Hakone town in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is famous mainly for two things: views over Mount Fuji (if you’re visiting in clear sunny weather, which is more likely to occur in winter) and onsens.
It’s definitely an area to consider visiting in Japan: it’s best to reach from Tokyo or Osaka. So let me show you what are the activities to do there!
We started your trip to the Hakone area with a visit to Odawara, famous for its 12th-century magnificent White Castle.
Learn there about the ninjas (and probably discover how many misconceptions about them you have). For more details, check my Odawara guide. After that, take a car or a bus to Ashi Lake.
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is a large natural reserve not far away from Mt Fuji. Once you reach Ashi Lake (a crater lake also known as Ashinoko), you can choose your water vehicle for a lake ride.
We took a so-called ‘pirate ship’ from Hakone Sightseeing Cruise and had a smooth ride with beautiful views over the forestry hills, and occasionally, you can see red torii on the shore. Unfortunately, we didn’t get lucky with a view as in spring, the air is quite often misty, and we barely saw Mt Fuji.
Only later on, at some point, was it possible to distinguish its silhouette; however, as you see in the heavily edited photo below, it was just a glimpse of the most famous Japanese natural sight. Yet we got a perfect view of it on our flight back from Tokyo to South Korea, so if you happen to fly the same route, don’t forget to look out of the window!
Another point for admiring Mt Fuji around Kawaguchiko Lake is that we might go there in the future just to compare the experiences.
After the pirate ship ride, we took the Hakone ropeway that frames Ashi Lake. It goes all the way to another unique natural sight: Owakudani, a volcanic valley with a sulphur pool and vents.
Once you arrive at the station, you get a small wet towel if you need to get your nose covered: yes, the sulphur springs have a pretty strong aroma that you won’t mix with any other smell, so this towel might be really useful.
You can walk around the designated area, and there is a shop and cafe near the entrance to the site. The one thing not to miss there are Black Eggs, or Kuro tamago 黒卵, boiled in sulphur water that turns their shell black. Make sure you try one just for an experience!
We were visiting Owakudani with a guide who unfortunately appeared to be there for the first time and didn’t plan your visit well in advance, so we didn’t have much time before the ropeway closure (ideally, you could explore more of the area if you have time), so we went straight to the hotel.
Where to stay in Hakone?
We stayed in Hyatt Regency Hakone, Gora (Kanazawa prefecture), and this was probably my most memorable stay from my first trip to Japan. The hotel is a perfect combination of traditional and modern, with the rooms overlooking the National Park.
I highly recommend you to get a special gastronomic experience such as Kaiseki: this is a high-end meal when the food is prepared in front of you by a chef. I must admit I felt a bit exposed eating in front of two chefs closely observing; however, the food was excellent.
Hyatt Regency Hakone takes its pride in its onsens available for the hotel visitors. You get your bathrobe and slippers in your room upon arrival, and after that, you can pay a visit to the onsen area located in a different building at any time within the opening hours. The onsens aregender split – and don’t forget to take a shower sitting on a small stool before you enter the hot water pool. As you take a bath in onsen naked, photography is prohibited there, so I’m using the photo from Hyatt Regency website below:
I can spend hours soaking in the hot water, so for me, it’s a must-do experience whilst in Japan. I had a chance to visit an onsen in Tokyo on a separate occasion, with a view over the city as well; you can read about it here.
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Hope you liked my blog,