Japan City Guides: Hakone
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.
Pola Museum of Art
A little west of Gora is the Pola Museum of Art is 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.
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
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.
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 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
Book Hotel Accommodation in Hakone Japan