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The Guide to Hakone Japan: Visiting With the Japan Rail Pass
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The Guide to Hakone Japan: Visiting With the Japan Rail Pass

Though many people visit Japan to experience the bustling streets of Tokyo, many other popular destinations come at a slower pace. One such place is Hakone, a mountainous city in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just west of Tokyo. This town offers a variety of activities, from hot spring resorts, called onsens, to wondrous views of Mt. Fuji.

Many tourists are drawn to Hakone due to its renowned pas and onsen. Whether you are a nature lover, a history buff, or an art enthusiast, Hakone has something to offer everyone.

Hakone Yumoto Station

Hakone is accessible by bus, cable cars, and boats. However, the most efficient and stress-free way to get there is by train. By obtaining a JRPass, tourists can take the shinkansen (bullet train), which will get you there in a little under two hours. If you don’t have a pass, then you can take a regular train to the Hakone-Yumoto station, the main station in Hakone.

Though many people visit Japan to experience the bustling streets of Tokyo, many other popular destinations come at a slower pace. One such place is Hakone, a mountainous city in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just west of Tokyo. This town offers a variety of activities, from hot spring resorts, called onsens, to wondrous views of Mt. Fuji.

Hakone is accessible by bus, cable cars, and boats. However, the most efficient and stress-free way to get there is by train. By obtaining a JRPass, tourists can take the shinkansen (bullet train), which will get you there in a little under two hours. If you don’t have a pass, then you can take a regular train to the Hakone-Yumoto station, the main station in Hakone.

Tokyo to Hakone

The customary way to get to Hakone from Tokyo is to ride the Romance car. This train is a limited express and takes a little over 90 minutes to get to Hakone and costs about 2280 yen ($21). The shinkansen can take you to Odawara in 30 mins, where you’ll transfer to Hakone-Yumoto station. Visitors should consider obtaining a Hakone FreePass (4,000 yen/$36.50) in tandem with their JRPass, as these railways are not owned by the Japan Railway Group.

During this trip, you can use the transfer stop as an excuse to see the Odawara Castle, built during the Warring States period. The train also stops at several other stations along the way and offers beautiful views of the valleys, mountains, and waterfalls.

Kyoto to Hakone

There is also a Shinkansen from Kyoto to Odawara, which can take over two hours. Then, tourists can jump on a bus, or consider purchasing a Hakone FreePass to take the train to the Hakone-Yumoto station.

You could also go to Atami or Mishima Station, which allows access to Lake Ashi. from there, you can take a bus to Hakone, which can cost anywhere from 1050 yen to 1200 yen ($10-$11). However, no matter which route you take, the estimated travel time is usually three hours.

When To Visit Hakone

What you do in Hakone will be dependent on the time of year you visit. It’s important to understand the different seasons in Japan and Hakone, as well as what events occur in which season, so you can make the most of your experience.

Hakone Weather

Winter


  • Temperature: 20-40 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Rainfall: 2-4 inches

  • Events: Winter illuminations; New Year’s fireworks show; First Shrine Visit & Seven Gods of Fortune Visit; Lake Ashi Opens; Setsubun Festival.

Spring


  • Temperature: 25-65 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Rainfall: 4-4.5 inches

  • Events: Cherry blossom season; fishing season; Japanese Silver Grass Burning; Sengokuhara Yudate-Shishimai Lion Dance; Kaempfer and Birnie Festival; Ohiradai Onsen Festival; Kintoki Festival; Kowakidani Azalea Festival.

Summer


  • Temperature: 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Rainfall: 6-10 inches

  • Events: Hakone Meijin Shogi Competition; Kuzuryu Shrine Festival; Miyagino Yudate-Shishimai Lion Dance; Lake Festival; Shinko Festival ; Hakone-en Summer Night Festival; Taiko Hyotan Festival; Kojiri Kuzuryu Shrine Festival; Torii Yaki Festival & Ryuto Festival; Ohiradai Onsen Summer Festival; Miyagino Summer Festival; Daimonji Yaki; Sengokuhara Susuki Festival.

Fall


  • Temperature: 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Rainfall: 2.5-10 inches

  • Events: Hakone Student Music Festival; Yumoto Kumano Shrine Festival; Ashikari Festival; Motomiya Reisai Festival; Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu; Hakone Autumn Music Festival; Tonosawa Hibuse Kannon Bosatsu Reisai Festival .

Things To Do In Hakone

No matter when you travel to Hakone, there are a variety of activities for every traveler. Besides exploring Mt. Fuji, visitors can soak in hot springs, admire historical shrines, and hike through national parks (to name a few).

Best Onsen In Hakone

Onsen are Japanese hot springs and can extend to encompass bathing facilities, hotels/inns, traditional ryokan, and spas that are built around it. The three top-rated onsens in Hakone are:

Yunessun

This onsen offers two kinds of pools: a traditional nude pool and a wine bath. In the wine bath, visitors sit in wine, and sometimes the staff pours wine over them as part of the experience. Yunessun is family-friendly and can cost anywhere from 1500 yen to 3500 yen ($13-$32).

Hotel Green Plaza

This onsen, while not as convenient as other onsens, is very popular with visitors because of its beautiful views of Mt. Fuji. For those not staying at the hotel, the entrance fee is 1600 yen ($15). Often, people will stay overnight at the hotel to soak in the onsen and watch the sunrise over Mt. Fuji.

Tenzan

Located deep in the jungle, this outdoor onsen is considered one of the best in the Hakone area, because it allows visitors to experience Japanese culture. It is secluded and only costs 1200 yen ($11). There is also a restaurant nearby if you get hungry, along with a lounge.

Hakone Shrine Floating Gate

Only a few hours from the capital, you can access the Hakone Shrine, a popular tourist destination within Hakone. The popular floating gates attract many visitors, though the Shrine has several gates.

History states that over a century ago, the Hakone Shrine was built to pacify a nine-headed dragon which is now chained at the bottom of the lake. It is also a place where souls of the dead would go to travel to the next world.

The Shrine is easily located from the Odawara Station, which is covered by your JRPass. You can also visit a museum and a restaurant while touring the Shrine. It is open daily and admission is free.

Hakone National Park

Hakone is known for its position inside the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National park that goes through the Fuji volcanic belt. The park spans 474 square miles, including areas like Mt. Fuji, Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone, Izu Peninsula, and the Izu Islands. Activities range from soaking in hot springs, hiking, enjoying the lakes, or taking in one of the thousands of volcanic islands. This park is one of the most visited national parks in Japan.

To get there, take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen, which is covered by your JRPass. The train will take you straight to the Odawara, Atami, and Mishima Stations, which are the gateway to many of the park’s sites. If you wish to reach Hakone or Shuzenji, you’ll have to transfer trains.

Hakone Open-Air Museum

The Open-Air Museum in Hakone houses a variety of exhibitions indoors and outdoors. It tries to create a balance between art and nature by strategically placing sculptures with views of the valleys and mountains in the background. The museum is open daily year-round, with admission costing anywhere from 1400-1600 yen ($12-$15).

Best Ryokan In Hakone

Ryokans are Japanese inns that feature many traditional Japanese amenities, like tatami mats, traditional Japanese meals, and onsen. The biggest difference between a ryokan and a traditional Western-style hotel is the Japanese etiquette that is practiced. However, that should not deter your stay in a ryokan. The three top-rate ryokans in Hakone are:

Yama No Chaya

This ryokan is located on a wooded hillside overlooking a lake. It is close to the Open-Air Museum and a 16th-century Zen temple called Soun-ji. The inn also provides private hot springs if you don’t wish to utilize the bathhouse. The rooms start at 32,767 yen ($299) per night.

Fukuzumiro

This ryokan is also close to the Open-Air Museum and is a five-minute walk from the Tonosawa train station, giving visitors a ton of options for activities. The rooms are simple, featuring tatami mats and chabudai dining tables. The ryokan offers a communal bathhouse and a bar. Rooms start at 29,260 yen ($267) a night.

Gora Kadan

Gora Kadan is known as a premium ryokan because of its location — it lies at the center of Mount Hakone, Gora Station, and Lake Ashi. All rooms come with dining tables, tatami mats, soaking tubs, gardens, or terrace. Rooms start at 96,438 yen ($880) a night.

Hakone can be a much-needed break from the city, whether you are staying there for a couple of days or making a day trip. Understandably, traveling to a new town with remote areas can be overwhelming. It’s important to bring guidebooks and pre-purchase mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices in case you get lost or need to look up additional information about a location. However, Hakone is more populated with tourists than natives, so it is very unlikely you’ll get lost in such a tourist-friendly place.

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