There are a number of popular attractions in Hakone. Many people go there specifically for the onsen (hot springs) and the town has some fascinating points of cultural interest too, including the Hakone Shrine and the Hakone Open Air Museum.
Tokyo to Hakone
Hakone is set in the beautiful, mountainous Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and it is easy to get there. There are two lines you can take from Tokyo: the Tokaido Shinkansen line and the Odakyu line.
From Tokyo Station, you can take a bullet train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line to Odawara Station, which is included in the JR Pass. From Odawara you then take the Hakone Tozan train and get off at Hakone-Itabashi Station, the final destination stop.
The full trip normally takes a little less than two hours. The second part of the journey (from Odawara) is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass so it is necessary to buy a separate ticket.
Alternatively, the Odakyu line runs between Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station and Hakone-Yumoto Station. There is an express train which takes around 85 minutes or a slower, cheaper train which takes around two hours (you change at Odawara Station).
Another option is to buy a Hakone Free Pass. It includes the return journey from Tokyo to Hakone as well as unlimited use of certain trains, cable cars, ropeways, boats, and buses, around the Hakone area.
Finally, the Odakyu Hakone highway bus company also offers direct highway buses from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Lake Ashi area in Hakone. A single trip ticket costs around 2000 yen and travel time, if the traffic is good, is roughly two hours.
Kyoto to Hakone
If you come from west or central Japan, you should travel first to Kyoto Station or Nagoya Station. From there, take the Tokaido Shinkansen line (included in your JR Pass) to either Mishima, Atami, or Odawara Station. From Mishima you can get to Lake Ashi on the Numazu Tozan Tokai bus.
From Atami Station, you can also get to Lake Ashi, on the Izuhakone bus. From Odawara, you can take the Hakone Tozan railway to Hakone-Yumoto Station. Whichever route you take the journey time is normally a little over three hours.
Getting around Hakone
Around the Hakone area there is an efficient network of buses, trains, cable cars, ropeways and boats. It is a well-connected, practical location to explore by public transport.
A popular way of seeing Hakone is by circling the area using five different types of transport, the route is known as the Hakone Round Course.
What to see in Hakone
Hakone is a popular, beautiful destination with more to offer visitors than just great views of Mount Fuji. Here are just a few of the highlights which you can see:
The Hakone Shrine is a breathtaking sight. Its current form dates back to 1667 and, according to legend, it was the place where Priest Mangan pacified a nine-headed dragon. It stands at the foot of Mount Hakone and on the shores of Lake Ashi. A path leads you from the lake into the dense forest to the mystical shrine.
The main building is dedicated to Ninigi no Mikoto (the grandson of Amaterasu, the sun goddess), Ko no Hana (flower princess), as well as Hoori no Mikoto (the son of the other two, and the ancestor of the first emperors). Between them they symbolize the sun, flowers, and tradition.
The Hakone Ropeway treats visitors to some jaw-dropping views. It runs at one-minute intervals and takes around 30 minutes. It runs from Sounzan Station to Togendai Station and hugs the shore of Lake Ashi. It is part of the Hakone Round Course and each cable car takes about ten people.
Along the journey, you can see stunning views of the scenic, blue waters of Lake Ashi, the rising, volcanic smoke of Owakudani, and the sulfuric hot springs of the Owakudani Valley. The ropeway is covered by the Hakone Free Pass.
Hakone Open Air Museum
The impressive collection of 19th and 20th-century Japanese and Western sculptures is a must-see. The incredible display of artworks includes pieces by Picasso, Henry Moore, Taro Okamoto, Yasuo Mizui, and many others.
There are 120 permanent sculptures on display through the entire collection features over 1,000. It is a fun, family-friendly exhibition which is made even more special by the surrounding mountains. Kids love the giant crochet playground.
Onsens in Hakone
Hakone has been a popular place for hot spring resorts for centuries. There are more than a dozen springs which provide naturally-hot water to the numerous bathhouses in the area. Staying guests can normally use the baths for free, daytime visitors can also use the onsen for a charge.
There are around 20 hot spring resorts and each has its own unique features and medicinal qualities. They are perfect for those wanting to escape from the hustle-and-bustle of Tokyo.