Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Famous for its hot springs, and its views across Lake Ashinoko of Mount Fuji. It is a very popular destination among Japanese and international tourists, and only an hour out of Tokyo which makes it an accessible day trip if you want a break from the city.
Getting to Hakone is also incredibly easy. In Japan everything is so organised and logical that you just cannot get lost, even if you don’t understand a word of Japanese. Take the Shinkansen to Odawara Station, once there, you can drop your luggage in a locker, mostly if like us you are coming from Kyoto and heading to Tokyo on that same day (or vice-versa). In the station you will quickly see signs for Hakone which will guide you to an office where you can get a map of the area as well as the pass for the train, shuttle and funicular to the National Park. It sounds like a lot of transport transfers but again, do not fear, it is very easy!
Take the train from Odawara to Hakone Yumutu. Once there, transfer to the smaller train which will take you up the mountains. In Gora, where the train line ends, transfer to the funicular, which will take you directly to the cable car station. Make sure to take a window seat on the right of the cable car for the best views of Mount Fuji.
The cable car climbs pretty high and it can be very windy, which can be slightly intimidating if you don’t like heights.
Suddenly, people will start gasping, right there in front of you the Mount Fuji is standing. The views were very clear the day we visited, but unfortunately my camera didn’t do it justice and it was much clearer and impressive in real life.
The first stop once in the National Park is Owakudani. The views of Mount Fuji from there are fantastic and you will also see the sulphur fumes emerging from the ground. Only then did we really realise that we were visiting a volcanic area. Mount Fuji looks so peaceful that you can easily forget what it really is... Also the last eruption was in 1707 so it is a pretty chill volcano.
From Owakudani take another cable car down to Lake Ashinoko. We had our lunch break there, while waiting for the next ‘pirate’ boat to arrive. You read that right, for some reason the sightseeing boats taking you from Togendai to the other side of the lake look like pirate boats.
You will still be able to see Mount Fuji during the cruise, making for great shots of the volcano and the lake. That is if, unlike us, the weather is not ‘too’ good. The day we visited, it was so sunny that the sky turned white and Mount Fuji started to fade against it and my pictures again really don’t do the place justice.
Once on the other side of the lake, walk by the shore and explore Onshihakone Park. It is surprisingly quiet as it seems most tourists don’t venture there. A great opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity after a crowded boat ride.
Walk a little further down to explore the town. Then catch the bus back to Odawara station. One good tip, the bus gets VERY busy at the Sightseeing Cruise stop, so try to catch it a stop ahead to make sure you can actually get on it!
In no time we were back on the Shinkansen and off to Tokyo. One long but beautiful day trip!