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.
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 is the best known of Hakone's 17 hot spring resorts, and was created, specifically as a hot spring resort, at the start of the 20th century. Gora's fame rests mainly on its five different kinds of natural hot spring water, which are said to cater to all preferences. Gora hotels are very popular, so be sure to book early.
Getting to GoraOdawara is a stop on the JR Todaido shinkansen line, and the gateway to Hakone. From Odawara, Odakyu Line trains go as far as Hakone-Yumoto. The Hakone Tozan Train then goes the 40 minutes to Gora. Riding this train is especially popular in June when the tracks are lined with blooming hydrangeas.
Gora to Lake Ashi
Gora connects to lake Lake Ashi by cable car and ropeway.
The Hakone Tozan Cable Car links Gora to Sounzan, 1.2km further west towards Lake Ashi. At Sounzan, you change to the Hakone Ropeway, which goes 1.2km to Owakudani, a thermal area 281 meters above the lake. Owakudani is famous for its natural boiling pools where eggs are boiled, and eating them is said to prolong life by seven years! The next ropeway stop is Ubako, then a further 1.6km to Togendai, the terminal station by the northern part of Lake Ashi. Hakone Ropeway hours: 9am-5pm.
The Komagatake Ropeway is a separate ropeway which starts from Hakone-en, about 15 minutes' drive down the eastern shore of Lake Ashi from Togendai. From Hakone-en, by the lake, the ropeway goes 1.8km, and up 590 meters, to the top of Mt. Komagatake. Komagatake Ropeway hours: 9am-4.30pm.
On Lake Ashi, gaily painted "pirate ships" ply the stretch between Togendai and the towns of Moto-hakone and Hakone-machi at Lake Ashi's southern end.
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
The Hakone Open-Air Museum is 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. The Museum is one stop before Gora Station on the Hakone Tozan Line, at Chokokunomori Station.
Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands
The Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, known in Japanese as the Hakone Shisseikaen, is open only between March 20 and November 30. It is highly recommended for its 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, 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.
Other Hakone Attractions - Museums
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.
The Pola Museum of Art is one of Hakone's most impressive museums, with cutting edge architecture, largely underground, and housing thousands of works of mainly French Impressionist and École de Paris painters, but also by Léonard Foujita, Pablo Picasso and Yasushi Sugiyama. Includes a restaurant and a nature trail on the grounds.
9am-4.30pm 365 days a year. 1,800 yen for adults. Just off Route 138.
1285 Kozukayama, Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 250-0631
Near the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum.
Hakone Mononofu no Sato Art Museum is a museum of samurai armor spanning the Muromachi to Edo eras, with usually about 300 items of the over 1,000-piece collection on display. Includes rare armor for women, too, and Spanish armor imported hundreds of years ago. Has an armor wearing corner for visitors (costs extra).
April-November: 11am-4.30pm (every day); December-March: 10am-3.30pm (closed Wednesday & Thursday, but open if those days fall on a public holiday). 800 yen for adults.
817-580 Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 〒250-0631
Nearby the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, the Hakone Lalique Museum, and the Museum of Saint-Exupery and The Little Prince in Hakone, the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum, and somewhat near the Pola Museum of Art.
The Lalique Museum Hakone has over 1,500 works of glass art and jewelry by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco French artist, Rene Lalique (1860-1945).
9am-4.30pm 365 days a year. 1,500 yen for adults.
186-1 Sengokuhara, Hakonemachi, Ashigara Shimo-gun, Kanagawa 250-0631
Nearby the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, the Hakone Mononofu no Sato Art Museum, and the Museum of the Little Prince in Hakone.
The Museum of Saint-Exupery and The Little Prince in Hakone is a recreated French village and a museum dedicated to the author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-44),and his literary creation, The Little Prince. Includes a cinema and restaurant.
9am-5pm 365 days a year. 1,600 yen for adults.
909 Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 250-0631
Nearby the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, the Hakone Mononofu no Sato Art Museum, the Lalique Museum Hakone, and the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum.
The Hakone Venetian Glass Museum (AKA Hakone Garasu-no-mori Museum) displays over 100 pieces of crafted Venetian glassware.
10am-5pm. 1,500 yen for adults. On Route 138.
940-48 Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 〒250-0631
A little south of the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, Hakone Mononofu no Sato Art Museum, Lalique Museum Hakone, Museum of Saint-Exupery and The Little Prince in Hakone, and the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum.
Hakone Art Museum is a ceramics museum founded in 1952 featuring Japanese pottery from ancient to modern times, and is in beautiful spacious wooded grounds.
April-November: 9.30am-4.30pm: December-March: 9.30am-4pm. Closed Thursday. Free entry.
1300 Gora, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 〒250-0408
Access from Koen-kami Station on the Hakone Ropeway.
Nearby Hakone Gora Park, Hakone Kowakien Yunessun and Hakone Open Air Museum.
The Hakone Open Air Museum is a "sculpture adventure playground" for adults and kids alike, with both indoor and outdoor exhibitions, and includes a hot spring footbath, a Picasso Pavilion, Henry Moore works, and much more.
9am-4.30pm, 365 days a year. 1,600 yen for adults.
1121 Ninotaira, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0493
Access from Chokokunomori Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway.
Nearby the Hakone Art Museum, Hakone Gora Park, and Hakone Kowakien Yunessun.
The Narukawa Art Museum is a small museum at the south-eastern end of Lake Hakone dedicated to nihonga (Japanese-style paintings) as well as finely crafted works, including carvings and sculpture, from China. The museum is on a hill, offering superb views of Hakone, and also has a cafe.
9am-5pm 365 days a year. 1,300 yen for adults. Conveniently located on Route 1.
570 Motohakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 〒250-0522
The Honma Parquetry Museum (Honma Yoseki Bijutsukan) is somewhat east of the main Hakone attractions area, and adjoins a traditional Hakone wooden mosaic work (parquetry) factory, and displays over over 500 pieces of finely wrought parquetry work from the Edo to the Showa eras. Hands-on experience offered. No video or photos allowed.
9am-5pm, 364 days a year (closed January 1). 500 yen for adults.
84 Yumoto, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture 〒250-0311
Access from Inuda Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway.
Near Hakone Town Office, the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History, and not too far from Odawara Castle
Accommodation in Hakone
Hakone has a wide range of accommodation on offer with many of the ryokan and hotels having their own onsen hot spring baths.
Hakone Guest House Samurai Oyado Shougun Onsen in Gora is a highly rated budget-conscious option near the Hakone Open Air Museum. In traditional Japanese style, with tatami rooms, it has shared bathrooms, garden and/or mountain views from many rooms, free parking, its own hot spring pools, and has a supermarket nearby.
Manatei Hakone is a superb mid-range hotel in Gora with its own private hot spring (no reservations required) that is exceptionally clean, has spacious rooms to lounge in, offers excellent food in private dining rooms,and really looks after its guests. Free Wi-Fi and parking.
Gora Tensui, right near Gora Station, is among the very best of Gora's hospitality establishments and combines impeccable taste in terms of interior design with sublime comfort. Gora Tensui is the place to enjoy Gora's thermal delights, with its hot rock sauna and private hot spring pools that look out over mountain views. The Japanese cuisine is exquisite and guests are made to feel completely at home. Gora at its finest.
See here for a listing of hotels in Hakone.
Access - how to get to Hakone
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