Hakone is one of those places everyone recommends visiting when in Tokyo however it was only until this year that we finally made it there!
Famed for its view of Mt Fuji, Lake Ashi, The Hakone Shrine, numerous onsen resorts and more, Hakone is definitely one of those tourist spots worth hitting.
How to get to Hakone
A really common way to get to Hakone is to buy the Hakone Free Pass – we got this off Klook beforehand for the convenience. The Hakone Free Pass gets you discounts on tourist attractions, unlimited travel on eight different transportation options in the Hakone region (this includes buses, boat cruise on Lake Ashi, etc.) AND it includes a return trip from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Hakone Yumoto Station. SO good.
When you have the Hakone Free Pass, all you have to do is arrive at Shinjuku Station and then take the Odakyu Line to Odawara, then transfer to the Hakone Tozan line to Hakone Yumoto Station. All of this is explained to you when you pick up your Hakone Free Pass ticket at the counter in Shinjuku Station. They provide you with super clear and detailed diagrams as to where each terminal is, as well as a train timetable for each train you will be catching. Why is Japan so organised?
Where we stayed
We decided to visit Hakone as an overnight trip so that we didn’t have to rush through things, staying overnight at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone, a beautiful resort in Hakone Yumoto, the gateway to Hakone.
At Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone, we stayed in a western style room with private outdoor bath and river view. This room was spacious and stunning and the perfect place to unwind. The shower here leads straight out to the balcony and onsen so you can go for a dip super conveniently at any time.
Each room at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone faces a beautiful mountain view – Yusaka Mountain, with the sound of water flowing from the river beneath.
Resort grounds and activities
The resort grounds also features numerous facilities including two beautiful public onsens. The onsen water comes from Yusaka Mountain – the one right outside the window! There are two onsens here, one for females and one for males and every day they swap these around so that you can try both out.
The resort also hosts numerous activities inspired by local traditions such as parquetry. Here, you can participate in parquetry craft workshops and learn the secrets to parquetry along the way.
If you are interested in a massage, Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone offers these in your room where they convert your bed into a little spa area for the massage.
The restaurant at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone focuses on regional dishes with seasonal flavours. During our time here, we tried the Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone Summer menu which was a beautiful multi-course set menu starting with an appetiser, then a stunning assortment of local delicacies (see above!), followed by soup, a deep fried dish, steamed dish and main.
This (above) was our main dish at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone – a specialty of the resort, soy milk meringue hot pot. It was my first time trying such a dish and it was simply delicious! The soy milk bubbled into a meringue foam like cloud which tasted a little like tofu!
– a specialty of the resort, soy milk meringue hot pot. It was my first time trying such a dish and it was simply delicious! The soy milk bubbled into a meringue foam like cloud which tasted a little like tofu!
Our delicious breakfast at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone was a traditional Japanese style breakfast set featuring chikara, miso (mmm), pickles, assortment of boiled vegetables, egg, grilled fish, rice and more. The perfect way to start the day in a relaxing style.
One of the main sights we wanted to see whilst in Hakone was the Hakone Shrine. This famous shrine sits on Lake Ashi and you can use your Hakone Free Pass to catch free buses that will take you there.
The Hakone Shrine complex here is small but extremely busy. There are a set of stairs on one side going up where you can visit and wander around the temple grounds up top. On the other side, there are a set of stairs taking you down to Hakone Shrine.
It’s extremely busy here and a line often forms (how orderly!) waiting to take a photo at the Shrine. Because of the orderly manner here, I think you could visit this shrine at any time of the day if you want to take images, because everyone politely and patiently waits in line for their turn.
There were a few other spots we wanted to visit on the day however unfortunately the weather wasn’t good / all we wanted to do was make the most of our stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone. We also were unable to see Mt. Fuji this time, but normally you are meant to find a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji by the shores of Lake Ashi.
Lastly, just a side note that as of June 2019, the Owakudani area with the black steamed eggs and geothermal valley is currently closed due to risk of volcanic activity!
I hope you find this travel guide to Hakone useful for planning your upcoming trip!