A day trip to Hakone

Mount Fuji | 2 Aussie Travellers

We decided that a trip to Hakone had to be included on our winter trip when we woke up one morning in Tokyo, flung open the curtains of our room at the Hotel New Otani and were greeted with an amazing view of Mt Fuji set against a clear blue sky.  A few days later on another super clear morning we jumped on an early bullet train and half an hour later we were in Odawara.  We stopped into the information centre and picked up the ‘Hakone Free Pass’ and were on our way.

This pass was great value for us and there are a couple of versions to suit your travel needs.  If you don’t have the JR Pass you can get the version that starts at Shinjuku in Tokyo, otherwise jump on the Shinkensen at Tokyo or Shinagawa stations and you’ll get there faster and save a couple of dollars.  The base pass is for 2 days but it’s still great value for a day trip, then there’s a 3 day version if you’re staying a couple of nights.  The ticket we purchased was Y4000 (just over $43 Australian dollars).  It covers all the transport you’ll need, the Tozan train and cable car, the Hakone ropeway, a sightseeing cruise on Lake Ashi and a variety of buses between locations too.  You can use all of them multiple time and in either direction.  You also get discounts from dozens of museums, restaurants, onsen and other attractions by showing the pass.

I’ll link up another article here to give more information and to help you decide whether the Hakone Freepass is good value and if it might work well for you.

The variety of transport on this circuit and the amazing views they provide are a big part of this trip.  We did the course anti-clockwise and if we did it again we would probably have double back after exploring the attractions at the southern end of the lake to enjoy the ropeway a second time.  The bus was a faster way back to Odawara from Motohakone-ko but didn’t add much to the trip for us.

Hakone Tozan Train

From Odawara station where we’d arrived on the shinkensen we took the train on the Odakyu line through to Gora.   It’s a pretty standard older style train but very clean and comfortable as you come to expect in Japan.  There are plenty of windows and we sat on the left hand side which gave some gorgeous views as it meandered along its 40 minute route.

Hakone Tozen Train @ Odawara Station

The train is built to climb the steep mountain slopes through the heavily planted area and over the 43 metre high Deyama Bridge.  I would imagine this route would be stunning in all seasons.

How gorgeous is the snow – probably not so much if you live with it all the time but for someone from the sub-tropics it is definitely photo worthy.  I had expected snow up the top of the rope-way but seeing it along the route was a definite bonus.  The clear blue winter sky really makes it extra special.

Snow along the Tozen Line

Hakone Tozan Cable Car

From the train station in the onsen town of Gora you walk to the adjacent cable car station. It looked a pretty town and I’d have liked more time in our schedule to explore a little on foot.  Once on the cable car it’s only a 9 minute ride up the hill and the views along the way are stunning, make sure you get a seat by one of the huge windows.   Then at the top of the cable car is the first rope-way station.Hakone Tozan Cable Car | 2 Aussie Travellers

Hakone Ropeway

The ropeway was amazing, each carriage has huge windows that provide amazing views of the mountain and the valley  below.  The full ropeway from Sounzan to Lake Ashi takes 30 minutes but you’ll get off in the middle to explore Owakudani.

Hakone Ropeway | 2 Aussie Travellers

Owakudani

Three thousand years ago Mount Hakone erupted leaving a crater that is known today as Owakudani.  The area remains an active volcanic region with hot rivers and springs and the ever present smell from the sulphur fumes.  It’s sometimes called Hell Valley which may be a throw back to the name O-Jigoku meaning ‘great hell’ which the area was known as around 150 years ago.

Owakudani | 2 Aussie Travellers

You can walk up to see the the kuro-tamago (black eggs) being boiled in the natural springs, the minerals turn the shell black but inside it still looks like a normal boiled egg.  Legend says eating one will extend your life 7 years but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, I hate everything about boiled eggs.  There are plenty of weird and wonderful things I’ll eat on my travels but a boiled egg, well heck no!  Incidentally legend also says you should eat no more than 2 so don’t go trying to make yourself immortal.

Black eggs | 2 Aussie Travellers

The view of Mt Fuji were unbelievably good from up here but I believe it does depend on the day so if you can pick a clear one it’s best, otherwise Fuji-san might be off hiding in the clouds and you’ll never know it’s there.
Mount Fuji | 2 Aussie Travellers

I also loved this small Buddhist alter near the entry to the walk up to the hot springs.  The Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi who founded the Shingon sect in Japan visited this spot 1000 years ago, he prayed for those suffering in the hell realms and placed a statue of the Bodhisattva Jizo.  Today the Enmei Jizouson Temple stands here.

Enmei Jizouson Temple | 2 Aussie Travellers

Hakone Sightseeing Cruise

From Togendai the pirate boat cruises the length of lake Ashi to Moto-Hakone-Ko.  The views of Mt Fuji are also pretty stunning from the lake but the day was starting to cloud over as the afternoon progressed.  I would imagine in other seasons the hillsides would be really pretty but with just a dusting of winter snow they were quite brown and bare.

Hakone Lake Cruise | 2 Aussie Travellers

Hakone Checkpoint

At the southern end of Lake Ashi is the Hakone Checkpoint.  During the Edo period this was an important checkpoint on the Tokaido highway that linked Tokyo and Kyoto.   Recent work has restored it to a structure consistent with that time with gates, fencing, a lookout, prison and housing for the officers and soldiers.

Hakone Checkpoint | 2 Aussie Travellers

Also further on from here is the cedar walk, a segment of the old Tokaido highway.  There was a good covering of snow on the ground so it wasn’t possible to tell on the day we went but I believe some of the original highway stone paving is visible here during most of the year.

A bit further on again you’ll come to the Hakone Jinja (Shinto shrine).  It’s set into the forest but you’ll see the torii gates as you approach from the Moto-Hakone road.  Once inside walk down to the lake and you’ll see a ‘floating’ torii, it’s much smaller but a similar concept to the one at Miyajima island.

We pretty much called it a day from here and headed back using the local bus service which was also covered by the pass.  With a day trip unless you’re fast travellers it’s difficult to fit much more in although we did spend longer than we planned at Owakudani and had lunch there as the views out to Mt Fuji were just so good.  If I was back in the area again I’d definitely add the Hakone Open Air Museum (art gallery) which we had planned to loop back to at the end of the day if time hadn’t run out.  Also an overnight trip would allow you to make use of the hot spring onsens that the area is renowned for, several of the hotels have these available for guests.

There’s free Wifi too!

You might have noticed that free Wifi isn’t as easily available in Japan as it is in many western countries.  This was a surprise to me given how technologically advanced Japan is.  There are personal wifi options for travellers and some free connections available if you know where to look.

This day trip however will make it easy for you to look up information or Instagram gorgeous pictures of your day using the Odakyu Free Wifi for international travellers.  There are blue signs with the international wifi symbol showing where it’s available but it’s at the various stations, ports and on the boat as you go around the course.

Additional Information for Planning your trip to Hakone

We have a few extra resources to help you plan you trip to Hakone.

  1. Our route and an assessment of when the Hakone Free Pass is good value
  2. The tips you need to get the most out of the transport system in Japan
  3. Our Japan Guide linking you up with all the information, tips and suggestions you need to know

Have you visited the Hakone area either on a day trip or longer stay?  If you have a moment please leave a comment below to share your thoughts on your experience and your favourite spots in the area.

53 Comments

  • Fantastic blog, and amazing photos!! We are travelling to Japan for our honeymoon in April and can’t wait! We have allowed 2 nights in Hakone and after reading all of the comments we think this is a good decision with so many beautiful things to see and do. Can anyone recommend any accommodation, we are looking at Hakone Hisui (around AUD$500 per night for 2 people), it’s near the bontanical gardens. Happy to hear any other recommendations!
    The Hakone Free Pass sounds great, we have decided not to get the JR pass so we think this will be very useful from Tokyo.

  • This is great information, thanks.
    My husband and I are traveling to Japan in July with our four young boys and my parents (ambitious I know!). We intend to stay in Hakone for a night or two and will likely activate our JR passes in Tokyo. We’ll have all our luggage with us so do you think we would still disembark at Odawara and take the Hakone Tozan Railway (with all our luggage) to Hakone (station?), where we would ditch out luggage at our accommodation (yet to book but any suggestions welcome) and continue on to the open air museum…..?

    • There are a couple of Hakone stations Kathy, do you know which one you need for your accommodation? It would make a difference to how best to get there. If you have a bit of luggage and limited time to see the area using a Takuhaibin (luggage forwarding) service may be an option or using lockers in the station and collecting it later in the day closer to check-in time if you want to get started early.

    • Hi there is luggage delivering service where you can send your luggage to your next destination so you don’t need to carry around. You can also take the romance car from shinjuku which provide a great view.

  • Would you say it’s worth spending one night in the Hakone region? Was planning on visiting and doing two days and one night here. You opinion would be much appreciated! Loving this blog, getting lots of ideas for my trip!

  • Hi! Am planning a trip with my parents and came across your blog. So helpful for a day trip to Hakone from Tokyo! Can I know which month you travelled in, though?

  • Im a nature person. When husband decide tokyo instead of korea. I dont think the trip going to be awesome. But after reading your post about hakone, i think its going to be superb. We going to hakone on jan 15th, it is possible to see snow during that that?? I never experience snow. So really hope to see one in japan.

    Thank you in advance for your reply. All pictures look amazing.

    • The weather is a bit unpredictable and Hakone isn’t a heavy snow area but yes it is possible, we had a good coverage when we went in mid February. If you love nature another place to possibly see snow on a day trip from Tokyo is Nikko especially if you have time to get to Lake Chuzenji, I haven’t got a post up on it yet but we saw small amounts of residual snow around the temples even in April. More expensive to get to if you don’t need the JR Pass is the snow monkeys in Nagano which we also did as a Tokyo day trip https://www.2aussietravellers.com/snow-monkeys-daytrip/ – as a nature lover this was a real highlight of our visit. Have a wonderful time, we aren’t city people but Tokyo was fun, although admittedly we broke it up with day trips to less populated and more natural areas.

  • Hi, I have been reading your blog and have a few questions. First of all we are travelling to Hakone from Shinjuku Station around the 2nd December 2016. We only have one day and at that time of year the days are short. We had thought about a private tour once in Hakone but they are so expensive. After reading your blog I think we can do it by ourselves. We will have a JR pass (economy). I am a little confused about the train you took as you said that it only took you 30 minutes to get to Odawara Station but all time tables I look at say nearly 2 hours. Also, does the Hakone free pass which you get at the Odawara station come with a booklet/map of the route around Hakone. Did you end up going on the pirate boat cruise and was it worth it as I have read different reviews about it or would the open air gallery be a better option if we had time. Thank you

    • Hi Lisa, From Tokyo station to Odawara, the station where we purchased our Hakone FreePass and started our circuit is 35 minutes on the bullet train (Shinkansen Kodama). There is more information in this article https://www.2aussietravellers.com/hakone-freepass-value/. As you are using the JR Pass you can use the bullet train not local trains although even on the cheapest fare it shouldn’t take 2 hours. I think the difference is that you are staying in Shinjuku which is a fair way from central Tokyo, it takes about 20 minutes by train from Shinjuku to Central plus you’d need to allow transfer time to the shinansen platforms and the next train connection. From Shinjuku you wouldn’t come back into the city you’d take a local train to Shinagawa, the nearest shinkansen station and go from there. That route on JR would still be under an hour. You can use hyperdia.com to find the best routes, input Shinjuku (or your nearest station) and then where you want to go (Odawara), make sure the sort order is time and untick nozomi. You can input the day and time you want to go if that is useful and it will give all the options and work out any interim stations or transfers you need to make from the subway or local train. If that isn’t working for you let me know, I can screenshot it and email it to you. Have a great trip!

  • Hello! I’ve based my trip on many of the good suggestions you’ve posted here and on your other posts. So thankful reading your trip – it’s like I’ve had a dry run in my imagination. As it is, I’ll be there last 2 weeks of January, so I anticipate lots of cold and snow. Like you, I live in a warm part of Australia, so I’m very excited. But I’d like to ask how to dress warmly, yet not overpack, for this season. For a day trip like Hakone, would I be ok with just waterproof sneakers, or should I wear my boots? I’ll also be going to the Snow Monkeys, so intend to have many layers plus my heavy coat. Any clothing tips would be appreciated! Thanks!

    • Hi Lucy. I had a ski jacket with me on this trip as we were also going to be in Sapporo which was much colder so I wore that both days although I had a normal coat I wore other days in cities. For me layers on top were key as inside and in the transport the heat is turned right up so I was stripping off and layering up a lot. Also I took thin leggings to wear under jeans and pants for extra warmth but I didn’t really wear them much as it just felt too constricted and uncomfortable to me. On my feet for the snow monkeys I wore light gortex hiking boots which are waterproof and did keep my feet warm and dry which was lovely but I didn’t wear them as much as I expected during the rest of the trip so if I was tight for space I’d leave them behind. My main issue with the snow wasn’t cold wet feet it was not slipping on icy roads and pavements but that was more in Hokkaido up north other than that cold and snow wasn’t as bigger issue as I’d thought it would be. Waterproof sneakers would be a good option if you have them or just stuff shoes to dry out in the hotel overnight and have a spare pair. We walk a lot in Japan so comfortable shoes are a priority for me, my leather dress boots were OK and look tidier but the soles were a bit slippery (like in Nagahama where we had snow and a bit of ice) I’d have managed Hakone OK in them but not the snow monkeys. Hope that helps, you sound like you have it sorted.

  • Hello! Love your site and description of your trip to Hakone. Beautiful pics and very helpful! I am planning to do a day trip to Hakone early December. What time did you leave Tokyo and what time did you arrive back? I am wondering how long it would take to complete the circle using the Hakone Free Pass.

    • Hi Christina. It’s going to depend a lot on your natural travel speed and how many things you want to stop and do, or look at, along the way. We left Tokyo just after 8am I think, we like an early start so as we used the bullet train for that first section we were there around 8.30am and we headed back mid afternoon, we would normally have stayed for dinner but we had plans to see some lightups in Tokyo that evening. If you just wanted to do the circuit you could get around in half a day but that’s not our travel style, we wander off track and spend time getting a shot we want or linger over lunch. We didn’t think we’d have time to do everything so we skipped the open air museum which would be the first stop on the direction we did the course. In hindsight we should have just gone or done the circuit clockwise so it was the last thing in the day.

  • Thank you so much for this post – now I am seriously considering the Hakone Free Pass for my family (with 2 boys). Your pictures of Hakone look amazing. 🙂

    Can I check what time in the afternoon did your day trip end, assuming you started early in the morning? I am exploring staying at an onsen ryokan near Hakone Yumoto station (which is 15mins train ride from Odawara). Hence I am wondering what time can I possibly check in after the day trip with the Hakone Free Pass.

    • Thanks Mae. We finished up mid afternoon but it will depend how many things you stop and explore and how long you linger over lunch and various views. We had some stunning views of Mt Fuji between clouds and as we could tell by then we weren’t really in a hurry so we waited there a while to get the shot we wanted. We also just missed a sailing on the lake so we played in the snow in the park down there for a while (snow was a big novelty for us).

  • Hi Anne
    We are two independent mature age travellers going on our first trip to Japan at the end of October and are planning a day trip from Tokyo to Hakone and the Open Air Museum is a must for us. Your Hakone day trip looked great but did you use a Japan Rail pass to Odawara and how easy was it as independent travellers doing the loop trip you described ?
    Thank you
    Rhonda

    • Hi Anne, I agree the Open Air Museum is a must do, we just ran out of time but it is on the list for next time. We used the JR Pass as far as Odawara because it was already activated for that period, if it hadn’t been we would have used the day pass from Shinjuku in Tokyo which includes the train to get there. The loop track is very easy to follow as an independent traveller, it’s very obvious where to go from the end of one transport to pick up the next one once you have finished the activities in that area. It’s a great day.

  • Thank you so much for your really useful notes and inspirational photos. I am just tweaking my travel plans for a trip to Japan in October and I am now going to try and fit in a 1 or 2 night stay in Hakone rather than rush it in a one day trip from Tokyo.
    Happy future travels.

  • I really really love it, after looking at your beautiful pictures of Hakone. In fact we are planning to visit Japan this year Dec/Jan with my family and will be staying in Tokyo for few days. I wanted to have one day trip to Hakone. Can you let me know when to purchase the Hakone pass ticket ?

    • Hi Andy, the trip sounds great, we loved Japan in winter and you’ll catch all the light ups around Tokyo at that time of year. We purchased our Hakone pass on the day very quickly and easily from Odawara station, we took the bullet train to there because our JR pass was still active but you can also use the pass from Tokyo. You need to get to Shinjuku station where there is an Odakyu sightseeing office and vending machines both selling the pass. The machines have an English option so you can buy it then hop on straight on the train there. The Odakyu line is well sign posted in English from the JR line area.

  • I am just loving your blog posts about Japan. I am making plans for our trip in dec/jan this year and all your snow pictures are thrilling. We too are basing ourselves in cities for a week and planning day trips. Reading your posts is convincing me that a JR pas will be suitable for us as we intend to travel on longer day trips.

    • Thanks for that Penelope. I hope you’ve found all the info you need but if you have any questions please leave a message on the post or use the contact form for any questions. Although we generally don’t like the cold at all we loved winter in Japan, have a fabulous trip.

  • The photos are beautiful. We are planning a trip with our three kids and I hope to take them to Hakone for a night. I’m a bit nervous about moving accommodation a lot and travel with bags from perhaps it will be worth it to have the extra time. Thanks for posting

    • That sounds fabulous Cristi, it will be so much fun to experience it with your children. We also try to avoid moving accommodation too often, not just getting the bags around but you seem to lose quite a bit of time with the check in and check out process so we try to keep it to 2-3 base cities/hotels on a trip and then do day trips from them. Staying in Hakone would be great though especially if you can find somewhere to enjoy a family onsen experience.

    • You are so right, I could have at least doubled the time spent in each place we visited in Japan if only I had the time and money. Will have to settle for a return visit for the parts I missed 🙂

  • We visited Hakone during the summer and loved it! It was a nice break from steamy Tokyo. Sadly, with the humid skies, we couldn’t see Mount Fuji at all, even though we were so close. I would still highly recommend Hakone, and if possible spend a night in a traditional ryocan in the area.

    • We’d definitely go back on a future visit Shelley. We didn’t get to the open air museum and staying at a Ryokan there would be wonderful as many of them seem to have private onsen. I’ve not been brave enough to tackle a public onsen bath yet.

  • I love visiting places when there is snow, just don’t like living in a place where it snows! Have greatly enjoyed my 19 years in Florida, after moving down from Maryland! Now in the Netherlands, I enjoyed the few sprinkles of snow we got this winter!

  • We’ve long wanted to go to Japan. And now we want to even more as snow just looks more special there. For the present, we’ll have to content ourselves with looking longily at neighbouring Tenerife’s Teide. It does a mean impression of Mount Fuji, especially when snow-topped.

    • We tend to visit more in spring and winter than other times of year, it’s just very different for us coming from a sub-tropical climate. We haven’t actually been in summer although I would like to go when the gardens are green and lush and the summer festivals are on.

  • I know the feeling about snow seeing exotic. I moved from the beach in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney to Toronto in Canada, where it snowed for 6 months a year for every year I lived there. Must admit, the exoticness only sticks for hte first few months of -40 lol 😉

    Hakone looks like a beautiful place to visit. What made you guys decide to visit Hakone from Tokyo?

    • Hi Jessica, we don’t like to move our base in Japan too many times and the transport is so good and so fast that it’s very easy to do longer daytrips than I’d consider in many other places. In winter time the Mt Fuji base stations are closed so the view from Hakone was the next best thing. I really enjoyed it though and I’d go back, next time I’d like to stay a night at a hotel with an onsen so I could soak in the hot waters at the end of the day.

  • I am soooo looking forward to visiting Hakone – especially the hot springs! I was pleased to see the sentence, “You can use all of them multiple times and in either direction”…this is the first time I’ve seen the direction issue explicitly spelled out, and everyone seems to talk about doing the loop anti-clockwise.

    We have two nights in Hakone – the Open Air Museum is top of our list to visit, closely followed by the black eggs at Owakudani and Yunessun Spa Resort (which looks wonderfully quirky!).

    One question – I’m assuming luggage is okay on the Odakyu line Hakone Tozan train…but what about the other modes of transport? (our accommodation is in Hashimuko the first night and Miyanoshita the second night and I’ve yet to work out how we get the bags between the two). I believe there is a luggage delivery service – perhaps that would be best?

    • You’ll have to report back on the hotel onsens and open air museum. I’ve heard a lot about both and they’re on the list for future trips. As for luggage if you’re talking about your full cases rather than an overnight bag I’d try to avoid it and consider sending it on to your next stop and maybe just take your cabin bags which you can drop at the hotel or put into a locker at the train station and collect later in the day. I don’t think the time we were there was unusually busy but you would have struggled on any of the Hakone transport after the Shinkensen. It may of course have been because we started early and so did many other people so perhaps we hit the first train together then numbers probably spaced out through the day.

      Something I did notice at Hakone station but didn’t see in bigger cities was pickups for several of the hotels, not sure if they were complementary or not but that could be another option?

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