Hakone is one of the most frequented places in Japan. Only less than 100kms from Tokyo and about 2hours by train, locals and international tourists can enjoy fresh air and country view any time of the year. It is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and is famous for its hot springs and panoramic view of Mt. Fuji. It is my favorite nature trip in Japan – quick, easy and fascinating all throughout.
Most people who travel by public transit opt for the Odakyu Hakone Free Pass to get around Hakone. It includes a round trip ticket from Shinjuku and unlimited use of the modes of transportation, namely: Hakone-Tozan Line, Hakone-Tozan Cablecar, Hakone Ropeway, Hakone Sightseeing Ships and Hakone Tozan Bus. The 2-day Pass costs ¥5,140 from Shinjuku and can be purchased at Odakyu Travel Center located in the same station. From Odawara, it costs ¥4,000. Simply pay an extra ¥500 for a 3-day Pass. For those with JR Pass, purchasing the Hakone Free Pass from Odawara can already use it to ride the Hakone-Tozan Line to get to Hakone.
1 – Shinjuku Station
The cheapest way to get to Hakone is through Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station + Hakone Tozan Line at Odawara Station which costs ¥1,190 and takes 115mins. If you take the early morning trains, you may even get there a few minutes less.
The fastest and most convenient train on the Odakyu Line is Hakone Limited Express, also called ‘Romancecar’. It takes 85mins and costs ¥2,080.
And for those with Japan Rail Pass and JR East Rail Pass, you may get to Odawara Station from any point in Tokyo through JR Line using your pass, and pay for the Hakone Tozan Line.
2 – Hakone-Yumoto Station
Exit the station and head to the bus bay area and wait for Hakone Tozan Bus (H route). The ride to Motohakone-ko is about 40mins long. This service operates 4x an hour on 15-minute intervals.
3 – Motohakone-ko
Hakone Shrine (5mins on foot in the direction of the archway)
Located on the south shore of Lake Ashi, close to Moto-Hakone, is a Shinto shrine with torii gates in water.
Ancient Cedar Avenue (10mins on foot opposite the Hakone Shrine )
The Edo Shogunate ordered the planting of cedar trees along the old Tokaido highway in 1618. The main mode of travel then was on foot and the cedar trees provided welcome comfort for travelers from the hot sun of summer and the snow of winter. There are still 2kms of this large cedar avenue remaining today.
Hakone Checkpoint/ Hakone Exhibition Hall (5mins on foot)
A reproduction which uses realistic mannequins to show what it was like at the checkpoints which existed throughout Japan during the Edo era. Admission fee required.
Note: If you are skipping the Ancient Cedar Avenue Walk and the Exhibition Hall, you may board the Sightseeing Cruise (Pirate Ship) from this port. Or get off at the next bus stop, Hakonemachi-ko (4) and board the ship from there. Check Cruise Schedule.
4 – Hakonemachi-ko
Lake Ashi (Ashinoko)
The volcanic eruption of Mt. Hakone in prehistoric times formed a lake with a circumsference of 19kms. On clear days, visitors can admire views of Mt. Fuji on the other side of the lake from the Hakonemachi-ko and Motohakone-ko areas. Mt. Komagatake, Hakone’s highest mountain can be viewed while on cruise. The red torii (temple gate) of Hakone-jinja shrine standing in the waters of Lake Ashi can also be seen.
Board the Sightseeing Cruise (Pirate ship) to Togendai-ko (40mins). You can enjoy the cruise in a deluxe suite for an extra ¥500 payment. Check Cruise Schedule.
5 – Togendai-ko
The end point of the cruise. Get off and hop on the Hakone Ropeway. This service operates at approximately 1-minute intervals. Did you know that Hokone Ropeway is in the Guinness Book of World Records? It is the ‘Busiest Gondola Lift in the World’ for carrying the most fare paying passengers.
The views from the ropeway are spectacular! On clear days, you can enjoy a view of the majestic Mount Fuji. It takes 20 minutes to get to Owakudani.
6 – Owakudani
Owakudani, or “Hell Valley” in English is the area around a crater that was formed by the eruption of Mount Hakone some time before Christ (3000 years ago). Much of the area now is an active volcanic zone with sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers. A number of steam vents and bubbling pools can be seen along the 10-minute walking trail from the ropeway station to the volcanic zone. Never forget to eat the special black eggs: cooked in the naturally hot water; the shells are blackened by the sulfur. Eating them is said to prolong one’s life by seven years. Five eggs cost ¥500.
Head back to the station and ride the Hakone Ropeway to Sounzan, which is 10mins away.
7 – Sounzan
Get on the Hakone Tozan Cablecar to Gora which is 10mins away.
8 – Gora
There are lots of souvenir shops and restaurants here. The tofu-based cuisine called ‘Tofu Katsu-ni’ at Tamura Ginkatsu-tei is popular among visitors.
Get on the Hakone Tozan Train to head back to Hakone-Yumoto, which takes 40 minutes. But before going straight back, and if you still have time, get off at Chokoku-no-mori and visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. It is just 3 minutes on foot from the station. The Museum is open year round from 9am – 5pm. Admission is permitted until 30 minutes prior to closing. (I will post more on this next time.)
9 – Hakone-Yumoto
The last part of the circuit and we’re back from where we started. Haven’t found any souvenir item that interested you at Gora Station? You can still do some shopping here.
In getting back to Shinjuku, simply retrace your route in number 1 above.
10 – Back to Shinjuku
Someday, I’ll try the reverse of this route following Odakyu’s Hakone Sightseeing itinerary.