Things to do in Hakone
Things to do in Hakone
Tokyo may be the epicentre of all Japanese experiences, but nothing quite ripens one’s historical and cultural appreciation for all things Japanese like a day trip to charming Hakone – an idyllic town just an 80-minute train ride from Shinjuku station.
Even if your current holiday itinerary has city pit stops such as Kyoto and Osaka, from leveling up your onsen experience with a sake bath to extending your life with a legendary black egg, here are 12 Hakone experiences not to be missed on your next trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.
PSA: Expect Sakura blooms if you’re travelling in April or even during the winter months – the snow adds to Hakone’s already gorgeous aesthetic, with the nearby Mount Fuji looming majestically in the background wherever you go.
Getting to Hakone
The easiest way to get to Hakone from Tokyo is through Shinjuku station. We recommend picking up a Hakone Freepass (¥5,700, ~S$73.60) which can be purchased there or from any station on the Odakyu line. It is difficult to travel by taxi in Hakone because there aren’t many of them, so familiarising yourself with the public transport system will come in handy.
The 2-day Hakone Freepass gives you unlimited rides on any Odakyu-affiliated transport and free or discounted admission to most attractions. One of the trains that takes you from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto is called the Romancecar.
To ride the Odakyu Limited Express Romancecar, both a regular ticket (free with the Hakone Freepass) and a limited express ticket are required. The limited express ticket from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto is priced at ¥1,110 (~S$14.20) one-way so it requires an additional top-up.
Here’s our suggested itinerary for a day trip to Hakone:
Hakone Day Trip Itinerary
- 8AM: Shinjuku Station – Board the Odakyu Romancecar bound for Hakone-Yumoto
- 9.30AM: Hakone-Yumoto Station – Take the Hakone Tozan Bus bound for Hakone-machi-ko (H Line)
- 10.30AM: Take a 10-minute walk to Hakone-jinja Shrine
- 12PM: Take a 10-minute walk back to Motohakone-ko and board the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
- 1.30PM: Reach Togendai Station and take the Hakone Ropeway bound for Owakudani
- 2.30PM: Disembark at Owakudani Station
- 3.30PM: Board the Hakone Ropeway again bound for Sounzan. At Sounzan Station, board the Hakone Tozan Cable Car* bound for Gora.
- 4PM: Take a 5-minute walk to Hakone Gora Park or bus (or a 15-minute walk) to the Hakone Open Air Museum
- 5PM: Head back to Hakone-Yumoto Station to take the return train to Shinjuku.
*The Hakone Tozan Cable Car will resume operation on 20th March 2020.
We’ve created a GoogleTrip map which you can see here. Most travellers will take the train from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto – which is the train station located in Hakone town. They’ll start their sightseeing and eventually circle back to Hakone town to take the train back to Shinjuku.
This route is the most recommended way to explore Hakone as you get to tick off all the major sights including the Hakone Shrine, Lake Ashi and the volcanic Owakudani area along Hakone Ropeway.
If you’d like to extend your trip, you can follow our recommendations at the bottom of this article – stay at one of the onsen hotels at GORA or head over to the the GOTEMBA outlets for some shopping.
1. Hakone Town – Eat kamaboko
Hakone town serves as the hub that connects Hakone to the rest of Japan, set against a beautiful mountain backdrop. After alighting from the train station, you can visit one of the hot springs in the area, the souvenir shops, foot baths or try some of the street food the town is known for like Kamaboko (fish paste).
The view of the Haya River from Ajisai Bridge
When you’re on a day-trip, hours are limited so we recommend only exploring Hakone at the end of the day if time permits. Take the 35-minute bus ride at Hakone-Yumoto Station by Hakone Tozan Bus (Line H) to Moto-Hakone boat pier. It’s free if you have the Hakone Freepass or priced at ¥980 (~S$12.65) otherwise. Buses depart every 15 minutes.
2. Hakone-jinja Shrine – receive love blessings
We recommend checking Google maps during your commute so you know where to alight. After you arrive at Moto-Hakone boat pier, Hakone-jinja Shrine is a 5-minute walk away.
You’re going to pass two large wooden structures called Torii gates, which in Shintoism signifies that you’re entering a sacred area. Walk down to the Heiwa no Torii (Gate of Peace) that appears to be floating on the surface of Lake Ashi. Be prepared to wait about an hour for your turn to take a picture.
If you’d like to visit the main shrine, you can climb up the Seisando (path of pilgrimage) which is several hundred stone steps long. Hakone-Jinja was a popular shrine for samurai with its origins tracing back to the Nara period in AD 757. You’ll see lots of pine and cedar trees here which can’t grow in Tokyo. We were told that these trees are exceptionally popular for their straightness and height that represent honesty in Japanese culture.
Today, these sacred trees along with Lake Ashi make Hakone Shrine a spiritual hotspot for blessings in relationships. And that’s why you’ll see many couples from all over Japan coming here to take a picture at the Heiwa no Torii.
Address: 80-1 Motohakone, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0522, Japan
Treasure house (Homotsuden): Adults: ¥500 (~S$6.46), Students: ¥300 (~S$3.87)
Opening Hours: Main Shrine 9AM | Heiwa no Torii 24 hours
Directions: 35-minute bus ride at Hakone-Yumoto Station by Hakone Tozan Bus (bus line H) to Moto-Hakone boat pier
3. Board a pirate ship through the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
Walk back to Moto Hakone and board one of the three Hakone Sightseeing Cruise ships – the Royal II, Victory or Queen Ashinoko that’ll take you across Lake Ashi and straight to the Hakone Ropeway. Be sure to head to the Moto Hakone pier which is slightly further down. The Lake Ashi cruise pier is for boats run by Izuhakone, which are not covered under the Hakone Freepass.
Lake Ashinosko or Lake Ashi for short, was formed after Mount Hakone erupted about 3,000 years ago. The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise offers a lovely view of Lake Ashi and Mount Fuji, with the journey to the other side taking around 30 minutes.
Check the cruise schedule for the latest timings.
Address: 6-40 Motohakone, Hakone, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa 250-0522, Japan
Price: Free with the Hakone Freepass or ¥1050 (~S$13.56) otherwise, for the full cruise from opposite sides.
Opening Hours: 10AM-5PM. Cruises operate every half an hour but operating hours may differ based on the season.
4. Get the best view of Hakone on the Hakone Ropeway
After you depart at Togendai, you can walk right over to Hakone Ropeway. Togendai is the first of 4 stations belonging to this cable car-like ride more accurately called funitels. It’ll take you 24 minutes to go from this station to the last – Sounzan Station.
Hakone Ropeway ride cuts through the mountainous terrain while giving you a gorgeous view of Hakone from above including sights like Lake Ashi and Mount Fuji. We recommend skipping Ubako – the station you have to stop at is Owakudani.
Address: Togendai Station – 164 Moto-Hakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-prefecture
Price: Free with the Hakone Freepass, otherwise from ¥740 (~S$9.54) one way.
Opening Hours: 1st Feb – 30th Nov 9AM-5PM | 1st Dec – 31st Jan 9AM-4.15PM
5. Eat Japanese Curry amidst volcanic activity
You’ll be greeted by the volcanic fumes of sulphur as you approach Owakudani, an active volcanic area that dates back 3,000 years. You’ll also be able to visit an onsen here thanks to the natural hot springs, or grab a bowl of Japanese curry from Owakudani Station restaurant.
The smell of sulphur was a bit too intense for me and some advise wearing a mask if you’re sensitive.
6. Extend your life with a black egg
Grab a black egg also known as kurotamago from this shop while you’re at Owakudani station before continuing your journey to Sounzan station. Legend has it that these black eggs prolong your life for 7 years, but don’t report us for fake news if that doesn’t turn out true. These eggs get their colour after being boiled into sulphuric water and after you peel the shell away, they taste like your typical yummy hard-boiled egg.
Address: Owakudani Station – 1251 Sengokuhara, Hakone, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-prefecture
Price: Free with the Hakone Freepass, otherwise from ¥570 (~S$7.36) one way.
Opening Hours: 1st Feb – 30th Nov 9AM-5PM | 1st Dec – 31st Jan 9AM-4.15PM
Once you’re at Sounzan station, transfer to the Hakone Tozan Cable Car, a railway train that will take you to Koen-kami station at Gora. Hakone Gora park is a 5-minute walk away.
7. Create couple art at Hakone Gora Park
Hakone Gora Park is a French-style landscape park that’s been around for over a hundred years. The main attraction here is the craft house which attracts couples who partake in workshops that range from ceramics to sandblasting. You can even create your own customised matching couple beads here.
Highlights include a tropical plant pavilion, greenhouses and a tea house which consist of 3 tea rooms.
Address: 1300 Gora, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0408
Price: Free under the Hakone Freepass, otherwise ¥550 (~S$7.10).
Opening Hours: HAKONE CRAFT HOUSE 9AM-5PM, Entry until 4.30PM | Isshikido Saro 10AM-5PM, L.O. 4.15PM | HAKUUN-DO tea garden (Tea ceremony houses) morning session 10AM-12PM, afternoon session 1PM-4PM
8. Visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum
Hakone Open-Air Museum is Japan’s first outdoor art museum, that’s about 600M away from Gora Park. It opened in 1969 with the mission to make sculpture art more popular. There are over 120 all-weather art pieces scattered over the park and five indoor exhibits.
Here are 2 exhibits popular with kids – “Wood of Net” and “Curved Space-Diamond”.
The highlight for me was the Picasso museum, which houses over 300 works of Pablo Picasso. It includes over 188 ceramic works that are all real.
Image credit: JNTO
One of the most eye-catching exhibits here is “Miss Black Power”, created by Niki de Saint Phalle.
Address: 1121 Ninotaira, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-prefecture 250-0493
Price: ¥1,600 for adults (~S$20.66), ¥1,200 for students (~S$15.49) with Hakone Freepass save ¥200 adults, ¥100 students
Opening Hours: 9AM-5PM, last admission at 4.30PM.
If you’re following our 1-day itinerary, it would be getting quite late now and you can opt to head back to Hakone-Yumoto to head back to Tokyo, or head over to the Yunessun spa area which has a host of onsen accommodation options. Here are some other ideas if you’re planning to stay in Hakone for the night.
9. Soak in a Wine spa at Yunessun Complex
Hakone is also known for being the main location in the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, so don’t be surprised to be greeted by its manga memorabilia at the entrance of Yunessun.
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun is an outdoor and indoor spa complex that looks a bit dated, but holds fond memories for many Japanese. The complex is divided into two areas, a Mori no Yu (no clothes) area and a Yunessun unisex area where everyone is in swimsuits.
Image credit: Yunessun Complex
You’ll see groups of guys hanging out together and groups of girls mingling and it kinda feels like you’re at the start of a Japanese high school movie where the 2 leads meet each other.
Image credit: Yunessun Complex
What makes this spa interesting is its unique baths. There’s a wine bath, coffee bath, sake bath and performances every few hours where staff bring out actual wine and coffee and pour them into the baths. There’s also a foot spa area called Doctor Fish.
Address: 1297 Ninotaira, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 250-0407 Japan. There’s a free shuttle bus at Gora station.
Price: Passport for both areas Adults: ¥3,500 (~S$45.19) or with the Hakone Freepass save ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for children
Yunessun area only: Adults: ¥2,500 (~S$32.28)
Mori no Yu area only: Adults: ¥1,500 (~S$19.37)
Opening Hours: Varies – do refer to their website for more accurate opening hours.
10. Shop At Gotemba Premium Outlets
About 30 minutes away from the Gora area is Gotemba Premium Outlets, one of Japan’s most popular outlet malls. Located near Mount Fuji, you can shop at over 200 shops divided across the East and West Zone, separated by a photogenic bridge. It’s a very popular area among Chinese tourists.
The West Zone is located at the entrance where the shuttle buses alight, and here you can expect fashion brands like LongChamp, Burberry and Michael Kors.
Look out near the bridge for a kids playground if you wish to deposit your little ones here before heading over to the East Zone. There, you’ll find brands like Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren and a Food Bazaar that even sells Singapore chicken rice!
The biggest discounts at outlet malls are usually from the fashion apparel from previous seasons. You can also visit the visitor centre and show them your passport to get tax free purchases at designated stores or scan certain discount QR codes.
In April 2020, a brand new Hillside zone is going to open up with another 88 stores. This new zone will also make Hotel Clad accessible by foot from the outlet area.
Address: 1312, Fukasawa Gotemba-Shi, Shizuoka, Japan 412-0023
Opening Hours: 10AM-8PM
11. Stay at the aesthetic HOTEL CLAD
HOTEL CLAD is a spanking new hotel and the only one within walking distance from the Gotemba Premium outlets. Styled in Japanese modern aesthetics, you can think of the hotel as a more upmarket version of the Muji hotel. You can get amazing views of Mount Fuji from the restaurant, lobby and your hotel room on a non-misty day.
Image credit: HOTEL CLAD
The onsen facilities at Konohana no Yu are worth mentioning. Apart from special private bathing rooms you can book, their facilities include 3 indoor onsen baths including a carbonic acid and cold onsen bath and 2 outdoor onsen baths with a view. There are also many resting areas and a massage area.
Address: 2839-1 Fukasawa, Gotemba City, Shizuoka Prefecture 412-00233
12. Find yourself at Choanji Temple
Choanji Temple isn’t one of the most convenient locations to get to, located 5KM between both Gotemba and Gora. It’s a Buddhist shrine that was founded in 1658, known for its gohyaku rakan – over 500 statues of disciples of Buddha. These statues are carved with unique facial expressions and some people come here to try and find a statue with a face that is similar to theirs.
You can get here by buses covered under the Hakone Freepass and it’s a 25-minute-ride away from Hakone-Yumoto.
Address: 82 Sengokuhara, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0631, Japan
Directions: Ride the Hakone Tozan bus (Lines T and L) bound for Sengoku/Togendai from Hakone-Yumoto. Stop at the Sengoku (仙石) bus stop and walk for 1 minute.
Things to do in Hakone
Hakone is a town filled full of natural beauty that’ll have you falling more in love with Japan. It’s great for first-time inter-city travellers, who have never been out of Tokyo who want to explore a more scenic part of the country. Find out more about Hakone and the Hakone Freepass here.
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