The Hakone province can be visited in just one day trip from Tokyo. However, it is best to reserve 2–3 days for the Hakone area. Enough time will allow you to experience the best of Hakone. While visiting the district, you should get a Hakone Free Pass, a ticket that allows you to travel through the region with all means of transport owned by Odakyu company.
Below you can find a plan for visiting the Hakone region in a nutshell, as well as a few practical tips and impressions from our stay in this area.
- >> THE BEST IN THE HAKONE — SEE WHY IT’S WORTH COMING HERE <<
- DAY ONE: ARRIVING FROM TOKYO, ODAWARA CASTLE AND RELAXING IN THE YUMOTO ONSENS
- DAY TWO: PEARLS OF HAKONE
- HAKONE TANZAN TRAIN — FIRST MOUNTAIN RAILWAY IN JAPAN
- HAKONE MOUNTAIN PARK — GARDEN WITH A VIEW OF THE MOUNTAINS
- HAKONE ROPEWAY — EXCITING AND (NON)SAFE JOURNEY OVER THE INTERIOR OF THE VOLCANO
- THE EXPERIENCE OF A VOLCANO IN AN OVEREATING OVEREAT
- CRUISING ON… A PIRATE SHIP ACROSS ASHI LAKE
- WALKING ALONG THE SHORE AND THE CEDAR FOREST IN MOTOHAKONE-KO
- DAY THREE: MYSTICAL JAPAN AND HAKONE KUZURYUY JINJA TEMPLE
- ROMANCECAR TRAIN FROM HAKONE TO TOKYO
- HOW TO GET TO THE HAKONE REGION — PRACTICAL INFORMATION
- HAKONE FREE PASS – HOW TO EXPLORE HAKONE?
- WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR LUGGAGE DURING YOUR VISIT IN THE HAKONE REGION?
- WHERE TO SLEEP WHILE VISITING HAKONE?
- >> IS IT WORTH TO VISIT HAKONE JAPAN? <<
DAY ONE: ARRIVING FROM TOKYO, ODAWARA CASTLE AND RELAXING IN THE YUMOTO ONSENS
We arrived from Tokyo around noon to be there after 75 minutes (using Romancecar Express). When the weather is good, you can already admire the Fuji Mountain from the train. We headed for the Odawara city. If you have a JRpass card you can get here by Shikansen, if not, you can come here by Odakyu, which offers 2 or 3 day Hakone Pass tickets.
Hakone Pass tickets offer unlimited journeys on many Odakyu routes through the Hakone region and entitle you to a discount for travelling from Tokyo. The ticket can be used to travel by train, bus, cable car or cruise ship.
Travelling from Tokyo by fast and scenic Romancecar train is paid additionally (1090 yen at the time of writing this post in 2019). You can buy Hakone Free Pass in Odakyu Sightseeing Service Centers among others at Shinjuku and Odawara stations (full list here)
We leaved our luggage after arriving in Odawara in the baggage storage room, and we went to the nearby Odawara Castle. After a quick tour of the castle we came back to the station, went off by the Hakone Tozan Train and 20 minutes later we were at the Hakone Yumoto Station. This is the last stop for Romancecar, so if you’re on the Odakyu line from Tokyo and don’t want to visit the castle, you can easily skip Odawara.
This picturesque village is located in a ravine of the Hayakawa River, surrounded by dense forests. In addition to beautiful views and numerous onsens, it also offers a shopping street with souvenir shops and numerous restaurants where you can try local specialties.
We got in a shuttle bus to the hotel (100 yen), although initially we had an idea to cover this kilometer (0,6 miles) on foot, but after seeing narrow roads without sidewalks, numerous twists and steep approaches, we were glad that this time our laziness has won. We stayed overnight at Okada Hotel, which delighted us with two types of onsens, as well as a private onsen in the bathroom on our balcony, so we could enjoy the attractions of the region also in the evening, when the girls went to sleep.
DAY TWO: PEARLS OF HAKONE
In early morning we were using onsens (that were open at 6 AM!), then we left the hotel with heavy hearts but also a great curiosity and went by a shuttle bus to the train station.
Today’s day is quite active, because there were 6 types of transport awaiting us: bus, train, railway, minibus, cable car, and ship).
In order to make sightseeing easier (or rather make it possible, because with luggage there would be no chance of it happening) we decided to use the baggage delivery service to move our belongings the next hotel. At the station we simply checked in our luggage for the next hotel, so the luggage was waiting for us in the room.
HAKONE TANZAN TRAIN — FIRST MOUNTAIN RAILWAY IN JAPAN
We got in the Hakone Tanzan Train and went to the mountain village of Gora. Hakone Tanzan is the oldest (there are only 3 such trains in Japan!) mountain railway in Japan, which provides a strong, not only aesthetic experience. The train runs up the mountainous, very steep, path at a height of 14 meters (46 ft.) above the ground level. Hakone Yumoto is located at 69 m (226 ft.) above sea level, and the last station is Gora at 541 m (1775 ft.) above sea level. Numerous serpentines, bridges and tunnels are the regular attractions you can find on this route. Along the track are blooming thousands of colorful hydrangeas (we were here in May, which is the beginning of the flowering season). You can also imagine how beautiful autumn looks in here, when intense green transforms smoothly into yellow, red and brown.
HAKONE MOUNTAIN PARK — GARDEN WITH A VIEW OF THE MOUNTAINS
In the Gora village we could go straight away, but we recommend going to a small, but nicely located Hakona Gora Park. Here you can find blooming roses, cherry blossoms and hydrangeas. There is also a delightful Japanese style garden and a lovely fountain.
After visiting the park and Mount Gora we went further, this time by Hakone Tozan Cable Car. It wouldn’t be possible to take a regular train on such a steep slope. From this moment, there’s even more crowd in the car than before. The doors at the stations open on two sides, so the train also serves as a transfer from one side to the other for the people living in the mountain villages.
HAKONE ROPEWAY — EXCITING AND (NON)SAFE JOURNEY OVER THE INTERIOR OF THE VOLCANO
From this moment we needed to transfer to the Sounzan station to the Hakone Ropeway cable car, which unfortunately was closed during our visit due to the high concentration of dangerous gases. At first, we regretted it a little, because we haven’t had the opportunity to admire the most spectacular views in the Great Boiling Valley, but after a while (when we’ve educated ourselves more and visited the Geological Museum at the top) we knew that car communication is much smarter solution for traveling with children.
The railway route leads directly to the bottom of the valley, which used to be called “the eternal hell” (130 meters — 427 ft. above the ground). You can observe the activity of the volcano from above while driving over the valley: the view of boiling and white, glassy water. Because of the fumes emitted at this point, it may be dangerous, and therefore the line is closed periodically when the indicators exceed the permitted standards.
Additionally, each carriage is equipped with a rescue kit in the form of oxygen masks, as well as wet towels. The line is shouldn’t be used by people with asthma, lung, heart or bronchial diseases, in poor physical condition, as well as pregnant women, newborns, infants and the elderly.
The Odakyu railway line provided a substitute transport, and the bus route along the serpentines and mountain roads among the intensively green forests gave us a lot of excitement, and additionally were a safer option. Along the way we could see the contrast between green, dense forests and areas of “burning forests”. At first, I thought it was a fire, and only in the museum did I realize that it was just a volcanic activity.
THE EXPERIENCE OF A VOLCANO IN AN OVEREATING OVEREAT
After a few dozen minutes we reached the Owakudani Valley. Here, on the one hand, you can admire the Ashi Lake emerging from behind the mountains, and on the other hand, the sharp mountain ridges, from which the volcanic fumes are coming out! It provides both aesthetic and fragrance impressions. It is here, in hot springs, that the famous cooked, which we couldn’t give up eating.
In the Owakudani valley, besides souvenir shops black eggs are and stalls offering various delicacies, is located The Hakone GeoMuseum, which allows you to learn more about the volcanoes activity.
It is worthwhile to wander around the area and see a steam coming out of the ground. If the weather and geological situation allows it, you can go trekking in the mountains. In our case, this was not possible because of the dangerous characteristic of this area.
After visiting the valley we headed to the Hakone Ropeway gondola railway station, where we went downhill for 20 minutes to Ashi Lake. It is completely safe this time because the route leads simply over a beautiful green forest.
CRUISING ON… A PIRATE SHIP ACROSS ASHI LAKE
On the shore, in the Togendai port, there are cruise ships waiting for us, which take us on a scenic cruise on a mountain lake. They are actually used to transport us to one of the most magical places we visited in Japan — Motohakone-ko. The ship stops in two places, apart from the Motohakone, you can also stop in Hakonachi-ko.
After seeing the huge queue to the ship we decided to buy access to the first class cabin. Ship cruise in second class is included in the price of Hakone Free Pass (first class has discount for pass holders).
During the cruise you can see the Fuji volcano. Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed due to poor weather and high cloudiness. If you travel to Hakone from November to February early in the morning, when the air is clean and the surface of the water is still, you can see the Fuji Mountain reflecting on the surface of the lake.
WALKING ALONG THE SHORE AND THE CEDAR FOREST IN MOTOHAKONE-KO
In Motohakone-ko we went for a short walk along the shore. We entered the forest to see the Tori Gate, sunk into the water. We continued through the cedar forest to the Hotel de Yama. Along the way we pass dozens, if not hundreds, of stone and wooden lanterns. We promise ourselves that we will come here after the dark to enjoy even more the peace and mildness of this place.
We reach the Odakyu Hotel de Yama with a beautiful azalea garden and a view of Fuji. We’ve had the opportunity to admire the hotel from the deck of the ship. We decided to go sightseeing for the next day. Today, after a full day of touring as befits a stay in the Hakone region, we went to Onsen.
If someone doesn’t have time to do so, he can end his trip around the region and take a bus from Morohakone-ko to return to Hakone Yumoto, and from there by train to Tokyo.
DAY THREE: MYSTICAL JAPAN AND HAKONE KUZURYUY JINJA TEMPLE
After morning relaxation in onsens and having breakfast, we went to the hotel’s park. It is here, on the area of 130 thousand square meters (32 acres), that 3.000 azalea shrubs grow. A festival of colors and different varieties is a real feast for lovers of photography and beautiful flowers.
When the visibility is good you can see from here a silvery Fuji with a white snow cap, blue waters of the volcanic Ashi Lake and colorful flowers of Azalea. Rhododendrons and azaleas bloom here in May, and from mid-June to early July you can also admire the flowering roses.
Similarly to the previous day, we used the service of transporting luggage, we picked it up at Odawara Station, so we could walk to the bus station in Motohakone and enjoy the charm of the area in peace. Especially since there’s many things to see.
Once again we went through the cedar forest to the Tori gate immersed in the lake. There are many people willing to take pictures of themselves in this place, so there is a long queue formed having its end on the street. Then we climb the stone stairs to the Hakone Kuzuryu Jinja temple. The peace and quiet of this place is disturbed by drizzle, which adds an atmosphere of mystery to the place, but is a problem for people traveling with children.
We quickly went to the station, passing by the water equipment rental companies. The day before we planned to go riding on the lake on a water bike in the shape of a yellow swan (our daughter’s dream). However, due to the weather, we had to give up this attraction. We got in a bus to Hakonemachi-ko, where the museum is located. Unfortunately, after we arrived to the town, a strong wind broke up, the rain was falling down, and our girls refused to continue sightseeing. Instead of a museum we went to the restaurant for the best ramen we had in Japan!
ROMANCECAR TRAIN FROM HAKONE TO TOKYO
The last point of the journey is a bus ride to Hakone Yumoto Station, where the luggage is waiting for us. From here we got in a Romancecar to Tokyo Shinjuku! Thanks to this sightseeing train of a higher standard than usual, we reached the capital of Japan in 75 minutes.
HOW TO GET TO THE HAKONE REGION — PRACTICAL INFORMATION
If you do not have a JR Pass or want to take advantage of another option, consider connecting Odakyu line, which will take you directly to Hakone-Yumoto without having to change at Odawara. You can buy a Hakone Free Pass from Shinjuku Station, so you can get here from Tokyo using a single ticket and travel around the region.
The most time effective option is going by Romancecar from Tokyo Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto station, when you will be charged an express fee for Hakone Free Pass. Romancecar allows you to travel comfortably by a sightseeing train that reaches the destination in 75 minutes instead of 120. It has fold-out, booked seats that can be rotated 180 degrees (e.g. if there is four of you and you want to be in “your” company), wifi, or luggage storage room and comfortable bathrooms.
HAKONE FREE PASS – HOW TO EXPLORE HAKONE?
The best and the most cost effective option in terms of exploring the region is buying Hakone Free Pass. It is a 2 or 3-day ticket that allows you to travel through the region by various means of transport: bus, train, cable, track and ship on the Ashi Lake. The price of Hakone Free Pass includes unlimited transports by:
- Hakone Tozan Train — mountain railway in Japan from Hakone-yumoto station to Gora station
- Hakone Tozan Cable Car — cable car from Goda station to Sounzan station
- Hakone Ropeway — four-station: Sounzan Station, Owakudani Station, Ubako Station, Togendai Station
* The route between Sounzan Station and Owakudani Station may be closed due to high concentrations of volcanic gases.
- Hakone scenic cruise between the ports of Togendai-ko, Hakonemachi-ko and Motohakone-ko
- Hakone Tozan Bus — the whole Hakone area e.g. possibility to reach Hakone-ko and Hakone-Yumoto from Motohakone-ko to Hakone-Yumoto from the above stations
Additionally, the ticket offers free admission or discounts for some attractions. Thanks to this you can freely and without any stress visit the attractions of Hakone area.
The Hakone Free Pass does not include the Romancecar train from Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto. An additional ticket must be purchased.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR LUGGAGE DURING YOUR VISIT IN THE HAKONE REGION?
Odakyu also offer baggage services. Depending on the option selected and the baggage check-in station, you can choose to store your baggage at the station or transfer it from the station to the hotel, from the hotel to the hotel, from the hotel to the station or to Narita and Haneda airports.
We used the services of Hakone-Yumoto station. Thanks to their service we delivered the luggage to the accommodation and back to the railway station. Please note the availability hours of the service (at Hakone Yumoto until 12.30 PM, at the hotel until 10.00 AM).
WHERE TO SLEEP WHILE VISITING HAKONE?
The Hakone area abounds in many accommodation facilities of various standards. In our opinion, it is worth to consider not only the price, but also the onsens availability. In a region such as Hakone, it’s even a must to fully experience this place.
To take the full advantage of our journey, the first night should be spent in Hakone Yumoto and the second night in Motohakone-ko. We spent the night in Hakone Yumoto at the Okada Hotel. In the Motohakone-ko area we had the opportunity to spend the night at the Hotel de Yama. We will soon describe them in our blog, and in the meantime we will link them at booking.com.
This post was created in cooperation to Odakyu Express Groups, which offers Hakone Freepass allowing multi-type communication in the Hakone region, free entrance to many attractions and much more.