Although, we went to Hakone during the peak autumn week, the beauty of this place can be enjoyed throughout the year. With less than 2 hours from Tokyo, Hakone is undoubtedly Japan’s most popular unwinding destination. In addition to the number of hot-springs (also known as Onsens), it also has volcanic valleys, lakes, mountains, best views of Mount Fuji and museums. There are several hiking trails too!
How to go to Hakone from Tokyo?
There are different ways you can go to Hakone from Tokyo.
1) Take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station.
From Shinjuku, you can either take the regular Odakyu line or the Limited Express Romance Car.
- Regular Odakyu train is cheaper and has no seat reservation. This train will stop at Odawara Station. From Odawara Station, you can either take the Hakone Tozan Line to Hakone Yumoto Station and start your trip in reverse order OR, you can take the Tozan Bus (Line R) from Odawara and start your trip from Moto Hakone Ko.
- Romance Car comes with a seat reservation surcharge. This train stops directly at Hakone Yumoto Station and from here you can continue your tour.
Note – JR Pass doesn’t cover Odakyu Line!
2) Use your JR Pass from Tokyo Station.
If you want to use the JR Pass, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Odawara Station. This will take you 35 minutes and 3 stops in total before you reach Odawara. From here you can either take a bus or train to continue further.
We didn’t want to activate our JR pass whilst in Tokyo and hence we bought the Hakone Freepass and took the Regular Odakyu train. We couldn’t take any upgrades for the Romance Car as all reservations were full to Odawara. Nevertheless, we had no issues getting ourselves seats from Shinjuku Station! Although Romance Car seats are more comfortable, it didn’t matter much to us for that short journey! I am glad we didn’t have to spend extra 890 Yen per person (one way) on Romance car reservations!
Hakone Free Pass
A regular Hakone Freepass is valid for 2 days and includes –
- One Round Trip on Odakyu line from Shinjuku to Odawara and back.
- Unlimited use of all Hakone-area transportation ( Cable-car, rope-ways, Lake Ashi cruise, trains and buses) identified by the free-pass.
- Discounts at Museums and other facilities in Hakone which are not covered by the pass.
It costs 5140 YEN per adult and 1500 YEN per child from Shinjuku.
You can also buy a 3 day pass which costs 5640 YEN per adult and 1750 YEN per Child.
You can buy the freepass at Shinjuku Station upto a month in advance or on that day itself.
Note – The above fare doesn’t include Romance Car. If you want the Romance-Car upgrade, you will have to pay a surcharge 890 yen one way.
I would suggest buying this freepass if you are not using the JR Pass. It is a good idea even if your visit is just for a day. Without the pass, a round trip from Shinjuku will cost you 2740 YEN and every mode of internal transportation (Train, Rope-way, Cable-car, cruise, bus) will have to be paid on actuals as you use it. Paying everything separately might lead to spending more than what you have paid for the pass. Also consider the convenience factor!
How to see Hakone in a day?
Ideally, Hakone needs atleast 2 days. But even if you are here for a day trip, you can fit all interesting things. That said, overdoing more than what you really can will not be fun.
In a specific order (for day trippers), and if you want to beat the crowd, below is how you may do it –
1) First – Walk the Ancient Cedar Avenue
Cedars were planted over 400 years ago to improve the weather for travelers who walked the old Tokaido road. A 2 KM stretch of trees still remains today. This is a popular fun activity you may want to start with. Walking the Cedar Avenue will take you back to the Edo period.
How to do this activity? – From Odawara Station, take the Tozan Bus (Line R) to Moto Hakone Ko. Start the Cedar walk from here upto the Hakone Checkpoint.
2) Second – Take the Lake Ashi sightseeing Pirate Cruise from Hakone Machi ko.
Lake Ashi is the symbol of Hakone. You can also see views of Mount Fuji from here and while on the cruise. Board the cruise (bound to Togendai Pier) at Hakone Machi Ko Pier (walkable after your first activity). On a clear day, you will have many photo opportunities on this cruise.
3) Third – See the iconic Jinja Shrine
Your cruise will have a stop at Moto-Hakone Ko Pier before proceeding to Tondegai Pier. You can take pictures of the Tori gate while on the cruise but if you want to be there, you can get down at this pier, spend time and board the next cruise from here.
4) Fourth – Spend time at the Owakudani – The Volcanic Valley of Hakone
From Tondegai pier, you can take the rope-way to Owakudani and spend time watching the volcanic valley. This is also where you can eat the black egg which is an Owakudani speciality. Legend has it that eating one will add 7 years to your life!
5) Fifth – Take the next rope-way to Sounzan followed by the cable-car to Gora Station
The rope-way will give you ample photo opportunity so don’t miss it. Once you are at Gora Station, there are Tozan trains to take you to Hakone Yomoto Station and Odawara.
You can also do the entire journey (suggested above) in reverse order –
Odawara – Hakone Yomoto Station – Gora Station – Sounzan – Owakudani – Cruise from Tondegai Pier – Hakone Machiko Pier – Moto Hakone Ko Pier
We did this reverse order and realized it was not a good idea at all! Everyone (who takes the Odakyu line) does this circle and it is a mad rush and queue everywhere!
Other attractions in Hakone
In my opinion, above listed activities are what you can do in a day at leisure. If you have more than a day, you can consider the below –
- Staying at a resort having natural hot springs
- Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (Wine, Coffee, Green Tea Onsens) which is more like an onsen park
- Hakone Open Air Museum
- Gora Park
- Hakone Glass forest Venetian Glass museum
- More museums and parks
Some More Tips
1) Odawara to Hakone Tips
From Odawara Station you can start your Hakone tour clockwise or anticlockwise. On busy days, both ways would be equally crowded.
From Odawara, you can either –
- Take the Hakone Tozan train line to Hakone Yumoto Station and then to Gora Station. After this, take Tozan cable car and continue further on the Ropeway.
- Take the Hakone Tozan Bus (Line R) to Hakone Machi Ko. Continue further from here – Do a cedar walk to Moto Hakone Ko Pier and start with Lake Ashi cruise.
- Take the Hakone Tozan train line to Hakone Yumoto Station and then take the Tozan Bus (Line K) to Moto Hakone Ko. Do a Cedar walk from here till Hakone Machi Ko Pier and then start the Ashi cruise from here.
2) Crowd and Queues
We were here on a Monday and it was really crowded. I would suggest to start by 7:30AM from Shinjuku. Earlier the better!
The weather would be a notch colder than in Tokyo so plan accordingly in the winter months. If it is a cloudy day, Mount Fuji views are really rare!
Hakone Ropeway is sometimes closed (rarely) due to high emission of volcanic gasses.