© iStock/Phurinee
© iStock/Phurinee

Hakone, a blissful escape from Tokyo

5 minutes to read

Hakone is a splendid gem surrounded by mountains, and its rich nature has attracted many visitors for centuries. Hakone’s natural landscapes change each season, and it is breathtaking, especially with the view of Mt. Fuji in the distance. Therefore, no matter what season you visit it, you can enjoy the natural beauty peculiar to Japan. Hakone is also one of the leading hot spring resorts in the Kanto region. It is highly recommended to stay overnight in the Hakone area to soak up this historic resort. Enjoy the gorgeous Hakone's nature and atmosphere, and relax soaking in an onsen (hot springs) after hiking around its unique sightseeing spots. Offering serene onsen, world-class art museums, traditional inns and spectacular mountain scenery crowned by Mt Fuji, Hakone can make for a blissful escape from Tokyo.

Hakone is located in the center of Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and is a very popular getaway spot for domestic and overseas visitors, as it is easily accessible from Tokyo. If you use the Shinkansen (bullet train), you can reach Hakone Yumoto Station from Tokyo Station in about 1 hour, and even with a regular train, it takes only about 1 hour and 40 minutes. 

Hakone & its areas

© iStock/master2
© iStock/master2

Hakone is roughly divided into 6 areas - the Hakone Yumoto area, the Miyanoshita area, the Goura area, the Sensekihara area, Sounzan and the Owakudani area and the Lake Ashi area. Hakone Yumoto and Goura areas are famous for the onsen. Hakone Yumoto has been known as the main gateway. It is the center of Hakone Onsen and is one of the seven hot springs in Hakone. There are many old buildings where you can feel the history of Hakone. Lake Ashi area is located on Mt. Hakone's caldera and Lake Ashi. A pleasure boat makes a round trip from Togendai to Motohakone on the opposite bank, so you can enjoy the view of the mountains of Hakone from the lake. Lake Ashi also has Hakone Shrine, which is a popular power spot. To feel the living nature of the Hakone, Sounzan and Owakudani area are perfect because they are simply amazing. Sounzan is a mountain in the central part of Mt. Hakone and is designated as Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. As you can guess from the name, you can experience a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji from Lake Ashi. There is a ropeway station on Sounzan, and you can enjoy the view of Takayama at an altitude of 700 m to 1,000 m. On the way, there is Owakudani and a tourist attraction called Jigokudani (hell valley), where you can see the powerful scenery of steam evaporating from the ground.

Lake Ashi with a view of Mt. Fuji

© iStock/Torsakarin
© iStock/Torsakarin

It is believed that Lake Ashi resulted from an explosion of Kamiyama (God’s mountain), which is one of the crater hills of Mt. Hakone, about 3000 years ago. There are many tourist attractions and restaurants on the shore of the lake and many scenic spots where you can see Mt. Fuji on a clear day. The best photo shooting point is the location where you can see the large torii gate of Hakone Shrine on the shore of the lake. Two different types of pleasure boats operate here. Pirate pleasure boat, an imitation of the European pirate ship from the 18th to 19th centuries, operates on Lake Ashi and is a famous attraction. It connects three ports, such as Togendai Port, Hakone Town Port, and Motohakone Port. Hakone Lake Ashinoko pleasure boat is another option. There are four ports, Hakone Sekisho Ato, Motohakone, Hakone en, and Kojiri, and regular routes are departing from each port. If you go out to the deck of boats, you can enjoy the beautiful 360-degree scenery of Lake Ashi with possibly viewing Mt. Fuji in the distance.

Hakone Machi port, Hakone
Hakone Machi port, Hakone
161 Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0521, Japan

Hakone shrine, the power spot of Hakone

© iStock/yaophotograph
© iStock/yaophotograph

Hakone Shrine was originally built 1250 years ago. Before that, Kamiyama (the tallest mountain of Hakone) was the object of worship and is the root of the Hakone Shrine. Komagatake, where the former shrine is located, is a festival ground for worshipping Kamiyama, and the festival of the gods is still held. Historically, many warlords visited and fulfilled their wishes here. Recently, the Hakone Shrine has been known as a major power spot for safe delivery and family safety.

© iStock/CHENG FENG CHIANG
© iStock/CHENG FENG CHIANG

Kuzuryu Shrine is also a highly recommended power spot to visit in Hakone. It is considered a part of Hakone Shrine but is located quite far away, roughly 4 kilometers up the shore. Kuzuryu Shrine is a popular spot for prayers for love and relationships. Ryujin Suisha (dragon god water house) in the Shingu of Kuzuryu Shrine in the precincts of Hakone Shrine. Apparently, the natural water from Ryujin Suisha has an excellent healing effect that seems to wash away all uncleanness when you indulge. So, do not forget to take a water bottle with you.

Hakone Shrine, Hakone
Hakone Shrine, Hakone
Motohakone, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0522, Japan

Owakudani, the hell valley

© iStock/EarnestTse
© iStock/EarnestTse

Owakudani is the site of the Hakone volcano explosion that occurred about 3000 years ago. It is an active volcanic area and is the largest of the many in Hakone. Owakudani is another very popular tourist spot characterized by the desolate land created by the explosion and the steam evaporating from the ground. When you are at Owakudani, one of the must-do things is to taste a boiled black egg cooked naturally with earth power. The surrounding area was filled with the scent of hydrogen sulfide, and therefore historically, Owakudani has been known as Jigokudani (hell valley). You can see Owakudani from the sky on the ropeway, and it is also a popular attraction in Hakone. Owakudani may sometimes be closed due to volcanic activity. So, be sure to check for the latest information on the volcanic activity before visiting Owakudani.

© iStock/BbenPhotographer
© iStock/BbenPhotographer
Owakudani, Hakone
Owakudani, Hakone
Sengokuhara, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0631, Japan

As introduced here, there are many attractions to do and see in Hakone. But many more highly recommended and interesting museums, eateries, souvenir shops and onsen inn were not included in this story. So, when you are in Tokyo and have time for a blissful escape, spend a day or two in Hakone. It is only a short train ride away. Visit Hakone to relax and recharge!


The author

Mayo Harry

Mayo Harry

Hi, I am Mayo from Japan. Travelling around the world and Japan since my late teens, my life has been a continuation of trips. I am excited to share my knowledge and experiences of Japan with all of you.

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