Japan City Guides: Hakone Guide
Hakone is a mountainous area in Kanagawa Prefecture about 80km (50 miles) southwest of Tokyo on the Tomei Expressway, just north of the Izu Peninsula, in the 121,850 hectare Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Historically it was a rest and relaxation area for those making the journey between Kyoto (seat of the imperial Court) and Tokyo (seat of the Shogun). To this day it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Kanto region.
Mt Fuji from Hakone
Hakone lies within the vast crater of an extinct volcano in a mountain range that features Mount Fuji, offering fine views of Fuji-san, Lake Ashi, and numerous hot springs.
The town of Gora in Hakone is the closest Hakone has to a center. Gora connects to Togendai, the town by Lake Ashi, by means of the Hakone Tozan Cablecar to Sounzan, and then by the Hakone Ropeway to Togendai. The Owakudani ropeway stop is famous for thermal activity, including trademark eggs boiled in a thermal pool.
From the lakeside ropeway terminal station, Togendai, gaily painted pirate ships ply Lake Ashi between Togendai and the towns at the lake's southern end, Moto-hakone and Hakone-machi.
Halfway down Lake Ashi is Hakone-en, the first station of Hakone's other ropeway, the Komagatake Ropeway, which goes up to the 1,327m Komagatake Peak. Like Owakudani on the Hakone Ropeway, it is very thermal, and also sells hot pool boiled eggs - also said to prolong life by seven years!
Besides Mt. Komagatake, the other two mountains within the area are Mt. Kamiyama (1,438m), and Mt. Futago (1,091m), the slopes of all three being covered with thermal hot spots.
Hakone Open-Air Museum
Two stops before Gora on the Hakone Tozan Railway line, at Kowakidani, is the Hakone Open-Air Museum: one of Hakone's must-sees. It features, among others, the huge sculptures of the British sculptor Henry Moore, and has its own dedicated Picasso Museum.
Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands
These gardens, known in Japanese as the Hakone Shisseikaen, are open only between March 20 and November 30. They are highly recommended for their superbly laid out, prolific displays of the flora that characterizes Hakone, allowing the visitor access to landscapes normally inaccessible. More about Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands
Three stops before Gora on the Hakone Tozan line, at Miyanoshita, is Hakone's grandest accommodation: the Fujiya Hotel. This elegant aged hotel has hosted innumerable foreign dignitaries and celebrities since its opening in 1878.
Green Tea Spa, Yunessun Onsen, Hakone, Japan
The God's Aegean Sea, Yunessun Onsen Resort, Hakone, Japan
Pola Museum of Art
A little west of Gora, is the Pola Museum of Art, a gallery run by the Pola cosmetics company. Stylishly implanted into the surrounding scenery, it boasts some seriously great works of art, including Monet's Waterlilies, lots of Renoir and special exhibitions featuring major artists and artistic movements.
Hakone has a number of large-scale resorts including Hakone Kowakien Yunessun - a hot spring spa and water amusement park. The Hakone Kowakien Yunessun is divided into two separate areas - the Yunessun Spa Resort, where patrons where swimsuits and can enjoy the water slides and the more traditional Mori No Yu onsen experience. Mio Mall at the resort showcases and sells local products.
Some of the fun activities at Yunessun Spa Resort include a sake bath with real Japanese sake, a green tea spa, a wine spa and a coffee spa. There is a bath to resemble a bath house in ancient Rome and the The God's Aegean Sea.
Wine Spa, Yunessun Onsen Resort, Hakone, Japan
The map of Hakone is dotted with museums, halls and gardens offering something for everyone. Here is a list based on art, crafts, history and nature as a starting point for itinerary planning.
Lake Ashinoko, Hakone
Eating hot spring eggs, Owakudani
Hakone has a wide range of accommodation on offer with many of the ryokan and hotels having their own onsen hot spring baths. Recommended places to stay in Hakone include the Hakone Hotel Kowakien, the Marroad Hakone Hotel, Lalaca, the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa and the nearby Hotel Green Plaza Gora.
Togendai Station, Hakone Ropeway
From Tokyo: a regular (futsuu) train takes about 90 minutes from JR Tokyo station to Odawara on the Tokaido line, and the fare is about 1500 yen, departing every 15-30 minutes.
The bullet train from Tokyo station takes about 40 minutes and costs just over 3000 yen.
From Odawara change to the Hakone-Tozan line to Hakone-Yumoto.
From Shinjuku Station, the cheapest way to go is on the Odakyu line (under the big Odakyu Department Store on the west side of Shinjuku Station). For 850 yen take the Odawara line limited express (kaisoku kyuuko) bound for Fujisawa, then change trains after about 30 minutes at Sagami-ohno to the express (kyuuko) bound for Hakone Yumoto and alight at Hakone-Yumoto. It takes about 1 hour 50 minutes in total.
Odakyu offers what is called the 'Hakone Freepass' (actually 5,500 yen for adults - 4,700 on weekdays) that, as well as covering your return trip to Hakone, gives you unlimited access for three days to seven types of transportation in Hakone and discounts at a huge number of shops and facilities. More than pays for itself if you are spending more than a day moving around Hakone.
Odakyu also runs a bus service from Shinjuku Station. It takes just under two hours and a half to Hakone-machi and costs around 2000 yen one-way. There are buses and bus tours to Hakone from many other cities in Japan including Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Shizuoka and Yokohama.
Hakone Tourist Information Service
Tel: 0460 5 8911
Hakone Yumoto Station Odakyu Line