Visiting an onsen (hot springs) town, staying in a ryokan (traditional inn) and being served kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal) is the ultimate traditional Japanese experience. Hakone is a traditional onsen town, providing all of these experiences against the backdrop of the majestic Mount Fuji. Hakone should be on everyone’s wish list and since it’s only 80 minutes from Tokyo, it’s an absolute must if you have only limited time in Japan.
Hakone can be visited as a day trip from Tokyo, however, to be able to fully enjoy this amazing town, we’d recommend an overnight stay in a ryokan. The rooms are usually outfitted with traditional Japanese tatami mats. While in the ryokan you will be given a yukata (lightweight kimono) to wear, meals are traditional kaiseki multi-course meals, and to top off the experience you can soak in the hot springs. Absolute bliss!
How to get to Hakone
From Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, you can either take regular trains or the express train called the 'Romancecar' to Hakone-Yumoto Station.
Regular trains on the Odakyu line take two hours and cost ¥1,220. Take the train from Shinjuku Station to Odawara Station and then to Hakone-Yumoto Station.
The Romancecar is a reserved ticket train direct to Hakone and takes about 80 minutes, and costs ¥1,220 regular fare and an additional ¥1,110 express fare.
The driver sits above the passengers so we highly recommend booking early to reserve the very front or back seats of the train, which will give you an unobstructed view of the scenery. When booking these are called the observation deck which is a bit misleading as it is not a separate deck, just the front or rear seats.
The Odakyu website clearly explains the trains on the Odakyu Line and you can easily purchase Romancecar tickets online in English with the e-Romancecar link. Tickets are also available at select ticket machines where you can purchase the limited express ticket as well as the base ticket (this step by step guide will help) and Odakyu travel service centers.
If you have a JR pass and you want to make the most of it then you can catch a shinkansen from Tokyo Station, on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line, to Odawara Station. Here you will need to purchase a ticket to catch the Hakone Tozan train as this is not covered on the JR pass. Total trip takes about two hours.
If you prefer bus travel, the Odakyu Hakone highway bus company has a direct service from Shinjuku Station to the Lake Ashi area. Tickets cost ¥2,000 and it takes about two hours if the traffic is favourable.
Travel to Hakone can be covered in the Hakone Freepass – see below for more details.
Getting around Hakone – The Hakone Round Course
The Hakone Round Course does a loop of Hakone, taking in the main sights and consists of five different transport options (railway, cable car, ropeway, boat and bus). Check out the official transport page to ensure all modes of transport are running on the day that you visit. The course can be done in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, although most people will complete it in an anti-clockwise direction.
Hakone Tozan Railway (Hakone-Yumoto Station to Gora Station)
40 minutes ¥410
After arriving at Hakone-Yumoto Station (or Odawara if traveling by JR) catch the Hakone Tozan Railway to Gora. This train winds through beautiful forests and uses a switchback system to climb the mountain.
There are a number of stops on the way including the Hakone Open Air Museum at Chōkoku-no-mori Station or visit the historic Fujiya Hotel at Miyanoshita Station and enjoy exquisite seasonal-themed tea and sweets, while overlooking the picturesque gardens.
Hakone Tozan Cable Car (Gora to Sounzan)
10 minutes ¥430
At Gora Station, it’s a short walk to the Hakone Tozan Cable Car. However, if you need to stop for lunch first, the popular Gyoza Centre is a short walk from the station. You might need to wait on busy days but it's worth it!
The cable car is a short but steep ride up to Sounzan Station.
Hakone Ropeway (Sounzan to Owakudani, Owakudani to Togendai)
9 minutes ¥920 to Owakudani then 19 minutes ¥1,140 to Togendai
At Sounzan Station change to the Ropeway car for a ride into another world as lush green hills give way to yellow sulphur streams and a barren mountainside.
At the top of Owakudani take some time to enjoy the amazing view of Mount Fuji and add seven years to your life with black eggs!
The ropeway will then take you back down the mountain to Togendai on the edge of Lake Ashinoko.
Hakone Sightseeing Pirate Ships (Togendai-ko to Hakonemachi-ko or Motohakone-ko)
35 minutes ¥1,050 (¥520 for children, primary school and under).
The pirate ship will dock at both Hakonemachi-ko and Motohakone-ko, however, it depends on the time of day as to which it will dock at first. You can walk part of the old Tokaido Highway between Motohakone and Hakonemachi, it will only take about 15-20 minutes.
From Port Motohakone there are a number of spots to view Mount Fuji sitting over the lake. Aim to arrive early morning or as the sun is setting to catch the best photos of Mount Fuji.
Bus (Hakonemachi-ko or Motohakone-ko to Hakone-Yumoto Station)
30-40 minutes ¥980
Once at port Motohakone-ko or Hakonemachi-ko, catch the bus (service information here) back to Hakone-Yumoto Station to complete the circuit or if you are staying overnight catch the bus to your ryokan. The only way to end such an adventurous day is with a relaxing evening of kaiseki meal and a soak in an onsen; it is an onsen town after all!
A Hakone Freepass can be purchased for two or three days of unlimited travel on eight transportation networks around Hakone. It can be purchased with or without travel to Hakone.
The pass includes travel on the Hakone Tozan Train, Hakone Tozan Cable Car, Hakone Ropeway, Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, Hakone Tozan Bus, Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus, Tokai Bus, Kanko Shisetsu-Meguri Sightseeing Bus. Note that bus travel is only in limited area within Hakone.
The pass also gives discounts on entry to a number of attractions in Hakone including museums, gardens, hot springs, shopping and dining.
Hakone Freepass prices from Shinjuku Station for two days:
Children ¥1,500 (6-11 years)
Note – The Freepass covers the regular fare but not the express fare. If you want to travel on the Romancecar there is an express charge of ¥1,110 each way in addition to the Freepass price.