Hakone Itinerary: How to Spend 2 Days in Hakone
Long ago when Japan was ruled by a shogun and samurai still roamed the countryside, the cities of Japan were connected by five highways. The most famous one, the Tokaido Road (East Coast Road), connected the two most important cities in Japan: Kyoto and Edo (present-day Tokyo).
Along the Tokaido Road were 26 checkpoints where guards checked travelers’ documents and where weary travelers could rest at inns and teahouses. The most important checkpoint was the one travelers stopped at right before entering Edo and right after exiting the capital. This was in the mountainous village of Hakone.
Here guards would check to make sure women weren’t being smuggled out of the capital, for the shogun required all of his lords’ family members to reside in Edo permanently in order to ensure their loyalty. Guards would also check the travelers entering Edo to see that they weren’t smuggling guns into the capital to overthrow the shogun.
Today visitors to Japan’s capital are no longer required to stop in Hakone before entering and exiting Tokyo.
However, the inns, restaurants, and other businesses for travelers have not disappeared.
Locals and foreign visitors flock to Hakone for other more pleasant reasons: to soak in its twenty different kinds of hot springs, spend the night in its traditional inns, hike in its mountains, appreciate its views of Mount Fuji, and wander around its world-class museums.
What’s more, you can still experience what it was like to travel along the Old Tokaido Road. The last remaining stones of the Old Tokaido Road can still be found in Hakone.
Here is a suggested Hakone itinerary for 2 days. I updated the itinerary on September 2 to reflect the fact that the ropeway to Owakudani has been suspended and Owakudani closed due to volcanic activity. Don’t worry. Hakone is safe.
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Table of Contents
What and Where is Hakone?
Hakone is not exactly an individual town or city. Instead, it is an area comprised of several towns nestled between the peaks and valleys of Mount Hakone. More importantly, Hakone is situated on top of a volcano, making it one of the top five places in Japan for visiting hot springs.
The main town that most visitors arrive at is Hakone-Yumoto. Another popular place, due to its many hot springs and central location, is Gora.
However, you don’t necessarily have to stay in these two towns. There are ryokans with onsens (traditional Japanese-style inns with hot springs) as well as hostels and other kinds of accommodations dotted all over the area. Getting to them is easy as there’s an extensive and efficiently-run public transportation system connecting the towns, inns, and attractions.
Hakone is located one to two hours by bus or train from Tokyo, so it makes for an easy day trip or a weekend trip.
What is the Hakone Freepass?
The Hakone Freepass is a travel pass that covers the cost of your transportation both to/from Hakone and around Hakone. It can cover your ride from Tokyo to Hakone or from Odawara to Hakone. It also covers trains, buses, boat rides, and ropeways in Hakone. It’s similar to a Japan Rail Pass. When you get on and off a train or bus in Hakone, you just flash your Freepass.
You can also use it to get discounts at some restaurants and tourist sights. Often you’ll get a discount of ¥100 or ¥200 (US$1-$1.84 /£.78-£1.56 / €.86-€1.72).
Where to purchase the Hakone Freepass
You can buy the pass at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center at Shinjuku or Odawara train stations. At Shinjuku Station, just follow the signs to the Odakyu Department Store. The service center is nearby.
You can also buy them before you get to Japan from an online travel agency. You’ll just need to exchange the voucher for the real ticket at Shinjuku station. The price is sometimes cheaper from the online agency than if you bought it in Japan.
When I purchaed my passes at Shinjuku and Odawara stations, the staff spoke perfect English and they were extremely knowledgable and helpful.
Odakyu is the company that owns the railway lines from Tokyo to Hakone, Mount Fuji, and Kamakura areas. They sell travel passes for Hakone, Mount Fuji-Hakone area, Enoshima-Kamakura, and a few others. They also own a department store in Shinjuku Station called Odakyu.
How much does the Hakone Freepass cost?
The price of the Freepass depends on where you depart from and how many days you use it for.
If you depart on an Odakyu train from Shinjuku station in Tokyo, the pass covers the train ride from Tokyo to Hakone, so it’ll cost more. If you have a JR Pass, don’t buy this one.
2 Days: For adults, ¥5,700 (US$54/£45 / €49); for children, ¥1,500 (US$14/£12/€13)
3 Days: For adults, ¥6,100 (US$58/£48/€53); for children, ¥1,750 (US$15.64/£13.66/€15)
If you depart from Odawara station, it costs less because it ONLY covers the train from Odawara to Hakone. If you have a JR pass, you want this pass because you’re JR Pass will cover the cost of the train from Tokyo to Odawara.
2 Days: For adults, ¥4,600 (US$44/£36/€40) and for children, ¥1,000 (US$10/£8/€9);
3 days: For adults, ¥5,000 (US$47/£39/€43); for children, ¥1,250 (US$12/£10/€11).
Other types of Hakone passes:
There are also other types of Hakone Freepasses you can purchase if you want to also travel to the Mount Fuji or Kamakura areas.
1. Fuji Hakone Pass
The Fuji Hakone pass allows you to travel between Tokyo and Mt. Fuji/Hakone area, between Mt. Fuji and Hakone, around the Mt. Fuji area, and around the Hakone area.
It’s good for three days.
The cost of the pass depends on where you depart from:
Shinjuku: For adults, it’s ¥9,090 (US$86/£71/€79; for children, it’s ¥3,250 (US$31/£26/€28).
Odawara: For adults, it’s ¥6,740 (US$64/£53/€58); for children, it’s ¥2,070 (US$20/£16/€18).You can buy the pass either in Japan at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center or from an online travel agency.
I bought the Fuji Hakone pass the last time I was in Japan. I paid ¥6,740 because I wasn’t using it to cover transportation from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji and back to Tokyo. I took a bus from Shinjuku to the Mount Fuji area (not covered under the pass). The next day my pass began. Let’s call that day 1. On day 1, I used it to travel around the Mount Fuji area. Then on day 2, I used the pass to travel between the Mt. Fuji and Hakone area by bus. On day 3, I used the pass to travel around the Hakone area. The next day I traveled to Kamakura (not covered under the pass).
2. Hakone Kamakura Pass
This pass covers travel in Hakone, Kamakura, and Enoshima on Odakyu and Enodon transportation lines. It’s unclear on the Hakone Kamakura Pass website whether the pass covers round-trip travel between Tokyo and the Hakone/Kamakura areas. It’s good for three days. For adults, it’s ¥7,000 and for children, it’s ¥2,250. You can also buy the pass online.
IS A JAPAN RAIL PASS WORTH IT? I have an article that will show you whether a Japan Rail Pass is worth it. I break down the transportation price (based on 2020 August prices) for each of the destinations in this Japan itinerary of 3 weeks. Then I compare that to the price of a Japan Rail Pass. After that, I show where and how to purchase a Japan Rail Pass, how to activate the Pass when you get to Japan, and how to use the Pass. Check out my article on getting a Japan Rail Pass here.
How to get to Hakone
If you read Lonely Planet, you might at first be confused about how to get to Hakone. I was. That’s because, from Tokyo, there are three different ways to get there by train, and your Japan Rail (JR) Pass doesn’t cover the whole route.
But don’t worry! If you follow this Hakone itinerary, you should have no problem.
In addition, the staff at the Hakone tourism office are skilled at dealing with both foreign and local tourists, and they make the process as easy as pie once you’re aware of all your travel options.
Here are the three ways to get to Hakone by train. I’ll explain each one in detail below.
1. Japan Rail train + Hakone Tozan train
2. Romance Car train
3. Odakyu line express train + Hakone Tozan line
I did option #1 the first time I visited Hakone (I’ve visited twice).
The very useful and user-friendly website, Hyperdia, will give you detailed information on trains and buses around Japan. It should become your new best friend while in Japan.
Bus to Hakone
There is a bus that leaves from Shinjuku station to Hakone, but it’s rather inconvenient because its destination is not the centrally and conveniently located Hakone-Yumoto. Instead, its final destination is Togendai on Lake Ashi. You’ll need to transfer to the T or S bus line at the Sengoku or Senkyoro-mae bus stops. It’s rather inconvenient. Price is ¥2010.
Option #1: JR Train + Hakone-Tozan Train
If you have a Japan Rail pass, option #1 is your best choice. It’s the cheapest and most convenient way to get to Hakone from Tokyo.
If you’re coming from Kyoto or some other city except for Tokyo, this is the only way to get to Hakone by train.
Here is how you do it:
1. Take a Japan Rail Train to Odawara
This section of the journey is covered under your Japan Rail Pass.
From Tokyo, it takes around 35 to 80 minutes depending on what kind of line you’re taking: regular or express. The train leaves from Tokyo station. I took the express line on my way back to Tokyo.
From Kyoto or Osaka, it can take between 2 or 3 hours to Odawara. Just remember that JR passes don’t cover the Nozomi line. Check out Hyperdia for train schedules around Japan.
2. Purchase the Hakone Freepass in Odawara
At the Odawara train station, go to the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center to purchase the Hakone Freepass. When I was there, there was a large sign outside the center saying “Tickets for Hakone.” The people who worked at the center were super helpful and friendly.
Make sure to get the free Hakone Bus Trip Map and Timetable. It may be old school, but it beat Google maps hands down for convenience and accuracy. Or maybe I’m just too old school.
You can also purchase your Hakone Pass from the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. Just tell the staff that you only want the pass to cover the portion from Odawara to Hakone.
3. Train or bus from Odawara Station to Hakone
Next, take the Hakone Tozan train to Hakone-Yumoto or anywhere along the way on its last stop to Gora.
This train ride is covered under your Hakone Freepass. JR Passes don’t cover it.
The train usually takes 15 minutes and leaves around every 15 minutes.
If you want, you can also take a bus from Odawara Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station. It’s also covered in the Freepass. I took the bus to Odawara when I was leaving Hakone.
It was a bit tricky finding the train to Hakone. Ask around and look out for signs. My train was leaving from track 11, but when I got to the train platform, there were two trains leaving from two different tracks, both saying track 11. If I hadn’t noticed a train attendant pointing out another train on an inconspicuously located track to another tourist, I might have gotten on the wrong train or missed my train.
Option #2: Romance Car
Your second option is to take the Romance Car. This train will take you nonstop from Tokyo Shinjuku Station to Hakone. It’s supposed to be fast, comfortable, and scenic.
The train takes 80 minutes.
It’s not covered under your Japan Rail Pass or Hakone Pass. You need to buy both a regular ticket and a limited express surcharge. The total cost from Shinjuku station for 2019 is ¥2,280 (US$22). Visit the Odakyu website to find out more information.
Option #3: Odakyu Line + Hakone-Tozan Line
Your third option is to take all non-Japan Rail (JR) trains.
1. Purchase the Hakone Freepass in Tokyo
The first thing to do is purchase the Hakone Freepass before you even leave Tokyo. This pass will cover the whole train journey from Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto station.
You can purchase the pass from the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. When you’re in Shinjuku, look for signs pointing you to Odakyu Line or Odakyu Department Store.
2. Take the Odakyu Line from Tokyo to Odawara
Leave from Shinjuku station on the Odakyu Line. It’s not covered under the Japan Rail pass, but it’s covered under the Hakone Freepass.
The journey takes 100 minutes.
3. Take the Hakone-Yumoto line from Odawara to Hakone
When you get to Odawara, transfer to the Hakone Tozan line.
This train takes 15 minutes and leaves about every 15 minutes.
You can also take a bus from Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto, which is also covered under your Hakone Freepass.
How to get to Hakone from the Mt. Fuji area
You can also travel between Hakone and the Mt. Fuji Five Finger lakes area. It’s a bit complicated, though. I did this route on my last trip to Hakone. You need to transfer multiple times, there’s a lack of posted information, and you get lots of conflicting answers from transportation employees. It was also raining, and I had no umbrella.
I’ll explain below how I traveled from Kawaguchi-ko in the Mt. Fuji area to Hakone:
1. Take the Fujiyoshida / Oshino / Yamanakako Sightseeing Bus from Kawaguchi-ko Station
At bus stop #6 at Kawaguchi-ko Station, I got on the Fushiyoshida/Oshino/Yamanakako Sightseeing Bus going to Gotemba (Gotemba Station). The bus to Gotemba left every hour (7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00). There are also buses going to “Outlets”, which are the Gotemba Outlets, and I think you can transfer to a bus to Hakone from there as well.
I took the bus all the way to the last stop. The bus time table said it would take an hour, but it actually took an hour and a half to get to Gotemba Station.
The ride was covered under my Fuji Hakone Pass. However, if you don’t have one, it’ll cost ¥1510.
2. Take the W bus line to Senkyoro-mae bus stop in the Hakone area
After getting off the bus from Kawaguchi-ko, I asked the people at the ticket office where to catch the bus to Hakone. I was told to go to the other side of the bus/train terminal to bus stop #3.
It was very frustrating because none of the bus stops said that they were for buses to Hakone.
However, there’s an Odakyu ticket office there that will tell you the bus time and departure location. You want the W bus line leaving from bus stop #3. The W bus was 30 minutes behind schedule.
The W bus is coming from Shinjuku station and is headed toward Togendai on the shore of Lake Ashi in Hakone.
The people at the Odakyu ticket office told me to transfer at Sengoku, but the bus driver told me to transfer at Senkyoro-mae. Listen to the bus driver.
3. Take the S bus line to Gora Station
I got off at Senkyoro-mae bus stop and waited at the same stop for the S bus to come for Gora Station. My hotel was a 5-minute walk from the station.
If you are staying in Hakone-Yumoto and not in Gora, you’ll probably need to transfer to the T bus line at Sengoku or Senkyoro-mae. But ask the ticket office and bus driver for confirmation on this.
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When to go to Hakone
I visited Hakone twice: once on a weekday and once on a weekend. Both times were in August. There were definitely more tourists on the weekend than the weekday, but the weekend wasn’t unbearable. I found that prices for accommodations on the weekend were significantly more expensive than on the weekday.
My friends from Japan say that accommodations are cheaper in summer than in spring, fall, and winter.
However, winter is the best time to see Mount Fuji, and with the leaves changing color, fall is when Hakone and the rest of Japan are both at their most beautiful.
If you’re a solo traveler and you want to stay at a ryokan, going on the weekend might also be difficult. Some ryokans don’t accept solo travelers as guests, or they only accept them on weekdays. This is because they often charge per guest and not per room because breakfast and dinner are included in the rate.
How long to stay in Hakone
I suggest staying at least 2 days and 2 nights in order to spend time relaxing in an onsen, seeing the historical sights, and visiting the Hakone Open Air Museum.
If you have more time, you can do three days and add in some more strenuous hiking, more onsen bathing, or more museum touring.
This Hakone itinerary is for two days.
Where to stay in Hakone
Hakone is famous for its traditional Japanese style inns called ryokans, so I suggest splurging here on your accommodations and stay in one with a hot spring bath, called onsen in Japanese. You’ll get a multi-course Japanese style breakfast and dinner in your room. YOLO, right? It can be an unforgettable cultural experience. I highly recommend staying at Fukuzumiro Ryokan.
If you don’t want to sleep on a futon, there are plenty of western-style hotels with onsens as well.
For those on a tighter budget, there are hostels with their own onsens. I highly recommend Onsen Guesthouse Hakone Tent.
You can check out hotel prices from booking.com.
Where did I stay?
I’ve been to Hakone twice. For my first visit, I stayed at Fukuzumiro Ryokan, a 125-year-old traditional Japanese inn situated right next to a roaring river.
My room had this huge window right smack dab above the river. At night I fell asleep to the sound of the river as it flowed over the rocks below. It was heavenly.
A Japanese style multi-course dinner and breakfast were served in my room. You can read more about what’s included in a Japanese style breakfast in this great article by Travel With Kat.
I also got a Japanese style robe called a yukata that I wore around the ryokan.
The only thing I didn’t like, considering how much I paid, was that the bathrooms were shared and quite far from my room.
The ryokan has three onsen baths: male, female, and private.
In addition, the inn was conveniently located–just two bus stops from the Hakone-Yumote train station and a 1-minute walk from my bus stop.
Whatever you do, don’t arrive before check-in at 3:00 pm. It’s just impolite to arrive early at ryokans. I actually arrived 15 minutes early thinking it would take me longer to get to the ryokan than it actually did. Oops!
Just be aware that some of the ryokans in Hakone are really old. You’re going to have to suspend your demand for brand new shiny things in exchange for character and Japanese style rustic charm. Fukuzumiro was a bit rundown in places with water stains on the ceiling and worn-out furniture.
The second time I visited Hakone, I stayed at a hostel called Onsen Guesthouse HAKONE TENT located in Gora. I highly recommend this quirky hostel. They also have single rooms as well. They’ve got two private hot springs, a decent restaurant that serves amazing pizza, and friendly staff. Skip the breakfast.
How to get around Hakone
I wish my home country of the United States had the kind of public transportation system that Japan has. Hakone’s is no exception. It’s both extensive and user-friendly. It makes completing this Hakone itinerary a breeze.
Your Hakone Freepass covers the cost of the train and bus along with the cable car, the ropeway, and the boat.
You can take a look at this great pamphlet for travel options including transportation schedule around Hakone.
To get around, just use the paper Hakone Bus Trip Map that you’ll get at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center. The map was super easy to use and more helpful than Google Maps.
Taking the Bus Around Hakone
Hakone has an excellent bus system. According to the Hakone Bus Trip Map, I counted 14 bus routes. Each route is given a letter (T, TP, H, L, G, etc.). Look for the letter at bus stops and on the front of buses.
To take the bus from the train station, cross the street via a pedestrian flyover and turn left. You’ll find a Hakone Tozan Bus Information office when you get to the other side of the street.
Look for the bus stop with the letter of your route. On the weekend, there are bus employees guiding tourists to the correct bus stop.
For more information including bus routes and their schedules, you can check out the very useful Hakone Tozan Bus website.
Taking the train around Hakone
The train line is the same one that you arrived on from Odawara: the Hakone Tozan Railway. It also takes you all the way to Gora Station, where you can catch the cable car that takes you to the ropeway to Owakudani.
Hakone Itinerary: Day 1
To be able to complete this itinerary, you should definitely make sure to get to Hakone by noon with 1:00 pm at the latest. This is definitely possible if you’re coming from Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, or Tokyo.
1. Drop off your luggage
When you get to Hakone, you can drop your luggage at the luggage storage place at the Hakone train station. You can store them there, or you can have them deliver the luggage to your hotel for a fee.
If you have time, you may be able to drop them off at your accommodations.
2. Hakone Open Air Museum
Begin your trip to Hakone at the Hakone Open Air Museum. Make sure to get there early so that you can spend three hours wandering around this gorgeous and fascinating museum.
This is a museum you shouldn’t miss even if you are not a fan of museums. It’s a fun outdoor museum (plus some indoor exhibits) surrounded by the beautiful forested mountains of Hakone. In my opinion, it’s the best sculpture museum I’ve been to. It’s filled with both Japanese and international artists.
How to get to the museum
You can get to the museum by train or bus. For the train, you want to take the same train that you took from Odawara. The train is also a fabulous adventure in its own right. It’s an old switchback train that travels through the mountains and forests of Hakone. You’ll want to get off at Chokoku-no-mori station. It’s then a short walk to the museum.
If you’re taking the bus, you’ll want to get off at Ninotaira-iriguchi. It’s also a short walk to the museum.
You could easily spend around 3 hours here checking out all the exhibits, walking around the grounds, soaking your feet in the foot baths, and enjoying the fresh mountain air.
Here are some don’t miss exhibits:
The Picasso Exhibit – two stories of his works of art including paintings, ceramics, and photographs. There are some really cool pieces. There are two pieces on canvas made of broken glass that were my favorite pieces ever by Picasso.
This building might be closed for remodeling and his works of art might have be in other buildings when you visit.
Also, check out the Symphonic Sculpture. You can enter the sculpture and walk up a winding staircase to the top of a tower overlooking the whole park.
Miss Black Power sculpture was another of my favorites.
A woman’s head covered in green leaves is another stunning sculpture.
Next, return to your accommodations for dinner. If you’re staying at a traditional Japanese style inn, dinner will probably be included in the price of your room and you’ll get a multi-course meal. This is an experience you should try at least once while in Japan even though it can be a bit pricey. YOLO.
Check-in at the ryokan that I stayed at ended at 6:00 pm. Dinner was also at a fixed time, so it was imperative that I wasn’t late in getting back. I’d suggest getting to your hotel before 5:00 pm and if you have time before dinner, taking a pre-dinner dip in an onsen.
Before or after dinner, enjoy a hot springs bath. When Japanese visit a hot spring resort, they usually bathe three times: before dinner, before they go to bed, and when they wake up in the morning.
What is an onsen?
First of all, we should get straight what exactly an onsen is. Onsen is the Japanese word for hot springs. The water of a hot spring is naturally heated by volcanic activity underground or fault lines in the Earth. Japan has over 2,000 hot springs. Hakone, itself, sits on top of a volcano. It is considered one of the five best hot spring areas in Japan.
The Japanese believe that onsens can treat chronic illnesses, prevent diseases as well as reduce stress. The Japanese government also regulates onsens and has a set of criteria that defines what an onsen is or isn’t based on the temperature and the chemical makeup of the water.
Most hotels, guesthouses, and ryokans in Hakone have their own onsens. Sometimes the onsen is private, which means you use it alone. Other onsens are public, which means you use the onsen with other guests at the same time. However, males and females bathe separately.
The Japanese seem to very, very serious about making sure you follow all the steps and don’t deviate from the protocol when bathing. My ryokan had instructions in English along with photos explaining what you can and can’t do.me
Yunessun Hot Springs Theme Park
You also might want to try an incredibly unique hot springs experience at Yunessun Hot Springs Theme Park. Along with swimming pools and regular hot spring baths, it has hot springs filled with wine, tea, and coffee. You can buy tickets to Yunessun here.
Hakone Itinerary: Day 2
1. Cable Car and Ropeway to Owakudani
Start day 2 of your Hakone itinerary by taking the cable car from Gora Station to Sounzan. Then take the ropeway to Owakudani.
Both the cable car and ropeway are covered under your Hakone Freepass.
When you get to the end of the ropeway, you’ll be at Owakudani, the Great Boiling Valley.
It was so foggy and cloudy that I didn’t see much from the ropeway. If the weather is nice, you can supposedly see amazing views of Mount Fuji.
The highlight of your excursion on the mountain is the Great Boiling Valley, Owakudani. The first thing you’ll notice I bet will be the smell of Sulfur. Yep. The valley is an active volcano and you’ll see steam coming out of these vents in the earth. The volcano was last active in 2019. It had been closed off for several months until fall 2019.
Make sure to do one last touristy thing before leaving Owakudani and that is to try the black eggs.
They’re just eggs that have been boiled in the hot spring. They taste just like a regular egg, but rumor has it that they’re supposed to add seven years to your life. I’m pretty sure no studies have actually scientifically proven this, so we’ll never really know. I mean these eggs could just take 7 years away from your life for all we know.
3. Ropeway to Togendai
Take the ropeway down to the lake at Togendai, on the shore of Lake Aishi.
4. Pirate Ship Cruise Across Lake Ashi
At Togendai take the pirate ship across Lake Ashi to Hakonemachi-ko. There are two ports: Hakonemachi-ko and Motohakone-ko.
There are two ports: Hakone-machi-ko and Motohakone-ko. Hakone-machi-ko is closer to the next stop on your Hakone itinerary: the Hakone Checkpoint.
Can you see Mount Fuji from Hakone?
I didn’t see Mount Fuji when I was there. The weather was so bad that even one of the piers was closed.
Here are some suggested viewing spots for Mount Fuji.
This is what you would be able to see if the sky was clear. You can see Mount Fuji in the background. However, if it’s cloudy, you can forget seeing it.
You’re most likely to see Mount Fuji in the winter than in other months.
5. Hakone Checkpoint on the Tokaido Road (Hakone Sekisho)
COST: ¥500 original price; ¥400 (US$3.60/£ 2.75) with Hakone Freepass for adults; ¥250 original price; ¥150 with Freepass (US$1.50/£1.05) for children | OPEN: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; Dec 1 – Feb 28: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm | BUS STOP: Hakone-sekisho-ato | WEBSITE
After getting off the pirate ship, walk to the Hakone Checkpoint (Hakone Sekisho), a reconstruction of the last checkpoint on the Tokaido Highway. It’s a 5-minute walk.
There are two parts to the Checkpoint: the reconstructed buildings and a museum.
A lot of the signs are just in Japanese, but there is an English printed guide you can get at the entrance. There’s also an audio recording playing in one of the buildings that describes the checkpoint. If you wait long enough or you’re just lucky, you’ll get to hear the English version.
I’m a giant history nerd, so I loved learning about the checkpoint and seeing what it was like.
I found it fascinating that the guards were more concerned with making sure women weren’t being smuggled out of Edo rather than weapons being smuggled into the capital. Luckily, they were inspected by female guards.
But just the fact that they were so concerned with women leaving shows that the daimyo’s wife and offspring were basically hostages of the shogun. With them in Edo, the daimyo were less likely to rebel and try to overthrow the shogun. I guess this tight control worked because Japan had no civil wars for over 250 years and thus, prospered economically during that time.
The checkpoint is located right on the edge of Lake Ashi. You can climb up a guard post to see views of the lake.
6. Tokaido Road
After visiting the Hakone Checkpoint, take the Old Tokaido Road to Moto-Hakone-ko, which is the pier for the pirate boat that takes you across the lake. This Tokaido Road is not the one with the original stones. That one comes later.
To find the Tokaido Road, go past the large parking lot and look for a sign saying “Cedar Avenue 50 meters.” Follow the arrows and cross the main road. You’ll see a bus stop on your right and the beginning of a path through a forest on your left.
If you start walking toward Moto-Hakone (away from the Hakone Checkpoint), you should come to a path lined with tall Cedar trees. This was supposedly part of the Tokaido Road. It’s a nice and easy walk of about 15 minutes to Moto Hakone pier.
There are lots of restaurants located near the Moto-Hakone pier.
I actually bought some food at the 7-11 across the street from the pier and had a picnic by the lake and had my lunch. While looking out over the lake, the clouds moved away enough to give me a faint glimpse of Mt. Fuji.
8. Hakone Jinja Shrine
COST: free | OPEN: 9 am to 4 pm
About a 10-minute walk from the pier is the Hakone Jinja Shrine.
After you’ve been in Japan for a while, it’s really easy to get shrined-out and think about skipping this one. I wasn’t that crazy about visiting it, but I had to get a shot of the torii gate emerging out of Lake Ashi.
The original shrine was built sometime around 1200, but the current buildings are from the twetieth century.
9. Stone-Paved Road of the Old Hakone Highway
COST: free | OPEN: 24/7 | BUS STOP: Moto-Hakone-ko
The next thing you should do is hike the original stone-paved road of the Old Hakone Highway / Old Tokaido Road. This one is different from the one you walked on earlier. This one is paved with the original stones. It’s a real adventure walking on it.
You can take the path all the way to Hakone Yumoto. While walking the road, I met some other travelers who had started in Hakone Yumoto. They said it was taking them at least three hours and it hadn’t been easy.
I don’t suggest that you take it that far. You can take the road to the Amakaze Teahouse and then take a bus back to the pier or onward to Hakone-Yumoto. Google Maps says it takes 30 minutes. For me, with my bad arthritic knees, it took me an hour to get to the teahouse.
For me, this was a challenging but wonderful walk. You’re literally walking on uneven stones from the actual Tokaido Road, so it’s steep in places and at times slippery. Wear really good walking/hiking shoes! I could imagine travelers walking along the road on their way to Edo or back to Kyoto.
The Tokaido was the most important of the five highways in Japan. It was supposed to take men 12 days and women 15 days to traverse the road from Kyoto to Edo.
Later on, when the shogun loosened travel restrictions in Japan, more and more people started traveling around the country. This led to more towns and tourism facilities opening up along the five highways. Guidebooks describing the road and famous sites around Japan became popular. The Tokaido road also became a popular subject of artists of woodblock prints. The most famous ones of the 56 post towns by Hiroshige.
10. Amazake Teahouse
I’d suggest at least walking to the historic Amazake teahouse, one of the last remaining rest stops for weary travelers on the Tokaido Road, where you can have some tea, their special amasake, and something sweet to eat. I ordered the amasake (¥400) and Chikara Mochi (¥500). It’s a nice and cozy place to rest.
Google Maps says it will take 30 minutes to get to the teahouse, but with my bad knees, it took me an hour.
I took the bus back to Moto-Hakone, which is where the boat is (cross the street to catch the bus). You can also take the bus to Hakone-Yumoto.
11. Visit an Onsen
I suggest ending your day in Hakone with a visit to a public onsen. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime-experience. In public onsens, the sexes are segregated with males bathing together and females bathing together in separate areas. However, you are bathing completely naked in front of strangers.
I have to admit that it took me a few visits to an onsen, even a private one, until I was able to really appreciate the Japanese love for them.
There are a number of public onsens that you can be found on the route from the teahouse to Hakone-Yumoto.
- Tenzan (COST: ¥1,300 without Freepass / ¥1,200 with Hakone Freepass | OPEN: 9:00 – 22:00 | Tattoos ok | Bring your own towel—it should be the size of a hand towel; ¥200 to buy towel)
- Ikkyu (COST: ¥1,100 | OPEN: 11:00 – 20:00; closed on Thursday | Tattoos ok)
- Hakone Yuryo (COST: ¥1,500 | OPEN: 10:00 – 21:00 | No tattoos) – You can come here on a day trip through on a tour package that includes round-trip ticket on the Romance Car and entry into the hot springs.
- Another choice that is not on the K bus route, but is popular in Hakone is the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun. Along with water slides and traditional-style onsens, it also has specialty baths like a sake bath where you bathe in sake, a green tea bath, a coffee bath, and a wine bath. You can check out reviews of Yunessun on Tripadvisor.
I decided to visit Tenzan Onsen as it was recommended by my guesthouse and guidebook as THE best one in Hakone.
To get there from Amakaze Teahouse, take bus K to Oku-Yumoto Iriguchi (10-15 minute). You can catch bus K right outside the front door of the teahouse.
The last four K buses from Tenzan to Hakone-Yumoto station leave at 18:23, 18:58, 19:48, and 20:48. It takes five minutes by bus back to the station. The bus costs 230 yen if you don’t have the Hakone Freepass.
You might notice on the sign for bus K at the bus stop at Amakaze Teahouse that the last bus is at 16:00. Yes. K Buses from Moto-Hakone to Hakone-Yumoto end early at 16:00. But K buses from Hatajuku to Hakone-Yumoto run later until 20:48.
There’s also a hotel shuttle bus that goes to the Hakone-Yumoto train station. It costs 100 yen with the last bus leaving Tenzan at 18:55.
There’s very little English at the onsen. I just followed what everyone else did.
- Purchase a ticket for the onsen at a vending machine outside the building. If you have the Hakone Freepass, you only pay ¥1,200.
- Enter and put your shoes in a locker
- Give the attendant your ticket
- Go downstairs to the changing room
- Find a locker and take off all of your clothes but keep your towel with you
- Put the key around your wrist
- Go to the shower room and thoroughly wash yourself; a lot of Japanese wash their hair
- Enter the bathing area and go from pool to pool.
There are six or seven outdoor pools at Tenzen of varying temperatures and two sauna rooms. The water for one pool is a milky color, which always seemed very popular, and another bath is ice cold. One pool is partially inside a cave.
When you’re finished, there are places to dry your hair and fix your makeup.
You can also go up some stairs to a room filled with tatami mats and beanbag chairs and have a rest.
12. Dinner at Tenzan
I had dinner at Tenzan. They have two very nice restaurants with decent prices. Neither of them has English menus, but there are photos on the menus.
One restaurant serves shabu-shabu and other dishes, and I think the other one specializes in soba noodles.
Both of them are in a building connected by a bridge to the building with the onsens. One restaurant is upstairs and the other just below that.
I ate at the one on the first floor. I had the unagi (eel) for ¥1,850. Unagi is my favorite Japanese dish but it was also the only thing on the menu besides shabu-shabu that I could understand.
Overall, I spent three hours at Tenzan bathing, resting, and eating.
13. Leaving Hakone
You can either stay in Hakone one more night or travel back to Tokyo that evening.
One thing to keep in mind when navigating Japan train stations is that the Shinkansen trains are in a different part of the station from the regular trains. When I first got to Japan, I would get off one train only to find myself completely lost looking for my connecting train. It’s because I was always looking for a shinkansen in the non-shinkansen area of the train station or vice versa. Ugh!
- Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center has information on how to get to Hakone and how to purchase the Freepass
- Romance Car: It has information on how to purchase tickets and how to take the Romance Car to Hakone.
- Enjoy Hakone: Do you want more information about the hot springs in Hakone?
- The Japan Times has some interesting articles on the hot springs of Hakone.
- Japan Experience has some information about the Amazake Teahouse.
- For information on taking the pirate ship across Lake Ashi
- Official Hakone Tourism website
- More information on the history of Hakone and the Tokaido Road
- Hakone Navi – This website has the best information on Hakone and its transportation system.
- Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Japan – Information on how to buy the JR Pass
Hakone is worth a visit as long as you know what to see and do there. Staying in a nice ryokan and spending some time at an onsen will also add to your experience. If you can actually see Mount Fuji, it would be an added treat. Try to get in some hiking as well. I’d say that the more historical sights and the art museum were more interesting for me than the boat ride, ropeway, and cable car excursion. That might have been because the sky was so overcast that I couldn’t see much.
Have you been to Hakone? Are you planning to add Hakone to your Japan itinerary? If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment box below. If you find this post useful, please post on social media! ♥
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