The area surrounding Hakone is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Japan and is situated about 90 minutes South West of Tokyo by train.
You will find beautiful scenery, volcanic activity, remains of the old edo route, a gigantic crater lake, and some famous hot springs and museums should you have adverse weather. The Hakone area and the Hakone – Fuji – Izu national park are easily accessible from Tokyo by train. Once arrived you will discover that the area has various convenient methods of transportation. Such as local bus, mountain railway, cable car, ropeway and even cruising boat to bring you to the most scenic places.
Most first time visitors only have a day to see the region and at first sight all these possibilities can be a little bit overwhelming. Here below I will show you my favourite tour of the area that can be easily contained in one day departing from Tokyo.
The private Odakyu line takes you directly from Shinjuku station to Hakone-Yumoto, the main access point to the area. The very nice website of the Odakyu train lines gives you all the information you need, including sightseeing maps and information about discount train passes. If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can take the Shinkansen (high speed train) to Odawara and change trains there for Hakone -Yumoto.
In Hakone-Yumoto station there is a tourist information centre with English speaking staff. They will provide all information about the special sightseeing passes.
From Hakone-Yumoto starts the famous Hakone “loop”. This is a recommended touristic course which will take you past the most scenic places. You may notice that almost all touristic guide books describe this loop counter-clock wise. Here below I will describe it clockwise.
This has the advantage that it is a bit less crowded as the majority of (international) tourists will be following their guidebook. But also for the amateur photographer it is more interesting to follow the tour in the direction here below. The light in the morning is coming from the back when taking photos of Mt Fuji and the boat on lake Ashi sails towards the mountain.
1) Bus from Hakone-Yumoto to Moto-Hakone Just left outside the station of Hakone-Yumoto (see the picture here above) take the Hakone Tozan bus to Moto-Hakone (35 minutes, line H) where you get off. There is a bus every 15 to 20 minutes.
2) Walk from Moto-Hakone to Hakone-Machi Enjoy a 30 minute walk using the old Tokaido road along the shore of the magnificent Lake Ashi. The Tokaido road connected Tokyo with Kyoto during the feudal time. This part of the road is surrounded with century old cedar trees that provide a welcome shadow during the summer heat. Just before reaching Hakone-Machi make a short stop at a meticulously reconstructed checkpoint that was used in the Edo period. 3) Boat from Hakone – Machi to Togendai From Hakone-Machi you will board one of the pirate ship replica’s for a 30 minute cruise to the other shore of lake Ashi. The ships in the beautiful nature are not everyones taste but the views of the lake, the surrounding mountains and Mount Fuji are dramatic. 4) Ropeway from Togendai to Sounzan via Owakudani From Togendai, in the building next to where the boat arrives, take the ropeway (15 minutes) to Owakudani where also the ropeway transfer station is. You will be rewarded with nice views from the top of the mountain where you can see the splendor of the Fuji National park at it’s best. Before descending with the ropeway to Sounzan (10 minutes) it is worth seeing the volcanic activities In Owakudani. The setting is unreal with boiling water, steam leaving the mountain and at times the smell of sulfur and volcanic gas. 5) Cable car from Sounzan to Gora A 10 minute ride on a steep cable car brings you from the ropeway base station Sounzan to Gora. If the weather is good and you visit the area in autumn (October) it is interesting to visit Sengokuhara (仙石原). Take the bus (line S) from Gora station. Only a short period in autumn, at the foot of Mt. Daigatake on a vast plateau, you can see the golden-colored Japanese pampas grass.
6) Gora to Hakone – Yumoto In Gora you will board the train from where the descend goes further to the starting point of the trip Hakone – Yumoto in about 40 minutes. The train is meandering through densely forested hills and this makes it a pleasant journey. Interesting to see is the switchback system the trains are using to cope with the steep slopes. A final tip. This day trip brings you along some of the most beautiful sceneries of Japan. However it is only worthwhile to consider this trip if the weather is good. Should you be unlucky then there are many other things the Hakone area offers. Some are covered in my other posts.