Beginner's Guide to Hakone, Japan

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

One of Japan's best-known tourist areas, where visitors can enjoy history, culture, and the beauty of nature anytime during the year. Visitors go daily to try and catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, which is impossible if even 1 cloud is in the sky. Follow this guide to get the most out of your day trip from Tokyo:

How to get there from Tokyo

The best way to visit Hakone from Tokyo is to purchase the 2 or 3 day Free Pass, even if you're only going for the day. You can purchase the regular day pass or add on the Romance car. Once you're in Hakone all methods of transportation (bus, boat, ropeway, cable car, train) are included with your pass. It makes it a lot easier!

To buy your Hakone Free Pass go to the West Square of the Shinjuku metro station. Follow the signs for the Odakyu to the 1st floor, and when you see a blue sightseeing service center you've found it!

> Regular train: It is 100 minutes from Shinjuku station to Odawara, then you must transfer trains and take a 15 minute train to Hakone-Yumoto. The signs are clearly marked in English and very easy to follow (Tip: nearly everyone on your train is doing the same thing as you, so follow the crowd!) Trains leave from Shinjuku around every 20 minutes.

Seating: First come, first serve. Seated like a typical metro

Total time: 115 minutes

Total cost: 5, 140 Yen (About $46.50 USD)

> Romance train: It is 75 minutes straight from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto! Very fast and convenient if you don't feel comfortable transferring. However, the trains aren't as often (around every 45 minutes) so check to see if the time table works for you!

Seating: Assigned with individual chairs for each guest

Total time: 75 minutes

Total cost: 5,140 Yen + 1,090 surcharge each way = 7,320 Yen (About $66 USD)

(*Note: the last train of the day from Hakone back to Tokyo is 22:30)

Hakone Loop

This is the most common sightseeing route in this area because it allows you to see the most you can, in a little amount of time:

1. Hakone Tozan Bus

Red line H

When you arrive at the Hakone-Yumoto train station, you will follow the signs for the bus station right outside to your left. Go to station 2, and wait for the Red line H bus to take to Motohakone-Ko. Show the bus driver your Hakone Free Pass when you get on! (*Note: both red line H and purple line R leave from this stop and go to Motohakone-Ko, but the purple line R takes a lot longer so make sure you get on the H bus)

Total time: 40 minutes

2. Hakone Sightseeing Cruise

Right when you get off the bus at Motohakone-Ko you will see the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise terminal on your right and a huge orange shrine above you. Very easy to spot, you can just wait in line and show them your Hakone Free Pass to board your imitation pirate ship and get great views as you cruise across Lake Ashi! (*Note: if you walk up the road a little further you can see Ancient Cedar Avenue before you hop on the cruise. A gorgeous line of massive cedar trees planted over 400 years ago)

Total time: 30 minutes

3. Hakone Ropeway

Right when you exit the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise you will enter the building to get onto the Ropeway, super easy! Go upstairs and follow the signs. The ropeway is running 9am - 5am and can fit 18 people in each car, so the line usually goes pretty fast. (*Note: if it gets too windy, they will close down the ropeway for the rest of the day, so be aware of this)

Total time: 30 minutes

4. Hakone Tozan Cable Car

Right when you exit the Ropeway you can easily follow signs to hop on the Cable Car for gorgeous scenic views! (*Note: if the ropeway gets shut down due to high winds, you will most likely have to skip this because the only other way here is by a bus that goes all the way around and will take over an hour)

Total time: 10 minutes

5. Hakone Tozan Train

You will exit the Cable Car at Gora and follow the signs for the Hakone Tozan Train towards Odawara. This old train takes the scenic route back to the downtown of Hakone so you can hop back on your train to Shinjuku, Tokyo

Total time: 40 minutes

Mount Fuji Sightseeing

There are 3 main spots to catch views of Mount Fuji:

1. The Hakone Ropeway between Owakudani and Ubako stations

2. The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise at the Hakonemachi and Motohakone ends

3. The observation deck at Onshi-Hakone-Koen Park in Hakonemachi

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One main thing to note is that it is VERY hard to actually get a glimpse of Mount Fuji. I recommend checking the weather in advance because even if it predicts partially cloudy, you most likely won't be able to see it. I rearranged my entire Japan itinerary because 1 of the days was supposed to be blue skies and sunny so I thought I'd be able to get good views, but I still wasn't able to see it at all.

Hakone through the Seasons

Throughout the entire year there are amazing natural sights to see in Hakone that are always changing:

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> March-April: Cherry blossoms

Miyagino stop on the pink L, navy T, orange M, or blue G bus line

> May: Azaleas

Odakyu Hotel de Yama stop on the mustard W bus line, along the shores of Lake Ashi

> June-July: Hydrangeas

Ten thousand hydrangeas bloom along the Hakone Tozan Train line which can enjoy on board

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> September-November: Susuki Grass

Sengokuhara stop on the navy T or mustard W bus line

> November-December: Autumn Foilage

Hakone Gora Park stop on the Ropeway or Cable Car

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