Hakone is only 100 kilometers from the metropolis of Tokyo but it is worlds apart in style and atmosphere. Hakone is situated in a mountainous landscape that is famous for its natural beauty, its temples, views across to Mount Fuji, and its onsens. Find out more about why you need to make Hakone a stop on your Japan tour.
Hakone is a well-visited destination, popular for weekend retreats from the city, and it therefore has many traditional guesthouses, restaurants, hotels, and onsens. It’s certainly not off-the-beaten track but it still retains its individual charm. It’s always been one of the most popular places for visitors to Japan. Discover more about where to go and what to do in Hakone, right here:
1) Try a Hakone Onsen
When you travel to Japan you must try an onsen bath – a natural hot steam bath, with added hot and cold plunge baths, often outside. And one of the best places to experience an onsen is in Hakone. There are outdoor and indoor onsen, and onsens in luxury hotels and plain, simple establishments. The Japanese don’t take a trip here without trying at least one – it needs to be on your list.
2) Travel the Old Tokaido Road
The Tokaido was the first road in Japan to be guarded by police and as such it was the first road that allowed tourists and business people to travel across Japan without fear of bandits and thieves. It linked the city of Tokyo with Kyoto during the Edo era of Japanese history. In Hakone you can see the Hakone Checkpoint which has been refurbished from olden times with a prison and its own lookout towers. The road itself has in most places been taken over by a modern highway, but in some spots you can see the original stone that made up the ancient path. You can take a walk along this historic route through the forests, with fine views of the countryside.
3) Stay in a Hakone Ryokan
Since Hakone is a popular tourist destination, it has enabled many successful and traditional ryokan to set up in the town. These guest houses range in price and facilities, and some include onsens right in the rooms. Every one of the more expensive ryokan will offer excellent service and top-class amenities, so you can be sure of a memorable stay.
4) Check Out the Hakone Open Air Museum
This is certainly worth a visit – the Hakone Open Air Museum boasts a wide selection of art inside including its collection of Picassos. And in addition, there is a sculpture park outdoors which is beautiful and stretches for a long way across the mountainous countryside.
5) Walk Around Lake Ashinoko
Walk around Lake Ashinoko, which is made from a volcanic crater, to experience lovely views both of the water and of Mount Fuji across the lake. You can walk the shores or also take a boat trip around the lake. The boats offer fine views of the shoreline as well as Mount Fuji.
6) See Hakone Detached Palace
The palace that was once the summer house belonging to the Imperial Family is now simply a palace and the building itself is not particularly special although the grounds are certainly worth visiting. These make up the Onshi Hakone Park and there are nice views here of Lake Ashinko.
7) Ride the Hakone Tozan Railway
The Hakone Tozan Railway is famous for being the oldest mountain railway in the country. There is a section that stretches from Hakone to Gora which passes through thick forests and you will also travel over many bridges and through the old mountain tunnels. You’ll also enjoy the sweet little stations and unique buildings along the route.
8) Go Hiking
The town of Hakone and the surrounding area makes up a part of the attractive Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. As such, you will find a number of different hiking trails that take you from Hakone into the surrounding countryside, including into the area closest to Mount Fuji where you will get some great views of the summit. The hike that takes you from Owakudani along to Lake Ashinoko is definitely one of the best in the area and you’ll pass by the peak of Mount Kamiyama which affords great views of the famed mountain.
9) Visit Hakone Shrine
The Shrine in Hakone is a wonderful, spiritual place that is reached by a lantern-lined path reaching into the forest. The Shrine is located at the edge of Lake Ashinoko and is definitely worth a closer look.
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