Hakone is a famous hot spring town, which is one of the reasons why I decided to go there. I needed a break from running like crazy all around Japan. It is close to Tokyo, hence the popularity. During nice weather, it is possible to see Mt. Fuji from there! It looks so cool!
I have spent there two days and one night. And yes, I was sleeping in the ryokan. Stay was amazing! A perfect break, from all tiredness! I wanted to plan the schedule differently, but because of the weather (strong winds), I had to reschedule attractions.
My ryokan was next to Lake Ashi. There are many ways to get there (and other places around) but whatever mode of transportation you will get, buy Hakone Free Pass (click here for all the details). The pass allows unlimited use of all methods of transport (8 different ones!) in the area. And believe me, you want that!
What to do
Now that you have the Hakone Free Pass hop onto the pirate boat that will take you for a short trip (30 minutes) on the lake. The ship looks super cool. And if the weather is nice, you can see Mount Fuji in the background 🙂
Beware though; two companies are operating the route, and the pass is only valid for the pirate ship shaped Hakone Sightseeing Boats.
Tip: Before entering a boat, go and buy an upgrade to first class. It cost like 2-3 $ more, and it makes a huge difference. The ship is divided into two parts: front -1st class and back 2nd class. Majority of people do not know about the cheap upgrade and end up spending the whole cruise crowded in 2nd class. On my journey, there were ten people in the 1st class. I had the entire front deck for myself to take as many selfies as I wish 🙂
Hakone was on a route between Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period. Therefore it was also a checkpoint place for traffic going through between those cities. The checkpoint has been reconstructed to illustrate how it looked like in the old days. There is a small museum. If you follow the small path along the lakeshore, you will reach a beautiful place where you have an overview of the whole lake 🙂
Taking the ropeway offers spectacular views of Lake Ashi, the rising volcanic fumes of Owakudani and the grandeur of Mount Fuji. The ropeway is also covered by Hakone Free Pass, so hop in and enjoy!
The ropeway sometimes is closed due to winds or volcanic gases. That was the case during my first day. I was told I could either take a bus and pay some extra or try my luck and see if the weather would be better the next day. And I was so lucky! Next day was a perfect weather day! It was so good that I had a clear view of Mt. Fuji. Additionally, it was also Easter Sunday, and I don’t think I could have spent that day more perfectly.
You see, I was trying to figure out, where I can find an egg to eat for my Easter. And then my plans got all messed up, and there I was in Owakudani area on Easter day (get off for a stop on Owakudani station), where I found black eggs (Kuro-Tamago)!! Perfect!!!
The eggs are black as they are cooked in the naturally hot water, and are blackened by the sulfur. There is legend saying that they prolong one’s life by seven years. But you should not eat more than two (don’t be greedy;p ). They are sold in bags of 5 eggs.
Depending on the amount of the volcanic gases it is possible to hike to the peak of Mount Kamiyama and then to Mount Komagatake from where you can catch the Komagatake Ropeway down to Lake Ashinoko. The hike takes about 2 hours one way. Unfortunately, the area was closed during my stay there. And either way, I did not have time as I had my big backpack with me, so I just entered ropeway again to get to the bottom.
Hakone Tozan Railway
Another mode of transportation covered by Hakone Free Pass 🙂 It is Japans oldest mountain railway! The train ride offers excellent views and is a fantastic experience. What surprised me was changing directions at three switchbacks! It was the first time I saw that way of going down the mountain 😀
Yunessun Hot Springs Resort and Spa
Yunessun Hot Springs Resort and Spa was my second reason why I chose Hakone to visit. Before going to Japan, I bumped into a post that showed pictures from this place.
What is so different about this place? Well, does soaking in a hot spring made of wine sounds good? What about sake, coffee or green tea? Yep, in this resort you can sit in your favorite beverage hot spring 😀 Once in a while, employees pour some of the wine or other drink on you. Amazing experience!
The resort is divided into two sections — the one with beverage baths, where you sit in your swimming suit as it is a mixed bath. The other one is traditional onsen where you get naked. I enjoyed it so much! I was so worn off after running around, so I sat on one rock in onsen outside. The sun was shining; the water was warm, there was a slight breeze. I closed my eyes for a moment and woke up half an hour later! It was my most relaxing day during the whole stay! Pure bliss!
You can buy a ticket for one of the section or both. Your choice 🙂 Before using traditional onsen read the guide of how to behave in one 🙂
If you want more info, go to their official site.
When you exit the Shinkansen, you can head straight to the Odawara castle. It is the closest castle keep to Tokyo. Unfortunately, it is only a reconstruction based on the documents from the Edo period. Netherless, it looks nice during sakura season, so if you are in the neighborhood check it out :)It is not as cool as Himeji, but it is nice enough 🙂
For more history, click here.