With amazing history, culture and wilderness, along with selections of rustic to avant-garde cuisines and ceaseless entertainments, all interlinked with networks of scenic rides accompanied by magnificent views of Mount Fuji and Hakone mountain ranges, we are simply stunned at how much Hakone has on show.
To top it off, all of these attractions are accessible in less than two hours from the beating heart of Tokyo. Hakone certainly possesses all good reasons to be travelers’ top onsen destination.
Here is an one-day itinerary that basically ticks off the essential sees and dos of Hakone.
Board the Odakyu Romance Car Train from Shinjuku.
In approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes the Odakyu Romance car will take you to Hakone Yumoto Station from Odakyu Shinjuku Station.
One important thing to keep in mind when purchasing your train tickets is to make sure you purchase the Hakone two-day free pass. Even if your stay is for the day, when considering all the merits, such as unlimited use of scenic rides, trains and buses, along with discounts at restaurants and tourist facilities, the pass is definitely worth the value.
Explore Hakone Shrine
Once you reach Hakone Yumoto, let’s hop on the Hakone Tozan bus (Route H or K) and head to the Hakone shrine to explore the historical and spiritual facets of Hakone
Located a 10-minute walk from the Hakone Jinjya iriguchi bus stop, Hakone Shrine is an ancient power spot built 1,250 years ago that has been devotedly worshiped by powerful shoguns ever since, including Minamoto no Yoritomo and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
The red gate of peace (Heiwa no Torrii) that solemnly stands at the rim of Lake Ashi is a symbolic monument of Hakone, and many tourists flock here to experience the sacred walk on Ashinoko’s waters.
The entire grounds of the shrine are surrounded by dense forest, so while you brush up on your history, perhaps indulge in some forest bathing and pick up some good vibes to invigorate you for the rest of your journey.
Lunch at Lake Ashi
As you wander to Motohakone on a leisurely pace, let’s make a stop at Bakery & Table, a chic café situated along side Lake Ashi. The café offers a superb lineup of freshly baked bread, pastry, cakes and other scrumptious menu items, perfect for a brunch. Surely, nothing beats buttery and puffy treats after a morning exercise.
Cruise Lake Ashi on a Pirate Ship
Once your appetite is satisfied, your next quest includes a sail on a pirate ship. From the Motohakone port the ship will cruise across Lake Ashi to your next destination – Togendai port – in approximately 30 minutes. While you feel the breeze, admiring the crystal clear water and rush greenery of Hakone with a spirit of a pirate, you will instantly escape the humdrum of daily life.
Exploring Owakudani – The Valley of Hell
As you disembark the sailing vessel at Togendai port, your next ride is on a ropeway to the famous Owakudani, more commonly known as Jigoku dani: valley of hell. Owakudani is an active volcanic valley created approximately 3,000 years ago, thus it is the hottest place to go in Hakone by all means. While the ropeway ascends you up the mountain you will encounter some spectacular view of Hakone’s nature and acquaint with a picturesque view of Mount Fuji if lucky.
The black onsen eggs (Kuro Tamago) that are boiled in the hot spring of Owakudani is one of its signature nibbles you can fetch at the souvenir shops. To be frank, the looks of the eggs are slightly eerie, but in terms of its taste, you’d be glad to hear that it’s rather delicious.
Take a Lovely Stroll Through Gora Park
Once you bid farewell to Owakudani, let’s take a peaceful stroll inside the Gora Park.
To reach the park, hop on the ropeway once again to Sounzan station then change to a Hakone Tozan cable car for Koen Kami Station, then the park is just a stone’s throw away.
The garden juxtaposes both Western and Japanese features, triggering an interesting chemistry to create some marvelous pieces of natural art. Additionally, the whole premises is brimmed with countless seasonal blooms, so you are treated to aesthetic wonders throughout your afternoon stroll.
In between your walk, take a short break while you experiment the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and relax with aromatic flavors of matcha. If you fancy making crafts, you may also try creating tonbodama or other Japanese crafts at the craft house.
Soak in the Hot Springs at Gora Onsen
You can’t talk Hakone without having experienced a soak in its premium onsen. Did you know that Hakone Onsen is comprised of 20 hot spring sources? Gora Onsen is one of the recently found springs and boasts of its romantic and fairy tale-like setting that beckons many visitors, including big celebrity names.
Located only 5 minutes away from Gora Park, Tensui Saryo is one of the most luxurious onsen found around, and you can use the hotel’s day stay service that includes a special kaiseki dinner (Japan course meal).
A dip while you admire the sun set over the mountains of Hakone is an otherworldly experience itself, but when this is paired with wonderful authentic Japanese cuisine you are gifted to a once in a lifetime moment.
A day stay at Tensui Saryo is only available to few customers a day. Thus bookings should be made well in advance of your trip. Also consider the traditional hot spring resort Hakone Yuryo or sensational mountain views at Hakone Ginyu.
Local Japanese Craft Beer to Wrap Up Your Day
Just few minutes walk away from Gora Station, at Gora Brewery and Grill, you are able to get your hands on some internationally acclaimed craft beers along with foods produced by the world famed celebrity chef Nobu. Let’s cheer to a wonderful day with Tastemaker’s gourmet snacks and icy cold beer.
Back To Tokyo
All good things must come to an end. And just like that you will be on the train back to Tokyo. The Romancecar doesn’t run at night, thus for your return train trip, board the Hakone Tozan train from Gora Station to Odawara Station and then change to a Shinkansen bound for Tokyo.
Sit back and relax while you observe the sceneries shift from the country landscape to cityscapes and enjoy looking back at all the wondrous moments you had in Hakone.
Feature image: Club4traveler / Shutterstock.com