Hakone is a beautiful hot spring town in the mountains just west of Tokyo. It boasts spectacular views of Mt Fuji, stunning autumn foliage, lakeside shrines, and fascinating volcanic landscapes. Hakone is connected to Tokyo by a number of train lines including the high-speed Shinkansen, making it a popular day trip destination for those looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
This itinerary will have you taking in the best sights Hakone has to offer, all the while zipping around on mountain trains, cable cars, and even a pirate ship!
Hakone Open Air Museum
Hakone Open Air Museum is an outdoor sculpture museum where you can enjoy world-class sculptures against the backdrop of forest green hills and open skies. Hakone Open Air Museum can be reached by taking the Hakone Tozan Railway from Hakone-Yumoto station. This mountain-climbing train takes you through lush forest up to the Gora area where the museum is located.
A pleasant walking trail around the museum grounds leads you past sculptures big and small and passes through the Picasso Pavilion where a great number of paintings and ceramics by the legendary artist are housed. Another highlight is the Symphonic Sculpture, an 18-meter tower of stained glass by the French artist Gabriel Loire. You can climb to the top of the tower and admire the sculptures dotted around the grounds from above.
Owakudani – The Magic of an Active Volcano
From Gora station, you can take the cable car up to Sounzan station, followed by a breathtaking ride on the Hakone ropeway across a steaming volcanic valley to Owakudani. At Owakudani, you can enjoy the unique landscape of an active volcanic area, which features sulfuric fumes, ashy trees, and hot rivers. On clear days, you’ll be treated to great views of Mount Fuji.
The Hakone GeoMuseum at Owakudani provides a great opportunity to learn a bit about the geology of the region. It also explains how they pump up hot spring water for the delightful onsen baths around Hakone.
Owakudani is a great spot to enjoy some lunch. The specialty here is the famous black egg, whose shell is blackened by cooking it in the sulfuric hot spring pools nearby. It is said that eating one of these black eggs will extend your lifespan by seven years. Also available are black curry bread, black ramen, and black ice cream. You’re spoiled for choice!
Hakone Shrine – Arrive by Pirate Ship!
After taking the cable car to its terminus at Lake Ashi, you can travel down the lake on the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. This colorful pirate ship takes you to Motohakone-ko, which is just a short walk from Hakone Shrine and its famous lakeside tori gate. If you have only experienced shrines in busy Tokyo, this is a great opportunity to experience a Shinto shrine in a more peaceful, meditative context. The beautiful dark red buildings of the shrine are surrounded by dense forest made up of towering, ancient Japanese cedars.
If you’re willing to queue for the perfect selfie, take the stairs down to the lake where you can get a photo with Hakone Shrine’s towering torii gate on the banks of Lake Ashi.
After all that sightseeing, you might be in need of some R&R. Look no further than Tenzan Onsen, an extremely elegant outdoor hot spring spa that offers multiple baths built among lush forested hills. After a soak in these restorative waters, you can relax on the balcony in the common area, taking in the beautiful traditional architecture and peaceful surroundings before catching the last train back to Tokyo.
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