Hakone Travel Guide 箱根
A floating torii in Hakone.
Mount Fuji at night.
Train in Hakone
The cable cars to Mount Fuji.
A hot spring, or onsen, in Hakone
Shinjuku Station, on a Saturday spring morning. As always there are crowds, and the usual hustle and bustle in one of Tokyo's busiest stations. The Japanese and foreign tourists are getting ready to escape from the capital, heading for the Hakone region, which is so popular for its many attractions and the change of scenery it provides. Picture-postcard Hakone attracts millions of visitors throughout the year, especially in summer, to admire the idyllic views of valleys and of course the iconic Mount Fuji. It's no surprise that Hakone remains the favorite summer holiday destination for Tokyoites - everyone leaves the skyscrapers of Tokyo behind to relax in this mountainous region. A reconstructed checkpoint, Seshisho Shiryokan near Gora, is a faint reminder that this region was previously the gateway to Tokyo, formerly known as Edo.
"Greetings from Hakone"
Nestled within Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone is built around its transport network, which is an attraction in itself. Taking the Hakone round course in an anti-clockwise direction, first head north, from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto, then Miyanoshita and Gora. The whole journey takes about three hours by train from Tokyo. Already, the valleys can be seen below. Here, the harmony of Gora Koen garden delights visitors and children, while art lovers admire the futuristic building of Pola Museum of Art, and the beautiful impressionist and contemporary pieces that it contains. On the Hakone Tozan Line at Chokoku no Mori, the Open Air Museum displays works by Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, and Niki de Saint-Phalle, combining art and nature.
Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi
The train terminates and cable cars replace it. The cars ascend then descend into Owakudani, a volcanic site, a potential stop for a quick visit. Surrounded by volcanic fumes, Owakudani offers the chance to sample some black eggs, eggs boiled in the sulfur-rich water. A Hakone attraction if ever there was one!
The cable car continues its journey to reach Togendai, north of Lake Ashi. Here, passenger boats and pirate boats allow you to discover the vermilion torii gate of Hakone Jinja, its mirror image breaking the still surface of the water and with it, the reflection of Fuji-san and its snow-covered cap. The river reflects Mount Fuji from its base to its summit, from its forests to the clouds that skim the tallest mountain in Japan. The cable car continues its journey, stopping on the south bank, near Hakone-machi or Moto-Hakone, the two main towns of the lake. From here you can catch a train to Tokyo, via Hakone-Yumoto and Odawara. Alternatively, spend a few extra days in a ryokan and soak in the natural beauty that is Hakone, from one of its many popular hot springs. Hakone is traveled across like passing scenery, like a memory.