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Hakone is one of the most popular side trip destinations from Tokyo. The No.1 thing to do in Hakone is enjoying its hot springs. Other things to enjoy include exploring the areas accessible by Hakone Ropeway, spending a night in a classy resort, and enjoying the sights.
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Back during the Edo period, Hakone served as a major post town and checkpoint station called Sekisho along the Tokaido Route. The Tokaido Route was the main road for people, especially feudal lords, to travel across Japan. As a Sekisho, Hakone functioned as a security checkpoint to body check travelers for hidden weapons to prevent armed rebellions from happening.
Since many important people frequented Hakone, and their accompanying persons were required to go through security checks, inevitably they were required to spend some time in Hakone. Seeing this opportunity, Hakone developed into a place to rest, relax and rejuvenate before continuing the journey. As the Meiji period dawned, Hakone ceased to be a Sekisho but its leisure activities continued to prosper eventually becoming a tourist destination.
Without further ado, let’s look at what Hakone has to offer:
With 17 hot spring sources, Hakone has plenty of onsen facilities to enjoy. Some of the best hot spring areas include:
Lake Ashinoko 芦ノ湖
This time we’ll focus on the Lake Ashinoko area which thanks to its accessibility by the Hakone Ropeway allows you to visit other nearby areas. Lake Ashinoko, or Lake Ashi, makes for a spectacular view. From here, you can check out an amazing view of Mt. Fuji. Around Lake Ashi are numerous hot spring facilities, including:
Ashinoko Ichinoyu which is 5-mins walk from Lake Ashi, has a Western exterior.
Ryuuguden is runned by Prince Hotels. It is located right on the shores of Lake Ashi thus offering rooms and baths with an amazing view of both Lake Ashi and also Mt. Fuji.
Washintei Hougetsu is a traditional onsen ryokan near not just Lake Ashi but also Hakone Shrine and its Torii of Peace that makes for a wondrous scenic view. It is highly ranked on many Japanese websites alongside Ryuuguden.
Opened in 1969 as the first ever outdoor museum in Japan, Hakone Open Air-Museum is a unique experience. The museum consists of a large open air garden around 70,00 square meters large with numerous modern art sculptures. Needless to say, with the backdrop of fine greenery and endless blue skies in place of dull museum walls, the outdoor sculptures are the highlight of the museum.
Aside from those, the museum is also home to indoor exhibitions like:
Picasso Pavillion exhibiting more than 300 of world famous artist Picasso’s works
Main Gallery exhibiting thousands of the museum’s art collection
Multi Hall focuses on sculptures including the process of making them
Access: 2-mins from Chokoku no Mori Station
Entrance Fee: 1,600 yen (Adult), 100 yen off with online discount ticket
※ The Hakone Open-air Museum, “About Us” “Discount Tickets”
Hakone Ropeway offers convenient access and a great vantage point to visit the best of Hakone’s sights. There are 4 stations along the route; Togendai, Ubako, Owakudani, and Sounzan. Each station has something fun and unique waiting for you, all of which we’ve broken down in our dedicated article:
A sneak peak of the article:
Owakudani Black Eggs
Hakone Free Pass
Into golfing? Hakone has quite a few golf courses for you to try your hand at. For golf courses around Lake Ashinoko, there are:
Hakonekohan Golf Course is located on Lake Ashi’s northern shore
Hakone-en Golf Course is operated by Prince Hotels who also operates Ryuuguden onsen facility (above)
Hakone Country Club is a private golf club; non-members are still allowed to play provided you have a member to introduce you and reserve in advance
There are quite a few other golf courses further from Lake Ashinoko if you are interested. For more about playing golf in Japan including the costs:
Looking for a place to spend the night in Hakone? Here are some places to consider:
Hakone Suishoen is a 5-star luxury resort. Some of the facilities here include onsen, spa, expansive traditional Japanese garden, bar lounge, and restaurant dining. The resort has 23 suites in total which are designed in a mix of traditional Japanese and modern styles.
Price Range: 40,000yen~
Atmosphere: Elegant, relaxing, surrounded by nature
Only a 3-mins walk from Gora Station in the onsen area Gora, Tensui Saryo offers onsen (outdoor and indoor), foot baths, sauna, and traditional Japanese cuisine. They have a variety of rooms in different designs ranging from a mix of Western-Japanese, full on traditional Japanese, and full on Western. They also have onsen / bath ensuite rooms if you’d like to bathe in private.
Price Range: 30,000yen~
Atmosphere: Traditional, relaxing, omotenashi
Also known as Hakone Jade, this hotel can be found in the hot spring area of Sengokuhara (mentioned above). The hotel’s exterior is modern with a large garden that has a gazebo. Just like Tensui Saryo, it has rooms with private onsen baths. And like Hakone Suishoen, most of its rooms are a mix of Japanese-Western modern styles. Some nearby attractions to visit include Hoshi no Oujisama (Little Prince) Museum, Hakone Wetlands Botanical Garden, and Lalique Museum Hakone.
Price Range: 50,000yen~ (Peak price)
Atmosphere: Modern, surrounded by nature, relaxing
A relatively new onsen resort that opened in 2017! Ten-yu offers views of Hakone’s mountains. All their rooms come with an outdoor bath. Hakone Ten-yu Valley Garden is the resort’s private garden that has a waterfall feature which makes for a relaxing morning walk. They have 3 dining facilities that offer soba, teppanyaki, shabu-shabu, traditional Japanese cuisine, and Western cuisine. The nearest attraction is Yunessun, a huge hot spring amusement park that has wine/sake/green tea baths, water slides, water playgrounds, and more.
Price Range: 50,000yen~
Atmosphere: Modern, mountains, surrounded by nature, relaxing
Hakone is a good place to visit throughout the year with each season bringing its own beauty and fun to the picture:
Early spring when it’s cold is still a great time for onsen, especially for those who find winter too cold. You can also catch cherry blossoms in Hakone.
Flowers, so many flowers abloom, especially hydrangeas and azaleas. Early summer when it’s not too hot is a great time for golf.
Autumn foliage spots include Lake Ashinoko, Yumoto, Gora, and Hakone Museum of Art. Also make sure to take the Hakone Ropeway for a birds eye view. As a plus, onsen is great in late autumn when nights are cold.
As an onsen hotspot, winter is the peak season for Hakone. We recommend booking well in advance if you want to spend a night in an onsen hotel. Parts of Hakone also experience snowfall which makes things more scenic.
Hakone is no doubt one of the best places to visit for a rejuvenating trip. Soak away your exhaustions and stress from everyday life in the healing hot spring waters. Visit some of the numerous museums or simply enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of nature all around this beautiful town.
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