No trip to Japan is complete, in my opinion, without a day trip to Hakone. A day trip is easily doable from Tokyo, but definitely requires a decent amount of planning. Actually, even without a plan, most of the stuff you’ll be able to figure out as you go. It just might be a more stressful experience. So for those of you who like to have everything completely planned out beforehand, I hope this guide will help! It’s mostly based off of the popular “Loop” guide (with one added destination), but I tried to break out the transportation information much more clearly. Getting around Hakone is really not as daunting as it looks. I’ve also made this guide available in PDF form on my Itineraries page. The PDF guide has a few more detailed maps/diagrams that might come in handy.
1. Buying tickets: Alright, so first things first, gotta get your tickets. My starting point was Shinjuku, so your initial experience with buying tickets and getting to Hakone-Yumoto might be slightly different. Anyway, at least from Shinjuku, the hardest part of this whole trip was finding the ticket counter (there’s a specific one that sells tickets to Hakone) in the subway station. You’re looking for the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center (map in PDF guide). I recommend getting your tickets 1-2 days before your trip, and check the weather forecast ahead of time. Two things I recommend purchasing from here:
- The Hakone Freepass (5140 Yen): This gives you unlimited access (over 2 days, I believe) to almost all methods of transportation in Hakone—at least the ones that I talk about in this guide. There are a couple of buses that you won’t be able to take, but all the touristy places you’ll definitely be able to get to with this pass. I never did the math to see if you actually save any money, but I think it’s worth it just for the convenience. It saves you from having to purchase individual tickets as you go, and given the number of times you’ll be hopping on and off different trains/buses/etc., having the freepass just makes getting around faster. Check the PDF guide for which transport facilities the pass is valid on.
- Limited Express Add-On for Odakyu’s Romancecar (890 Yen one way): Highly recommend getting this upgrade. The Hakone Freepass gets you a ride on a local train to Hakone-Yumoto, but it’s not direct (you have to switch trains at some point) AND it takes 30 minutes longer. With the Romancecar, you have reserved seats, it’s a much more comfortable ride, and you’ll be there in 1-1.5 hours.
2. Ride the Romancecar from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto (Pretty self-explanatory…if you get lost trying to find the train platform, just ask anyone at the station—they’re always willing to help)
3. Transfer to Hakone-Tozan Train: This train platform is right next to the platform you get off of taking the Romancecar. Platform signs are displayed in English, Korean, and Chinese. Take the Hakone-Tozan train from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora Station (last stop). It will take about 40 minutes.
We were pretty hungry by the time we got to Gora station, so we stopped for lunch there. There are a couple of restaurants scattered around by the station. I can’t remember the name of the place we went to, but their tempura and soba noodles were fantastic.
4. Transfer from Hakone-Tozan train at Gora Station to Hakone-Tozan Cablecar: This leg will take about 10 minutes, and you want to get off at Sounzan Station, which is the last stop. Hakone Ropeway (next transport) will literally be right in front of you. There’s a pretty good view from the observation terrace at Sounzan.
5. Take Ropeway to Owakudani Station: This should take about 8 minutes. If the weather is good, you should be able to see Mt. Fuji from the ropeway on your way up.
6. Owakudani: This is a pretty neat place! It doesn’t smell particularly pleasant, though, thanks to all the sulfuric gas spewing out from the mountain surface. We got super lucky and got there before the fog completely enveloped the whole area. It was a pretty cool view! Definitely try their famous “black eggs” while you’re there. These eggs have been boiled in the hot water emitted from the volcanic mountain. The taste is about the same, but the texture is a little different.
7. Get back on the Ropeway from Owakudani Station to Togendai: Make sure you’re going in the right direction! This will take about 15 minutes.
8. Togendai: I’ve heard this is a great place for lunch (for the views). The Togendai View Restaurant overlooks the water so you’ll get gorgeous views! The food is average, though, from what I’ve heard.
9. Bus to Sengoku-kogen from Togendai: This is the extra destination that I incorporated into the pretty standard Loop guide. The Sengokuhara Pampas Grass Fields are so pretty and really not too far from Togendai, so I figured, why not make the trip since we’re already here. You’ll want to take the Hakone Tozan Bus Line T for Odawara Station (about 6 minutes). The buses wait right outside of Togendai station. Feel free to ask the bus driver to verify directions if you’re unsure you have the right bus.
10. Sightsee Sengokuhara Pampas Grass Fields: I’ve heard the best time to visit these fields is Autumn, where the fields turn gold/green. But I’m sure they’re just as gorgeous at any other time of the year. This is such a great spot for pictures!
11. Bus back to Togendai: Take Hakone Tozan Bus Line T for Togendai (about 13 minutes)
12. Sightseeing cruise on Lake Ashi: Departs from Togendai at bottom of Hakone ropeway. The cruise is about 40 minutes to get to Moto-Hakone-ko harbor (there are actually two cruise routes…one stops at another harbor and you have to transfer ships to get to Moto-Hakone). The views from the cruise are gorgeous! We didn’t have particularly good weather, though…but the fog is always magical in its own way!
13. Moto-Hakone-ko: When you get to the harbor, you can walk about 15-20 min. to get to the huge archway of Hakone Shrine (right alongside the lake). There is also a café/bakery pretty close to the harbor stop and I was pooped so of course I had to get my dessert fix in.
14. Back to Hakone-Yumoto via Hakone Tozan Bus (35 min): Yes, this bus goes back to the Hakone-Yumoto station, so you don’t have to backtrack the entire route. This bus gets extremely crowded, so be prepared to stand the entire time.
15. Romancecar back to Shinjuku: If you want to take the Romancecar back, you need to buy another upgrade since the original add-on is just for one-way. You can buy this at the Hakone-Yumoto station! Otherwise, feel free to take the local train back. Just remember that you’ll have to transfer somewhere along the way, and it will take at least 30 minutes longer.
And that’s a wrap! I know this post was super long, but I hope you guys found (or will find) this guide helpful. Once again, a more detailed PDF version of this guide can be found on my ITINERARIES page. If you have family/friends going to Japan who are thinking about taking a day trip to Hakone, please share this with them! Thanks for reading 🙂