One of Japan’s major tourist destinations, Hakone attracts people from all over the world with its hot springs, scenic viewpoints, food, art and unique attractions. With so many activities, it’s easy why people add Hakone to their Japan bucket list!
But in case you’re not yet familiar with the area, here are 14 reasons why you should visit Hakone during your Japan trip. Let’s dive right in!
#1: You Can Casually Experience Authentic Japanese Onsen - Hot Springs!
Given that Hakone is close to Tokyo and is dotted with quality hot spring facilities, it has thrived as a hot springs town since days of old. Whether you decide on a spontaneous day trip to Hakone or decide to spend a night and leisurely enjoy the different baths and sightseeing locations, you’ll sure to have a relaxing time. The open-air baths with a magnificent view of Mt. Fuji are particularly satisfying.
#2: Great Access From Tokyo
Another reason why Hakone is one of Japan’s best resort areas is because it has great access from Tokyo, taking only around 1-2 hours to reach.
The standard method to get to Hakone is taking the Odakyu Romancecar from Shinjuku Station to Hakone Yumoto Station – the gateway to the Hakone area. All seats on the Romancecar are reserved; there are special scenic view seats plus a cafe section where you can relax and enjoy a bento box meal.
There are other ways to reach Hakone from Shinjuku Station and Tokyo Station by taking express bus or Shinkansen.
#3: Great Shopping - From Souvenirs to Outlet Malls
In front of Hakone Yumoto Station, known as the gateway to Hakone, there some 50 souvenir shops, where a variety of items are held for sale. Here as well, master craftsman make glass products, and yosegi-zaiku, a traditional Hakone marquetry – decorative works where elaborate patterns are created by combining different types of wood.
Also Gotemba Premium Outlet Mall – Japan’s largest outlet mall – is not so far from Hakone. Here you can find many fashion brands, sports equipment and sundries. This expansive shopping paradise with its back toward Mt. Fuji has over 200 shops where you can enjoy shopping to heart's content.
#4: Amazing Food from Long-established Shops to Stylish Sweets Shops
One thing you must have in any hot spring area is onsen manju - hot spring steamed buns - and other confectionery. Having famous water, Hakone is also known for its soba (buckwheat noodles). Another unique feature of Hakone is they have various types of food: from Italian and French to grilled dishes.
Also there are restaurants located in renovated historical buildings or which have focused on their interiors, both of which provide for an extravagant dining experience. Especially around the shores of Lake Ashi (Ashinoko) there are many cafes and restaurants where you can see Mount Fuji.
There are quite a few shops that offer specialty sweets and breads, and there are many visitors who go on an eating adventure.
(Speaking of which, it is said that if you eat the black ‘onsen tamago’ eggs sold at Owakudani, your lifespan will grow by 7 years!)
#5: Many Unique Museums
Hakone is also known for its many museums. The Hakone Open-Air Museum has famous works by Picasso and Renoir, plus various modern art from Japan and overseas, making it a must-visit place for art lovers.
Hakone’s museums tend to blend together with the beautiful natural surroundings, and many have cafes and restaurants where you can relax. Especially the Sengokuhara area, where Lalique Museum Hakone stands, is great for an art tour going to various museums!
#6: Encounter Retro-Style Landscapes from the Edo Period
You can encounter many retro landscapes in Motohakone and Hakone Town, which has remnants of the Edo period, and Miyanoshita, an area that has been cherished by foreigners from the Meiji to Showa era.
One place that we strongly recommend is Fujiya Hotel where VIPs from around the world go to. It is a long-established lodging facility that is the symbol of Miyanoshita and has magnificent sculptures. (However keep in mind that it is currently closed for renovations until the spring of 2020.) We recommend exploring the area while taking in the remnants of old Japan.
#7: You Can Feel the Power of Nature
Surrounded by nature, Hakone has popular spots where you can feel the power of the earth. Particularly Owakudani, where steam and vapor rise and swirl about, is a location that represents Hakone.
Around 3,000 years ago Mount Hakone erupted, creating Owakudani. Since then volcanic smoke and steam rises from various places, hence why this area is called Jigokudani (Hell’s Valley). Also, taking the ropeway and looking down at the fuming area is a breathtaking sight.
#8: Scenery Changes with the Season
Each season offers something different in Hakone.
In spring red and pink azaleas bloom in gardens, and in early summer you can ride the Ajisai Densha (hydrangea train) and see rows of over 10,000 hydrangea. During the fresh verdure season riding the red Hakone Tozan Railway through the valley is refreshing.
In autumn you can see the gorgeous fall foliage, and in Sengokuhara the area is filled with silver susuki grass.
On a chilly winter day you might be able to see the reflection of snow covered Mt. Fuji off of Lake Ashi.
#9: Wide Range of Lake Activities
At Lake Ashi, with a great view of Mt. Fuji, you can enjoy a variety of activities such as rowboats, swan boats, kayak, and wakeboarding.
A particularly famous attraction is going on a cruise on one of the large ships - including one in the shape of a pirate ship! This one, decorated like a 17th to 18th century European pirate ship, has become the symbol of Lake Ashi. We recommend going on a cruise and taking in the magnificent views!
#10: Enhance your Luck at Power Spots!
For ages, Hakone has been one of the holy sites for sacred mountains. At the center of these lies Hakone Shrine with a history spanning over 1,260 years. Known for bringing good fortune and enhancing relationships, it attracts many visitors.
Hakone Shrine, Kuzuryū-jinja Shrine and Kuzuryū Shrine Hongū are the three major power spots of Hakone that bring good luck and enhance relationships.
#11: Enjoy Magnificent Views on Unique Rides
Another charm of Hakone are the various unique rides that match Hakone’s landscape. Some of these include the Hakone Tozan Railway, which zigzags through the steep slopes from Hakone Yumoto Station to Gora Station; the Hakone Ropeway, which goes over the white steam and fumes rising from the Owakudani area; and the unique pirate ship-shaped cruise liner in Lake Ashi. Each of these rides offers a magnificent view of Hakone and is very popular.
#12: Enjoy Nature’s Embrace with the Area’s Hiking Courses
In Hakone, there are several hiking courses you can complete in a few hours.
Some courses are Mt. Kintoki, the highest peak of the Hakone outer rim mountains; Dogashima Valley route with its untouched nature; and the gentle slope to the peak of Mt. Komagatake from Komagatake Chojo Station.
Also you can walk along the Kyukaido – a rough area on the Tokaido, a path that connected Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period. Walking along this you can experience the remnant of the Edo period.
#13: Enjoy a Special Moment at a Hot Spring Inn
There are many ryokan and other lodging facilities in the hot springs town of Hakone. More and more luxurious hotels offering private open-air baths attached to each room have opened as well. Many visitors stay at these hotels to forget about their daily activities and indulge in the finest service.
Besides these, there are also a good number of affordable hotels and hostels that will match anyone’s travel style. And if you are thinking of just doing a day trip, you can also come for the day and enjoy the food plus a nice relaxing hot spring soak.
#14: Magnificent Views of Mount Fuji – Japan’s Spiritual Symbol
Mount Fuji, which was registered as a world heritage site in 2013, has always been a special symbol for the Japanese people. Mt. Fuji has an iconic look, however depending on the angle, time, weather and season, you will be able to find a different shape! In Hakone there are many scenic spots where you can enjoy a perfect, breathtaking view of Mt. Fuji.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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