1. Hakone Lake Ashi
    Photo: Odakyu Electric Railway Co., Ltd.
  2. Hakone Owakudani Ropeway
    Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock
  3. Hakone Open Air Museum
  4. Okada Museum of Art
    Photo: S. Shirono

Guide to Hakone: Best things to do, museums, restaurants, hotels and bars

With spectacular mountain scenery, soothing onsen and amazing art museums, Hakone makes the perfect short getaway from Tokyo

Mari Hiratsuka
Tabea Greuner
Written by
Mari Hiratsuka
&
Tabea Greuner
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The mountain of Hakone lies about an hour and a half by train from Tokyo, which makes it a popular day-trip or weekend getaway from the capital. It has had a long and illustrious tradition as a hot spring town – its name even appears in Edo-era (1603-1868) rankings of Japan’s best onsen. But Hakone is about much more than just bathing. It’s got everything from superb art museums to an active volcano – as well as a jaw-dropping view of Mt Fuji on clear days. These are our top picks of things to do and see around the area, from central Hakone-Yumoto and beautiful Lake Ashi to posh but relaxed Gora, which is still one of the most in-demand neighbourhoods for moneyed Tokyo folks looking for a second home.

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Things to do

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

From Owakudani, get on the cable car (known as the ‘ropeway’) for Togendai and you’ll soon find yourself at the shore of Lake Ashi. Said to be about 3,000 years old, this still body of water is best viewed from the gaudy-looking ‘pirate ship’ that regularly cruises across it. Gazing out from the deck, you’ll be able to spot the distinctive red ‘peace gate’ of Hakone Shrine, which stands partially submerged in water near the shore, and the majestic Mt Fuji towering over the landscape. More active travellers may want to rent a boat and angling gear and head out to try their luck with the local fish, which include rainbow trout, black bass and Japanese lake smelt.

Motohakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa.

Hakone Shrine
Photo: Blanscape/Dreamstime

Hakone Shrine

If you’re taking the ‘pirate ship’ from Togendai to Moto-Hakone, don’t forget to pay a visit to the Hakone Shrine, whose red torii gate can be seen from the waters. Said to bring luck in battle, its powers have been trusted by the likes of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and 12th-century ruler Minamoto no Yoritomo. For a double dose of spiritual clout, continue your walk for another ten minutes to Kuzuryu Shrine, which draws on the legend of a nine-headed dragon that managed to calm a poisonous monster that terrorised Lake Ashi way back in the Nara period (710-794). This shrine is known as a bringer of luck in both money matters and love.

80-1 Motohakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 83 7123.

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Hakone Gora Park
Photo: Odakyu Hakone Holdings

Hakone Gora Park

Japan’s first French-style garden, located in Hakone’s Gora area, opened in 1914 and features a symmetrical architectural design with a large fountain in its centre. It’s built on a slope so has splendid views of the surrounding mountains and nature. Pick up a rose-flavoured soft serve ice cream before strolling through the beautiful rose garden, or explore the two greenhouses that are home to tropical plants, herbs and flowers.

You can even join a number of fun workshops, ranging from traditional tea ceremonies and jewellery making to kiriko glass engraving lessons and pottery painting. Hakone Museum of Art is right next door, so you don’t need to travel far for your next activity.

1300 Gora, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 82 2825. 9am-5pm (last entry 4.30pm) daily. ¥550, free for primary school students and younger children.

Shopping at Hakone-Yumoto Station

Shopping at Hakone-Yumoto Station

The shopping arcade in front of Hakone-Yumoto Station offers plenty of options for souvenir-hunters. You’ll want to start at Tanakaya, where the shelves are lined with yosegi marquetry boxes, hot spring minerals and all sorts of other quirky stuff you can only find here. For edible gifts, consider old-school sweets shop Chimoto, found a bit further up towards the hot spring inn area. Its marshmallow-like yumochi cakes, which you can also order at the in-house café, are popular. Note that most of the shops in this area don’t take credit cards.

Yumoto, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa.

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Yoshiike Ryokan
Photo: yoshiikeryokan.com

Yoshiike Ryokan

While most onsen in Hakone are only accessible to in-house guests, this public bath, run by the venerable Yoshiike Ryokan inn, opens its doors to daytime patrons between 1pm and 10pm. In addition to the hot spring baths, visitors can check out the ryokan’s impressive Japanese garden.

597 Yumoto, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 85 5711. 1.30pm-10pm (last entry at 8pm). ¥2,200, primary school students and children aged 2 and older ¥1,650 (¥50 ‘onsen tax’ is added to the entrance fees).

Museums

The Hakone Open-Air Museum
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

The Hakone Open-Air Museum

You’ll find sculptures as far as the eye can see at this unique museum in Ninotaira, which was ahead of its time when it opened in 1969 as the first alfresco art museum in Japan. Here you’ll find around 120 modern and contemporary works of art spread across the expansive 70,000 sqm park. There are works by Henry Moore and Fernand Léger plus an indoor exhibition hall dedicated to Picasso. The best part? It’s super family-friendly, and some of the installations even double as kids’ playgrounds. You could easily spend at least half a day here before soaking your tired feet at the museum’s natural hot spring foot bath.

1121 Ninotaira, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 82 1161. 9am-5pm (last entry 4.30pm) daily. ¥1,600, high school and university students ¥1,200, junior high and primary school students ¥800, free for younger children.

Okada Museum of Art
Photo: Jin Kashima

Okada Museum of Art

One of the most impressive museums in Hakone, the Okada Museum of Art displays mainly Japanese, Chinese and Korean art on five floors and across 5,000 sqm. Its collection includes works from antiquity to the present, making for a really deep dive into the history of East Asian art. The museum’s current exhibition focuses on the four seasons through 100 artworks, including Japanese paintings, ceramics and lacquerware. For the perfect end to your visit, soak your tired feet in the museum’s outdoor hot spring foot bath while you admire the stunning mural of the wind god and thunder god.

493-1 Kowakudani, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 87 3931. 9am-5pm (last entry 4.30pm) daily, closed Dec 31 & Jan 1. ¥2,800, primary, junior high and high school students  ¥1,800, free for younger children.

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Pola Museum of Art
Photo: Pola Museum of Art

Pola Museum of Art

Pola Museum of Art’s superb collection consists of about 10,000 pieces, including French impressionist artworks, Japanese paintings, Oriental ceramics, glassworks and cosmetic utensils. Some of the highlights are Monet’s ‘Water Lily Pond’, Renoir’s ‘Girl in a Lace Hat’, and Picasso’s ‘Mother and Child by the Sea’. Make sure to take a closer look at the building itself, too. It was constructed by engineering company Nikken Sekkei and received a prize from the Architectural Institute of Japan in 2004.

You can choose from among 2,000 different items in the gift shop, including some goods adorned with motifs of famous paintings displayed in the museum. If you feel peckish, you could either opt for a proper meal at restaurant Array or sit down for some cake or light snacks at Café Tune, complete with views of Hakone’s mountain range and its bountiful nature.

1285 Kozukayama, Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 84 2111. 9am-5pm (last entry 4.30pm) daily. ¥1,800, high school and university students ¥1,300, free for younger children.

Lalique Museum Hakone
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Lalique Museum Hakone

René Lalique (1860-1945) was a famous artist in the field of decorative jewellery and glass. Nature inspired many of his works, resulting in motifs depicting insects, birds and flowers. 

The Lalique Museum Hakone exhibits about 230 items, including glassworks and 40 original and innovative pieces of jewellery, out of a collection of over 1,500 works. You'll get to enjoy works from a variety of genres, including artisanal perfume bottles, jewellery pieces that reflect the seasons and insects, vases, chandeliers and even car hood ornaments in the shape of fast animals.

After exploring the museum, enjoy casual French cuisine, sweet treats or light snacks at the on-site café and restaurant Lys. If you’re looking for a more special teatime session, however, board the original 1929 Orient Express wagon behind the restaurant. Here you can sample tea and cake (¥2,200) while admiring the wagon’s beautiful glass decor, designed by Lalique.

186-1 Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 84 2255. 9am-4pm (last entry 3.30pm) daily, closed 3rd Thu of the month except in August. ¥1,500, university and high school students ¥1,300, junior high and primary school students ¥800, free for younger children.

Food & drink

Bakery & Table Hakone
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Bakery & Table Hakone

For panoramic views of Lake Ashi, pay a visit to this three-storey eatery in Motohakone. The first floor houses a bakery that’s popular for its Hakone bread made with gobo root, carrot and bacon, and the curry buns made from rice flour with an egg filling. You can order to go or bring your baked treats up to the second floor, where you can pair your goodies with a cup of coffee or tea.

Visiting during lunchtime or evening hours? Head straight up to the restaurant on the third floor, where you can devour the eatery’s signature dish: sandwiches filled with bacon, egg and cheese, as well as smoked salmon, spinach and cheese (¥2,680). Grab a counter seat along the window front from where you’ll have superb views not only of the lake but also of the chefs, who’ll assemble your sandwich right in front of your eyes.

9-1 Moto-Hakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 85 1530. Bakery (1F) 10am-5pm, cafè (2F) 9am-5pm (last orders 4.30pm), restaurant 11am-6pm (5pm) daily.

Takeyabu

Takeyabu

Located just off the road near Ubako Station, this strangest of soba noodle eateries stands out in more ways than one. Upon arrival, you’ll be treated to the avant-garde art of owner Takao Abe, whose peculiar creations include sculptures decorated with broken plates and marbles – it’s all supposed to be themed on idiosyncratic French artist Ferdinand Cheval’s ‘Le Palais idéal’.

Don’t let the offbeat visuals distract you: Abe’s noodles are excellent, with the most popular options on the menu sometimes selling out before noon. Besides the inaka soba (¥1,320), featuring hand-cut noodles made with stone-milled buckwheat and served cold, we like the simple kake soba (noodles in hot broth, ¥1,320). You’ll also want to try grilled miso paste (¥770) and arabiki sobagaki, a type of mash made from buckwheat flour (¥1,540).

160-80 Motohakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 84 7500. 11am-8.30pm (last orders 7pm), closed Wed.

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Black eggs at Owakudani

Black eggs at Owakudani

The first place to visit after getting off the train at Hakone-Yumoto, the gateway to Hakone, is Owakudani: a crater formed when Mt Hakone erupted about 3,000 years ago. Steam and a very recognisable sulphur odour constantly rise from its rocky surface, allowing you to sense the power of nature with your eyes – and your nose.

The local speciality is kuro tamago, literally ‘black eggs’, which get their distinctive colour by being boiled in the sulfuric hot springs. These eggs look perfectly normal on the inside, and locals believe that consuming them could prolong your lifespan. For the best view of the crater, take the cable car (also known as a ‘ropeway’) from Sounzan Station to Owakudani Station and make sure to keep an eye out for views of Mt Fuji along the way.

Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 84 9605.

Tamura Ginkatsutei
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Tamura Ginkatsutei

Tamura Ginkatsutei, close to Gora Station, is one of the only places in Japan where you can sample tofu cutlet simmering in a hearty broth, served teishoku style with rice, miso soup and pickles (¥1,628). The eatery provides both tatami mat and table seating, with a friendly and traditional ambience. 

1300-739 Gora, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 82 1440. 11am-2.30pm, 5pm-7pm, Tue 11am-2.30pm, closed Wed & Tue evening.

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Café Komon
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Café Komon

Chaya Honjin Hotoriya at the shore of Lake Ashi is home to a couple of souvenir shops and the large Café Komon on the second floor. Ask for a window seat, where you can enjoy superb views of Lake Ashi, the surrounding mountain range and majestic Mt Fuji in the background.

While relaxing, grill some dango dumplings and mochi rice cake at your table over a small grill by ordering the shichifuku dango set (¥1,650), which comes with seven types of dango, including matcha, sakura and Japanese mugwort flavours. Dip the little treats in either a sweet mitarashi soy glaze, coarse sweet red bean paste or grated daikon.

161-1 Hakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 83 6711. 10am-4pm (last orders 3.30pm) daily.

Gora Brewery & Grill
Photo: Gora Brewery & Grill

Gora Brewery & Grill

Opened in 2017 by celebrity chef Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa himself, Gora Brewery & Grill combines innovative Japanese cooking with craft beer from the microbrewery on the premises. Pair creations such as crispy gyoza dumplings filled with kuroge (black-haired) wagyu meat (¥900) and voluminous sushi rolls stuffed with fatty tuna and salmon (¥2,000) with their signature Hakone Kohaku beer (¥750). When you’re all filled up and satisfied, close out the evening by resting your legs in the foot bath outside.

1300-72 Gora, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 83 8107. 1pm-9pm daily.

Where to stay

Fujiya Hotel
Photo: Fujiya Hotel

Fujiya Hotel

Fujiya Hotel in Hakone’s Miyanoshita neighbourhood opened in 1878 as Japan’s first resort hotel. It’s one of the country’s nine classic hotels, built between the late 19th and early 20th century, which combine Japanese- and Western-style architecture.  

The famous Fujiya Hotel comprises four different buildings of which three are designated tangible cultural properties and considered heritages of industrial modernisation. Aside from the main building (pictured) built in 1891, you’ll also find two Western-style wooden buildings from 1906 with shutters and casement windows, plus the Flower Palace, a beautiful wooden Japanese-style structure from 1936 that looks like the perfect setting for the next Ghibli movie. If you prefer a more modern ambience, opt for the Forest Wing, which overlooks the three historic buildings and has an onsen facility on the top floor. On the premises, there’s also a souvenir shop, a bakery, a museum about the hotel’s history, a Japanese garden and an indoor and outdoor pool. 

Overnight stays start at ¥46,000 per person, but if you’re short on time you can also opt for a daytime stay. You’ll have access to one of the many beautiful historic rooms for eight hours from 12 noon to 8pm, as well as the onsen and spa facilities. The deal comes either with an afternoon tea set, lunch or dinner option and starts at ¥60,000 per person.

359 Miyanoshita, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 82 2211. 

Hakone Kowakien Ten-yu
箱根小涌園 天悠

Hakone Kowakien Ten-yu

All of the rooms at this classy inn, opened in April 2017, are equipped with private open-air baths filled with hot spring water from Owakudani. In addition to the 120 standard rooms, Ten-yu offers 24 top-floor rooms and six suites, with prices starting from ¥56,100 per person per night. While soaking in a private bath is relaxing, make sure you check out the shared bathing facilities, which feature an ‘infinity onsen’ that looks out over the vast wilds of Hakone.

1297 Ninotaira, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 82 5111.

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Hotel de Yama
Photo: Odakyu Hotel de Yama

Hotel de Yama

Once the villa of Koyata Iwasaki, the fourth president of Mitsubishi and the nephew of the company’s founder Yataro Iwasaki, Hotel de Yama was turned into a beautiful resort hotel in 1948. The hotel was fully renovated in 2015, combining history and luxury in a setting surrounded by lush greenery. Guest rooms boast dark wood furniture to emphasise the structure’s history, while large windows provide splendid views of Lake Ashi, Mt Fuji, and – the highlight of Hotel de Yama – a 130,000 sqm garden. Visit in May, when about 3,000 azaleas of some 30 species, plus about 300 rhododendrons of about 20 varieties are in full bloom, all planted way before the hotel opened over 70 years ago.

Before breakfast – which you should definitely enjoy outdoors on the terrace – head over to Hakone Shrine’s red torii gate for that iconic Instagram shot before tourist crowds take over the famous spot from around 10am. It’s only a five-minute walk from the hotel, making it a perfect morning stroll.

80 Motohakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 83 6321.

Hakone Tent

Hakone Tent

A guest house occupying a renovated old ryokan just a stone’s throw from Gora Station, Hakone Tent has earned a loyal following among budget travellers. Dormitory beds cost ¥3,500 per night, and the price includes 24-hour access to the on-site hot spring facilities. Guests are welcome to use the shared kitchen, and the bar opens at 5pm every night and fills up quickly.

1320-257 Hakone-machi, Ashigara-Shimo, Kanagawa. 0460 83 8021.

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  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Hakone

Japan’s mini-boom of ‘book-lovers’ hotels’ goes large scale with Hakone Honbako (meaning ‘Hakone bookcase’), a boutique-style accommodation themed around the joy of discovering new reads. The rooms are kitted out with bookshelves containing an eclectic selection of titles, drawn from Hakone Honbako’s collection of around 12,000 books. The rest of these tomes are spread out across a space that feels like the most luxurious library imaginable, replete with classic mid-century modern furnishings and huge picture windows looking out over the surrounding mountains. All books are available to purchase, and though most are Japanese-language, a selection of art and photography books transcends any language barriers.

As with many of the town’s more traditional hotels and ryokan (inns), Hakone Honbako is a self-contained resort also housing a restaurant and its own onsen baths including the outdoor rotenburo. There’s also a zakka lifestyle shop, café and coworking space, with selected facilities open to daytime visitors as well as staying guests.

Insider tips

Yumoto Kenban

Geisha come to practice dancing, singing and shamisen-playing at this traditional house, where shows for curious visitors are held. The next ones are on November 19 and December 3 and 17 at 1.30pm and 2.30pm. The participation fee is ¥1,500 per person. For more information, see the website.

694 Yumoto, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa. 0460 85 5338.

Hakone Freepass

Hakone Freepass

Save on transportation with this convenient ticket, which gives you unlimited rides on the Hakone Tozan Railway, the ropeway (pictured), the Lake Ashi pirate ship and all other major forms of transportation in the area. A two-day pass, which includes a return train ride from Shinjuku, costs ¥6,100 (¥1,100 for children) and can be purchased at Odakyu line stations, many tourist information centres and online.

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