Hakone (箱根; ) is a mountainous area west of Tokyo in Japan. The Hakone checkpoint on the historical Tokaido road marks the beginning of the Kanto region.
The nearest airports to Hakone are in Tokyo. Note that if you have a reservation at a ryokan in Hakone, unless your plane lands in the morning, it is recommended that you spend your first evening in Tokyo or Yokohama, or else you might miss out on (and be charged for) dinner at the ryokan, or worse, you may be locked out of (and be charged for) your room at the ryokan's curfew time, if there is one.
Allow about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to reach Hakone from Narita Airport by train, and about 1 1/2 to 2 hours from Haneda Airport.
The fastest and most expensive method of reaching Hakone from Tokyo is to take a Tokaido Shinkansen Kodama (こだま) train from Tokyo to Odawara, then transfer to the Hakone-Tozan Line for the run to Hakone-Yumoto (trains operated by Odakyu Railway). The one-way ride lasts one hour with a good connection, and costs ¥3430... but if you use the Japan Rail Pass, you need only to pay ¥300 for the Hakone-Tozan line.
Be aware that the JR East Rail Pass does not provide access to the Tokaido Shinkansen and to make use of this pass you will need to ride the regular Tokaido Main Line to Odawara. From Tokyo, a convenient choice that is valid with the JR East Pass is the "Odoriko" limited express train service. These trains have bigger windows and better seating than the regular commuter trains, and seat reservations can be made. As of March 2007, there are at least four daily runs, arriving in Odawara one hour later; there may also be additional runs on certain days. All trains make a pickup stop at Yokohama, while a few also stop at Shinagawa and Kawasaki stations.
You also have the option of boarding comfortable Green Car seats on regular JR commuter train runs. These seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and you can purchase light snacks and drinks at your seat. You should purchase a Green Car fare ticket prior to boarding, which is done electronically using a SUICA card: Once you purchase the Green Car fare from a special machine, you wave the SUICA card over the seat that you wish to sit in and the light above you will turn from red to green. The fare for these seats between Tokyo and Odawara is ¥950 on weekdays and ¥750 on weekends and holidays; you can also purchase a Green Car seat on the train for an additional ¥250 surcharge. Holders of the Green Car Japan Rail Pass and JR East Pass can use these seats at no additional charge, and with no fare tickets required: simply board a train with a Green Car, show your Green Car pass to the attendant and inform him/her of your destination.
Without any sort of JR pass, the regular fare from Tokyo to Odawara is ¥1450 (additional for the Green Car); the trip takes about 70 minutes.
The affordable method of reaching Hakone from Tokyo is to take the Odakyu Odawara Line from Shinjuku station. The fastest train on the Odakyu Line is the Hakone (はこね) Limited Express train (特急 tokkyū), which runs twice an hour for most of the day. The 85-minute journey makes only two stops enroute and costs ¥2020. Note that some trains, called Super Hakone (スーパーはこね), use newer train equipment, while evening rush hour runs from Shinjuku are called Home Way (ホームウェイ). The slower Odakyu express train (急行 kyūkō) runs twice an hour at a cost of only ¥1150, reaching Hakone in two hours.
Rail connections can be made at Odawara from Nagoya (2 1/2 hrs), Kyoto (3 hrs) and other locations throughout Japan.
Pirate ship on Lake Ashi (Simply Ashinoko
Modes of transport in the Hakone region are many and varied. Your options include:
- The scenic Hakone-Tozan Line mountain railway from Odawara to Gora via Hakone-Yumoto
- The Hakone-Tozan Cablecar up the mountainside from Gora to Sounzan
- The Hakone Ropeway from Sounzan down to Togendai on Lake Ashinoko via the boiling sulphur pits of Owakudani
- The Hakone Sightseeing Ships, decked out like Disneyland versions of pirate ships, sailing across the lake from Togendai to Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi
- And positively dull in comparison, the Odakyu Bus back to Hakone-Yumoto or Odawara
Portions of the above circuit may close for a short period of time in the winter for maintenance, but shuttle buses replace the closed services, so this won't ruin your trip.
Most people opt for the Odakyu Hakone Free Pass , which includes a return trip from Shinjuku and allows unlimited use of all of the above forms of transport for several days. In addition, pass holders can receive discounts at many hot springs, museums, restaurants, and other locations by showing their pass.
The 2-day Free Pass costs ¥5000 from Shinjuku and ¥3900 from Odawara. A 3-day pass can be purchased for an extra ¥500. Additionally, if you have a Free Pass from Shinjuku you can use the Hakone Limited Express train by paying a surcharge of ¥870 each way. Holders of the Japan Rail Pass and JR East Rail Pass should travel to Odawara station by JR using the methods described earlier, and pay for the Free Pass from Odawara.
Something's cooking at Owakudani
The volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, centered around Lake Ashinoko, is a popular tourist attraction well known for its onsen (hot springs) and its views of Mount Fuji.
- The Great Boiling Valley (大涌谷 Ōwakudani) is a volcanic hot spot full of sulphurous springs. Owakudani can be reached by cablecar from Sounzan and the lake.
- Hakone Jinja Shrine, nestled on the south shore of the lake, close to Moto-Hakone, is a picturesque Shinto shrine with torii gates in water.
- Lake Ashi (Ashinoko) offers beautiful views of Mount Fuji but only on a clear day. As many tourists have found out, a visit to Lake Ashinoko does not guarantee a view of the mountain. The lake is crisscrossed by cartoonishly decorated "pirate ships".
- Hakone Open Air Museum  displays a wide variety of sculptures and artwork within a beautiful parkland setting. Includes a Picasso exhibition (paintings and pottery).
No trip to Hakone would be complete without a dip at a Japanese hot spring (onsen). If you're staying overnight, your lodgings may include bathing facilities, but if not many hotels open up their baths to visitors for around ¥500 or so.
- Tenzan Tōjigō (天山湯治郷), Hakone-Yumoto, Chaya 208, . Large, popular hot spring operation with indoor and outdoor baths, sauna, etc. Free shuttle bus from outside the bus station. Open 11 AM-8 PM daily. ¥1000/630 adult/child.
- Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (ユネッサン), Hakone-machi, 1297 Ninotaira, . Indoor complex featuring rapids, dead sea style salt baths and jacuzzis, while the outdoor area offers waterfalls, rocks and a water slide. The popular outdoor relaxation section includes a renowned sake bath, as well as coffee, green tea and wine baths. Mori No Yu is a traditional Onsen style japanese spring located in the same complex. Open from March to October 9 AM-7PM daily. ¥3500/1700 adult/child.
- Hiking. The area has some nice hiking trails. The national park website has an up to date list of hikes and their current status . The visitor's center in Togendai also has a model of the area including many of the hikes around the Lake Ashi. For example there is a hike from Togendai to Owakudani and from there to Mt. Komagatake passing the peaks of Mt. Kanmurigatake and Mt. Kami. From Mt. Komagatake take the cable car down and the bus back to Togendai (beware: last cable car leaves Mt. Komagatake at 16:50). The hike takes between 2.5 and 3 hours and covers quite a difference in altitude. Sturdy shoes are definitely helpful but not necessary.
- Try the black eggs (黒玉子 kuro-tamago) at Owakudani. Boiled on site, their shells are a mottled black due to a chemical reaction with the sulphurous water, but the inside is quite tasty. According to Japanese legend, every one you eat will add seven years to your life. 5 eggs (and hence 35 years) will set you back just ¥500.
- If you've been in Japan for a while and miss the taste of a warm brownie, try the mountain brownies at Sagamiya. The shop is a few steps away from the tourist information center, right in front of the bus stops. You can't miss the smell, as they are made on site!!
Hakone has many onsen ryokan, traditional Japanese inns featuring hot springs. Facilities vary widely, although prices are generally somewhat elevated (especially on weekends) due to the proximity of Tokyo.
- Kappa-tengoku (かっぱ天国), 777 Yumoto, Hakone-machi (2 minutes on foot from Hakone-Yumoto station), ☎ 0460-856121. A well-located if slowly crumbling cheap inn, featuring large open-air baths on the roof. Meals are optional and run ¥1470 for dinner and ¥840 for breakfast. The staff is very welcoming and helpful. You can also leave your luggage there before check-in and after check-out for free. You get more than what you pay for at this ryokan with the Japanese-style accommodations, all natural open-air baths, and good service. from ¥5250.
- Fuji Hakone Guest House, 912 Sengokuhara, ☎ +81(0) 460-84-6577 ([email protected], fax: +81-46084-6578), . Very well located guest house popular with both Japanese and foreigners. Comfortable Japanese style rooms and breakfast are available as is a natural hot spring bath. Staff speak English, and the owners, Mr and Mrs Takahashi, are happy to offer sightseeing advice. reasonable.
- Hotel Okuyumoto, 211 Yumoto Chaya, ☎ +81(0) 460-85-6271, . Featuring Open-air baths beside a mountain stream, offers mostly Japanese style tatami rooms but also has some Western style rooms.
- Hotel Okada, 191 Yumoto Chaya, ☎ +81(0) 460-85-6000, . With 117 rooms, and 5 natural spring sources, Hotel Okada offers Western, Fusion and Japanese style 'tatami' rooms.
- Hotel Nanpuso, Yumoto chaya 179, ☎ +81(0) 460-85-5505, . Popular for its Spa and Ladies esthetic salon, Nanpuso offers mainly Japanese style 'tatami' rooms.
- Hotel Senkei (ホテル仙景), 592 Yumoto Hakone-machi Ashigara-Shimogun Kanagawa 250-0311 (10 minutes walk from Hakone-Yumoto station), ☎ (+Int81)0460-85-5500 ([email protected], fax: (+Int81)0460-85-7765), . checkin: 2:00PM; checkout: 10:00AM. A ryokan designed in a Japanese Inn style.Offers excellent hot springs and an open-air bath is provided in each room.
- Ryokan Kiritani Hakoneso (旅館桐谷箱根荘), 1320-598, Gora, Hakonemachi, Ashigarashimogun, Kamigawa (about 15 minutes on foot from Gora Station), ☎ 0460-82-2246 ([email protected], fax: 0460-82-1753), . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 10AM. A Japanese ryokan. Includes public and private (family room) natural hot spring bath. Quiet and surrounded by nature. Provides Japanese cuisine with seasonal, fresh ingredients. Run by the Kiritani Family who are friendly and eager to show foreigners about Japanese culture. Japanese-style tatami rooms from ¥10,000 per person including breakfast and dinner.
- Hakone Onsen Lalaca Hotel, 1320-270 Gora, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun 250-0408, ☎ +81 460-86-0777, . It is said that many people got to know about Hakone Onsen after Toyotomi Hideyoshi, A General at Age of Civil Wars fought at a battle in Odawara. In Edo Era, it attracted many people as one of the Onsens along Tokaido, one of 5 major Boulevard in Japan.The hotel has 8 rooms, which a range occupancy from1 to 5 people, breakfast and dinner included in all rates, hotspring services available for all guests; enjoy brown cookies and tea service in every room.In the ages of Tokugawa Iemitsu, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Kenjyouyu, presentation the hot spring water to General, was often performed. Nowadays there are many museums and sightseeing spots around here. Since it is such a good place to see how the nature changes every season, many tourists, most of them are from Metropolitan area of Tokyo, come and visit all year round.
- Fujiya Hotel, 359 Miyanoshita, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken 250-0, ☎ +81 460-82-2211, . Japan's first Western-style hotel, it was inspired by Victorian American hostelry, but it has an English feel to it. The Fujiya has its own onsen, koi pond, and gardens. With a choice between the Japanese and Western breakfasts, go for the Japanese, with little portions of fish and vegetables. Although expensive, get the rate with the meals included, as there are few other options for dining in the area.
- Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa, 1320 Gora Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, ☎ +81 460 82 2000 ([email protected]), . The hotel has 56-60sqm guestrooms with large bathrooms and attracts both leisure and business travellers who are looking for a retreat from the city in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park.
- Gorakadan, 1300 Gôra, Hakone Ashigarashimogun, ☎ +81 460 82 3331 ([email protected]), . This Relais Chateaux hotel has 37 guestrooms with large bathrooms. The hotel itself is styled after a ryokan, but boasts many more services including a pool, amazingly designed rooms and a spa. All that luxury doesn't come cheap, however.