Hakone is comprised of 5 characteristic areas.
It is very common to go to Hakone through Tokyo. You can go from Shinjuku station to Hakone Yumoto station, a main gateway of Hakone, by Odakyu Line. Also, you can take Shinkansen at Tokyo station or Shinagawa station and transfer to Hakone Tozan Railway at Odawara station.
Hakone area is divided into 5 regions. “Hakone Yumoto area” is known as entrance of Hakone and very popular for its hot springs. “Gora area” has lots of hotels and museum and it is an area of villa, more than a hundred years old. You can still explore active volcanic craters in “Owakudani area” and a plateau of endless grassland in “Sengokuhara area”. Also, in “Lake Ashinoko area” you can check not only beautiful view of Mount Fuji, but also Sekisho which was the main gateway checking visitors and their loads 400 years ago.
Hakone Tozan Railway, which connects Hakone Yumoto and Gora, is famous for its view from the train. Especially the seasons of hydrangea in May and June and fall foliage in November are very popular.
Relax in the hot springs and hotels in Hakone Yumoto / Gora areas
Hakone Yumoto and Gora areas have been developed as hot spring and villa area since Hakone Tozan Railway was opened about 100 years ago. Many hotels and restaurants have been built as the areas attract many tourists due to easy access, nice hot springs and scenic views. In Hakone, which is a world-famous hot spring site, has many hot spring accommodations from small hotels to big leisure resorts. Let’s enjoy hot springs in a Hakone hotel suitable for you.
In front of Miyanoshita station in Hakone Tozan Railway lies “Fujiya Hotel”. This hotel is the oldest resort hotel in Japan open since 1878. You can feel its old history in its interior decoration and sculptures and enjoy high quality service and meals while staying here.
If you visit Hakone in autumn, don’t miss “Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu”. From 17th to 19th centuries, The government in Edo obliged Daimyo, feudal lords, to go back and forth between their domains and Edo (Tokyo) in alternate years in order to strengthen its power. Daimyo used to show off their dignity and power during their procession, and Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu re-enacts this procession.
More than 400 people participate in this event. The Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu features marching bands, local Geiko (geisha) as well as Daimyo, attendants, rickshaws, and firearm soldiers.
It is usually held on November 3rd. It starts from Hakone Yumoto Hot Spring · Yumoto elementary school (next to Sounji Temple) at 10am and ends at Hotel Fujiya. They travel around 6km (3.7 miles) and it takes around 4 and a half hours.
Let’s try “black boiled eggs.” in Owakudani
Let’s go to Sounzan station from Gora area by Hakone Cable Car and then take Hakone Ropeway from there and you can go to Tougendai station in the Ashinoko area. When you take a walk in this area, you can find a place where no trees exist with desolate scenery. Here lies the Owakudani area where volcanic activity still continues. You can explore the whole Geopark except the restricted area, so let’s get off at “Owakudani station.” It is a spot where you can see the activities of the Earth closely.
Owakudani’s specialty is “black boiled eggs.” It is made in hot spring ponds in the Geopark, and it is sold at “Owakudani Kurotamago Kan” in front of Owakudani station.
The reason why the egg shell is black is due to the components of sulfur and iron contained in the hot spring. Till it becomes this strange appearance, raw eggs are boiled thoroughly for about 60 minutes in a hot spring pond at about 80 ℃ (176 fahrenheit). The shell is surprisingly black, but the inside is yellow as ordinary boiled eggs and they are very delicious. When visiting Owakudani, try them by all means. Also, at Owakudani Kurotamago Kan shop, they also sell products related to black eggs.
Let’s walk on the old highway which was paved over 400 years ago in Ashinoko
The Hakone Kyu-kaido, whose existence was confirmed over 1200 years ago, has developed as a part of the main highway connecting Tokyo and Kyoto. Currently, many old highways have changed to roads for cars, but in the mountainous areas of Hakone, the landscape of the past still remains. In particular, Hakone Sekisho traces – Lake Ashinoko – Moto Hakone -Amasake-chaya route is easy to walk and its scenery is nice, which is recommended for a walk. Let’s enjoy trekking while pondering the history in nature.
If you take a walk from Hakone Sekisho to Mount Byobu, you can find a thatch-roofed “Amasake-chaya (sweet sake teahouse)”. Since its establishment about 400 years ago, it has been used as a resting place for many travelers. Even in modern days you can enjoy meals and sweets while viewing Japanese traditional architectural style at the indoor table or beautiful nature at the outdoor table.
Beautiful and practical! A souvenir representing Hakone “Hakone yosegi zaiku”
If you are looking for souvenirs in Hakone, Hakone yosegi zaiku is recommended. The way to make these mysterious and geometric patterns is that craftsmen put together rectangular color bars following his own design till they become parallelepiped and then slice them so that you can see the patterns on the surface.
Since Hakone yosegi zaiku is sold throughout the Hakone area, you can purchase it at any souvenir shops in Hakone. But let’s go to the yosegi zaiku workshop if you visit Hakone. Especially Hakone Maruyama Inc. is easy to go because it is near the Moto Hakone Port in Ashinoko Lake. You can observe the craftsmen’s skills or if you want, you can even craft your own products.
Hakone has so much charm that you can’t experience it all in just one day. You can take a day trip from Tokyo, but if you can, we recommend staying in Hakone and enjoy your sightseeing slowly.