Famous for views of Fuji, hot springs and nature Hakone is a less than one hundred kilometers from Tokyo. Getting there is a two hour trip on the Odakyu railway which also offers a “Hakone Free Pass” for tourists which includes a round trip from Tokyo to Hakone and unlimited ue of select trains, cable cars (ropeways), boats and buses around Hakone itself. After arriving at the train station we headed for the old Tōkaidō - a highway that linked Tokyo and Kyoto during the feudal Edo Period. Hakone was an important checkpoint on this route where all travelers were stopped and their travel permits and baggage examined to enforce Tokugawa laws that restricted movement of women and weapons.
Along the route we arrived at Motohakone on the edge of Lake Ashinoko home of the famous Hakone shrine and a mystical torii standing in the lake. Boats link Motohakone to areas such as Ōwakudani, an area surrounding an active crater emitting (smelly) sulfurous fumes.
Clear but cold we had wonderful views of Mount Fuji from both Mount Hakone and Motohakone but an unexpected attraction was an open-air museum in Hakone itself. A short walk from our hostel we found ourselves in Japan’s first open-air museum, opened in 1969. With artwork from Picasso, Henry Moore and Taro Okamoto (among others), over 1,000 sculptures and many indoor exhibitions the museum was a great way to spend a morning with a selection of tasty Japanese treats from the on-site café. Bring a little towel as well for the small foot onsen - perfect to relax in after exploring the garden and the Picasso Pavilion.
Onsen - naturally occurring hot sprints - are the perfect way to relax and recover after a long, cold day making the most of our transport passes. While normally gender separated, it is also possible to find private Onsen and the helpful owner of our hostel arranged a relaxing visit where we could rent the whole onsen (fits two-to-four people) for only $17.
With beautiful nature, spectacular views, a sprinkle of culture and relaxing hot springs Hakone is a great weekend trip from Tokyo.