Hakone is a popular location from what is effectively a stones throw from Tokyo. It’s accessible by a number of ways, the most popular and convenient of which is by a special limited express set of trains that run from Shinjuku station and make a number of stops along the way. It’s viewed both as wonderful destination to relax in the various hot springs around the area as well as the interesting scenery and experiences along the way. It’s also quite an affordable option, more so when you go via the “free-pass” which will cover basically all your travel expenses to and from their, including the romance car as well as the various methods of getting around town, to which there are many, including a ropeway, cable car and ferry. Needless to say provided you plan on doing any sort of exploring outside of Hakone-Yumoto station (your point of entry) then it’s certainly a sound investment.
I recently made my way around a few weeks ago and upon spending a day there (I was hoping to stay longer but coincidently planned my trip during Obon, the busiest time of summer for vacationing) quickly decided I need to return the following week with nothing, and nobody, more than my camera. While I hadn’t strayed from the beaten path particularly much this trip it still made for a relaxing and enjoyable experience.
The main route consists of taking the enjoyable romance car ride into Hakone-Yumoto station, jumping out for lunch if you’re interested or directly switching the the Tozan Railway line, an old mountain train that takes a series of zigzag rides up the mountain at a snails pace, one that is filled with scenery, nature and glimpses into the past. Following that you jump out and switch to a cable car that takes a number of stops up the mountain before being switched over to a ropeway that takes you a few more stops, the first of which has a mountain side view of Mt. Fuji on clear days and a rather popular destination for boiled eggs, boiled black no less, by the hot spring waters that fuel the many hot springs around. This particular location also gives you a chance to get a nose full of various noxious gases escaping parts of the mountain, something that may not sound all that pleasant at first but is certainly worth the experience.
Next, you’ll take a ropeway ride down the other side of the mountain where you can jump into a number of colourful ferries that take passengers to the other side of Lake Ashi. Along the way you’ll get a chance to explore some smaller towns, temples, shrines and onsen among other things. To finish it off you can take a bus trip back to Hakone-Yumoto station (or a number of stops a long the way) and enjoy the riverside view of the town, explore the various side streets and ultimately find your way to a relaxing and beautiful onsen (hot spring). Just be sure to grab a nice drink for the serene train ride back home.
Hakone is a place I really came to enjoy, both from the painless way it is to get there as well as the closeness of nature and small town life. It reminded me a lot of coming back to Banff in Canada, something every Edmontonian craves quite frequently. Regardless of what corner of Tokyo you’re in or what part of the world you come from Hakone comes as a highly recommended get-away.