Hakone (箱根) is a mountainous area west of Tokyo in Japan. The Hakone checkpoint on the historical Tokaido road marks the beginning of the Kanto region.
The volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, centered around Lake Ashinoko, is a popular tourist attraction well known for its onsen (hot springs) and its views of Mount Fuji.
The Great Boiling Valley (大涌谷 Ōwakudani) is a volcanic hot spot full of sulphurous springs. Owakudani can be reached by cablecar from Sounzan and the lake.
Hakone Jinja Shrine, nestled on the south shore of the lake, close to Moto-Hakone, is a picturesque Shinto shrine with torii gates in water.
Lake Ashi (Ashinoko) offers beautiful views of Mount Fuji but only on a clear day. As many tourists have found out, a visit to Lake Ashinoko does not guarantee a view of the mountain. The lake is crisscrossed by cartoonishly decorated “pirate ships”.
Hakone Open Air Museum displays a wide variety of sculptures and artwork within a beautiful parkland setting. Includes a Picasso exhibition (paintings and pottery).
No trip to Hakone would be complete without a dip at a Japanese hot spring (onsen). If you’re staying overnight, your lodgings may include bathing facilities, but if not many hotels open up their baths to visitors for around ¥500 or so.
Tenzan Tōjigō (天山湯治郷), Hakone-Yumoto, Chaya 208. Large, popular hot spring operation with indoor and outdoor baths, sauna, etc. Free shuttle bus from outside the bus station. Open 11 AM-8 PM daily. ¥1000/630 adult/child.
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (ユネッサン), Hakone-machi, 1297 Ninotaira. Indoor complex featuring rapids, dead sea style salt baths and jacuzzis, while the outdoor area offers waterfalls, rocks and a water slide. The popular outdoor relaxation section includes a renowned sake bath, as well as coffee, green tea and wine baths. Mori No Yu is a traditional Onsen style japanese spring located in the same complex. Open from March to October 9 AM-7PM daily. ¥3500/1700 adult/child.
Hiking. The area has some nice hiking trails. The national park website has an up to date list of hikes and their current status. The visitor’s center in Togendai also has a model of the area including many of the hikes around the Lake Ashi. For example there is a hike from Togendai to Owakudani and from there to Mt. Komagatake passing the peaks of Mt. Kanmurigatake and Mt. Kami. From Mt. Komagatake take the cable car down and the bus back to Togendai (beware: last cable car leaves Mt. Komagatake at 16:50). The hike takes between 2.5 and 3 hours and covers quite a difference in altitude. Sturdy shoes are definitely helpful but not necessary.
Try the black eggs (黒玉子 kuro-tamago) at Owakudani. Boiled on site, their shells are a mottled black due to a chemical reaction with the sulphurous water, but the inside is quite tasty. According to Japanese legend, every one you eat will add seven years to your life. 5 eggs (and hence 35 years) will set you back just ¥500.
If you’ve been in Japan for a while and miss the taste of a warm brownie, try the mountain brownies at Sagamiya. The shop is a few steps away from the tourist information center, right in front of the bus stops. You can’t miss the smell, as they are made on site!
Hotsprings – Onsen
There are lots of hot springs and spas in Hakone. The locales call it Onsen and its a place for complete relaxation, a place to forget about all the works and businesses of city life. They are very popular in Japan because of the health benefits derived from the various natural minerals desolved in the water. In Hakone, the hot springs -onsen can be found in the valleys, mountains, along the shore of Lake Ashi and in the bath houses and ryokan.