Hakone is famous for its hot springs, and is full of various resorts and clinics dedicated to taking full advantage of their medicinal qualities. Besides these, the area offers breathtaking scenery, great views of Mt. Fuji and some exciting transportation means. I highly suggest taking a day trip to the area, as I did. Plan to leave as early as possible to maximize daylight.
You could take a bus tour here, or you could do as I did, and go on your own. If you choose to do that, take the train to Odawara. You can get here either by Shinkansen or by the Tokaido line. From Odaware you will need to switch from JR to the Hakone-Tozan transportation system, which includes trains, rope cars, cable cars, boats and buses. It really is as fun as it sounds, so keep reading.
My advice is to buy the Hakone Free Pass at the Hakone Tozan Information Center at Odawara station.. It costs 4130 yen for adults and 2070 yen for children and is valid for 3 days, so you can come back and spend more time here. If you go on a weekday, you can save some money by buying the Weekday Pass for 3410 yen for adults and 1700 yen for children. The weekday pass can only be purchased monday-thursday, and is not available March 20-April 10, April 29-May 5, July 20-August 31 and December 30-January 3.
The first leg of the trip is by train to the Hakone-Yumoto station. Here you will change to another train, which will take you up into the mountains to Gora. At Gora you will change to a ropeway, which is like a street car, but pulled by rope up a very steep hill. It makes a few stops along the way, and gets you to Sounzan stop, which is the end of the line. It takes about 1 hour to get here from Hakone-Yumoto. At Sounzan you will take a cable car. About 6-8 people fit inside each cabin. The cable car makes several stops before reaching its destination, which is Todendai Station. Here you can change to a boat that cruises Lake Ashi. The boat takes you across the lake to Moto-Hakone area. Depending on the time of day you can either retrace your steps or take a bus directly to Odawara station.
There is plenty to see in the area, and you should get out at every stop and look around. I have included entries on some of the major attractions that I visited. These are:
- Owakudani Valley
- Lake Ashi/Boat Cuirse
- Hakone Detached Palace Garden
There's more to see in the area, including shrines, castles and museums. The hotel concierge was able to provide plenty of information on what to do here, and due to time limitations I simply couldn't see more.