The Japanese call Hakone one of the best resorts in the country. The reason is that there is everything here to make the traveler feel the spirit of the Land of the Rising Sun with the attributes of relaxation familiar to Westerners: many historical monuments are adjacent to modern spa complexes, traditional hotels are next to open-air museums. The city of Hakone itself is located relatively close to Tokyo, which also affects its demand for tourists. But still, the most important reason to come here is to see the canonical view of Mount Fuji, which is probably familiar to every schoolchild. The uniqueness of Hakone is dozens of hot springs, each of which has a unique mineral composition.
How to get to Hakone
The journey in Hakone starts in Tokyo. You can read more about how to get to the capital of Japan here. Check liuxers for customs and traditions of Japan.
Express trains run between Tokyo Shinjuku Station and Hakone. A journey lasting 1 hour 25 minutes will cost 4100 JPY. The slower train takes about 2 hours but costs 2050 JPY.
Buses run from Shinjuku to Hakone every 30 minutes. The trip will take approximately 2 hours (if there are no traffic jams) and will cost 2050 JPY.
What to watch
Many tourist spots in Hakone can be reached by the regional railways’ unique Hakone Tozan train. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that, climbing the mountain serpentine, starting from the entrance to the town, it changes its direction three times to the opposite. This is the steepest railway line in Japan: the height difference is 80 m per 1 km of track.
From the window of the train with difficulty climbing up, bewitching landscapes of the valley of the Haya-kava River strewn with lush greenery open up.
Hakone has attracted travelers for centuries with its hot springs. Today, you can enjoy them in many spas and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) in the city. The most famous and oldest spring in the region is Yumoto. There is high quality water and a large number of baths and pools. A special concentration of hot springs is along the shore of Lake Ashi and on the slopes of numerous mountains.
You can improve your body and mind with healing water in public baths or ryokans. By the way, most of the latter open access to baths for everyone, and not just their guests. True, if hotel guests relax in hot tubs for free, then ordinary tourists must buy tickets worth from 1500 to 2950 JPY.
The main accommodation option in Hakone is ryokans built next to hot springs. These hotels, despite the ascetic design of the rooms, offer a wide range of services. The cost of living in Hakone is quite high. It increases even more during the weekend, when crowds of tourists come here from relatively close Tokyo. The average cost of a room in a ryokan is 20,000-30,000 JPY.
Things to do
In addition to bathing in the numerous hot springs, tourists have many other options for spending time in Hakone.
The local landscape is ideal for hiking. You can go on your own route – wherever your eyes look. And you can visit, for example, the tourist center in the village of Togendai and get acquainted with the layout of the Hakone neighborhood with hiking trails marked on it.
One of the most popular routes starts here in Togendai and goes to the village of Owakudani. From there, the trail goes to Mount Komagatake, capturing the tops of the Kanmurigatake and Kami hills along the way. From Komagatake, you can go down by funicular and return by bus to Togendai (the last cabin leaves from Komagatake at 16:50). This hike takes 3 hours and allows you to get acquainted with the natural features of Hakone. Moreover, trekking boots are not required – comfortable sneakers are enough.
After the hike, or the day after, you can visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. The creators of the exposition managed to maintain harmony between the art objects and the nature around them. The museum is located next to the Chokoku No Mori Station of the Hakone Tozan Regional Railway. From Hakone, it’s only a 30-minute drive. Ticket price: 670 JPY. The museum has several exhibition spaces, both outdoors and in pavilions.
The Picasso Exhibition Hall presents art objects related to the work of the great artist, as well as photographs telling about his life.
The emerald lawns of the open-air museum are dotted with abstract art objects from Japanese and foreign artists. One of the largest is the Symphonic Sculpture. It is a tower-like hollow structure so that visitors can enter inside. A spiral staircase leads to the top of the tower. The walls of the Symphonic Sculpture are decorated with beautiful stained-glass windows. At the very top there is an observation deck, which offers a wonderful view of the park and the mountains surrounding it. The museum has shops and cafes. There is also a playground.
The most comfortable weather is observed in Hakone in April, May, August, September, October and November. In general, most tourists try to come here in late spring – early autumn. The weather at this time of the year is comfortable for long walks, as there is no rain, heat or cold.