Tree, a sacred tree with a belief that woman who touches the tree will become pregnant. People come here to wish for pregnancy and pray for safe childbirth. Do wash your hand at the 9 headed dragon water basin before touching the tree.
- Hakone Shrine is about 5-minute walk from Moto-Hakone boat pier, which can be reached by boat.
- About 35 minutes from Hakone-Yumoto Station by Hakone Tozan bus (H Line), and alight at Motohakone-ko bus stop.
In Part 2 of my article, I will continue introducing nearby attractions that you could explore and things you could do in Hakone. So stay tuned!