Best Places To See In Hakone
When living in a crowded and busy city like Tokyo, it can feel like everything becomes a bit too much. There is always something to do, somewhere to be, some friends to see and some deadline to meet. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about that city life. But the stress really can pile up once in a while. So, if you want to ease this feeling, then take a little time out to breathe. The perfect place for this? Hakone! You might know that this town is not only an amazing place for a little relaxation trip with friends, but also a very romantic getaway.
How To Get To Hakone
Hakone is a town situated in the Kanagawa prefecture, right next to Tokyo. As a result, it’s easily accessible from Shinjuku Station by train and the journey to it takes only one and a half hours. In Shinjuku station, at the ticket machines, I would recommend you buy a Hakone Freepass. This not only covers the cost of your travels to and from Hakone, but it also provides you with free bus rides once you’re there AND a lot of discounts on local activities. You’ll most likely have to book a hotel or Airbnb outside Hakone’s city centre, so this pass comes in handy as you’ll probably have to take the bus every day. The town itself is located on the shores of a huge lake called Lake Ashi and is surrounded by mountains. Talk about relaxing!
The Pirate Ship
One of the main attractions in town is a ride on the big pirate ship that takes you from one side of Lake Ashi to the other. This is not only a convenient way to get to the other side, but also a lot of fun and provides you with beautiful scenes of nature.
Hakone’s Scenic Nature
Because Hakone is situated next to a lake and is surrounded by mountains, one can assume there will be A LOT of nature. Around the lake, there are beautiful walking paths that take you on high and low treks over the hills, through open forests, and give you amazing views over the lands. What I’d recommend doing to get to these paths is taking the ship to the other side of the lake. Then, once you’ve seen everything on the other side (aka. the lifts up to the volcano and gift shops), walk past this one HUGE gift shop on the right-hand side of the boat docks.
Here, you’ll find a little trail leading up into the forest. This trail is a walking path that will take you back to the other side of Lake Ashi. It takes about one to two hours to get to your destination. On this path, you will pass through some small (but stunning!) bamboo forests, so the walk is definitely worth the effort! When you’re almost at the end of your hike (there are quite a few hills) you’ll end up at Hakone’s famous red torii gate!
Tip: DO NOT forget bug spray – especially if you go in the summer!
The Hakone Jinja
When looking over Lake Ashi, you’ll notice a huge red torii gate on the side. This gate is actually the entrance to the Hakone Jinja (shrine), that you can find on Mount Hakone. If you don’t fancy a climb, don’t worry – the gate is an amazing place for taking photos as well.
Tip: this is the perfect place for beautiful couple’s photo. (I certainly took advantage of this.)
On the side of the lake opposite to Hakone (which is accessible via the pirate ship), you can take cable lifts all the way up to the top of the local volcano, Hakone Volcano. This volcano is still active, so sometimes, if you’re out of luck, the cable lifts don’t operate. But when they do work, you get to go all the way to the top, where there are a ton of shops, a museum, and a breath-taking view of Mount Fuji. When I went to the top of the volcano, I had already been in Japan for a year, but I’d never seen Mount Fuji before. It stands to say that I was very excited. On the volcano, you can also buy these special black eggs called the “Black Eggs of Owakundai”. They’re supposedly covered in the ashes of the volcano, and if you eat them, you’ll add seven years to your life.
Warning: If you do decide to go to the top of the volcano, beware of the awful smell of sulphur!
Hakone’s World-Famous Soba!
When people ask me what my all-time favourite Japanese food is, I automatically answer: SOBA! So, you can understand why I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when people told me that Hakone was famous for its soba. Wherever you go in Hakone, the sobaya (soba restaurants) will offer you their version of soba. (It’s all equally as good, in my opinion.)
My favourite way to have soba will always be: cold soba with vegetable tempura on the side (tsumetai soba to yasai tempura).
But, if you feel like these beautiful nature areas don’t calm you enough, be sure to head down to one of their warm water springs. Hakone is also known for its many onsen. These are hot water springs in bathing facilities. They exist in many forms and, depending on the location, they can be located both indoors and outdoors. Even though they’re called “bath houses,” you’re not supposed to get in the onsen unwashed. Usually, before you get into an onsen, you must rinse yourself off at the few showers, which are always available. If you have any tattoos, I would recommend doing some research before booking in a trip to the onsen, because some of them won’t allow anyone with tattoos in. In the Japanese culture, tattoos are often related with gang/mafia activities, which is why it is very frowned upon. Some onsen will actually let you in if you cover up your tattoos in some way, like taping them up.
I was planning on going to one with my boyfriend, but since he has a tattoo (a small one on his back), there was no way they were going to let us in.
There you have it! My top reasons why Hakone is THE place in Japan for total relaxation. What places in Japan takes away your stress? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!