Hakone is an onsen region located about 90km south-west of Tokyo, scattered with ryokan whose life-blood is the natural hot spring water that flows into their communal baths. Japanese (at least the more affluent members of society) have been traveling to Hakone since the beginning of the Edo period, and today its proximity to Tokyo and natural beauty make it the most popular onsen destination from the capital. Indeed, long-established hotels like Fujiya Hotel can boast of having been host to Charlie Chaplin, John Lennon, King George VI, as well as numerous foreign dignitaries.
While there are many attractions in the area, those hoping for a bustling tourist mecca with souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars may be disappointed. Hakone-Yumoto—the gateway town to the region—does thrive off tourism, but once you head into the mountains the restaurants and gift shops are few and far between.
The Hakone Free Pass
The Hakone Free Pass is a discount excursion ticket for the Hakone region which gives you unlimited use of public transportation in the region and reduced prices at many of the attractions. You can buy either a 2-day or 3-day pass but the price depends on where you purchase the ticket. From Shinjuku Station a 2-day pass is ¥5,140 and a 3-day pass ¥5,640. Purchased at Hakone-Yumoto the price is ¥4,000 and ¥4,500, respectively. Children get a 75% discount. Although more expensive if purchased at Shinjuku Station, it does entitle you to discounted rates on the train to Hakone-Yumoto.
How to Get There?
The Odakyu Limited Express “Romance Car” from Shinjuku Station departs every 30 minutes and takes you directly to Hakone-Yumoto. It takes 90 minutes and costs about ¥2,000. Seats must be reserved.
Visitors can also take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station to Odawara (approximately 30 minutes) and see Odawara Castle before taking the Hakone Tozan Railway to Hakone-Yumoto and beyond. The Hakone Tozan Railway climbs from Odawara up to Gora (541m) where visitors who wish to continue higher up the mountain can switch to the Hakone Tozan Cable Car. The train itself provides some spectacular views of the region as it zig-zags its way up the slopes
The Odakyu company has created a superb tourist map of the area highlighting the rail and ropeway routes as well as all the key attractions in the region. Download the map here.