Today I’m writing about one of the most popular destinations in the Kanto region for a therapeutic getaway from the bustle of the cities – Hakone.

I have been to Hakone countless of times, you might have read some of my old blog posts, but if you haven’t,

1. Sightseeing in Hakone in a taxi (2018)

2. The baby wishing tree in Hakone (2014)

3. Visit Hakone by Hakone Freepass (2014)

I have probably been to Hakone more than 10 times in my life but guess what? I still can’t get enough of it and there are STILL places I had yet to explore!

So today, I will be introducing 15 places to see/things to do/food to eat when you visit this beautiful hot spring town just a stone’s throw away from Tokyo.

Access

You can of course, opt to drive if you are a road-trip kind of person or take the limited express Romancecar from Shinjuku. But there’s another way too – bus!

You can depart from the bus terminal at Shinjuku and look for Hakone-bound buses by operated by Odakyu, the journey will take roughly around 2 hours. Although it is not so much

Website: https://www.hakonenavi.jp/english/traffic/transportation/highwaybus/

 

 

1. Hakone Tourist Information Center

First thing first! Rest assured that if you ever need someone to talk to about your trip no matter how clueless or well-planned you are, here’s help! The Hakone Tourist Information Center at Hakone Yumoto has English (and other languages) speaking staff so this is your best place to be for travel information.

Ran out of JPY for shopping? Here you are, a money changer at the center!

Area: Hakone Yumoto (箱根湯本)

Website: https://hakone-japan.com/plan-your-trip/stories/helpful-info/hakone-information-center/

 

2. Hakone Glass Museum

If you haven’t already known, Hakone is home to many museums and galleries so if you appreciate art, be it classic or modern or simply just in search for more artistic places to explore, here you are at the perfect place.

You may want to meet Monet and Renoir at the Pola Museum of Art, enjoy Picasso and Henry Moore at Hakone Open Air Museum – two of the most popular art museums in the area.

But today I’ve discovered my favorite – Hakone Glass Museum. Entrance fee is JPY1500.

While many art museums prohibits photography, this place is your absolute Insta spot. I can’t believe I had not discovered this museum earlier!

Based on a theme of classic Venetian Glass often admired by royal family in Medieval times, you are invited to a garden embellished with myriads of sparkly crystals which is almost too pretty for a museum!

I love how the crystals are made to suit seasonal changes. Right now you can enjoy both susuki (autumn) and Christmas trees (winter) at the same time. When spring comes, I was told that there will be pink crystals representing the well loved cherry blossoms.

The iridescent sparkles in rainbow hues just glisten when the sun shines through one may even mistaken it as LED lights. Beautiful use of nature to create a surreal scenery that’s almost fairy-tale-like.

There’s a mini trekking path for you to enjoy outdoor nature especially during fall season.

Watch a video of my visit:

Enjoy afternoon tea or Italian lunch feeling like a European aristocrat, sitting at the sunny terrace while being serenaded by an Italian performer. An atmospheric afternoon indulgence can’t be better than this.

 

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【Hakone】Today I made my way to Hakone, and the first place I visited was the Hakone Glass Forest Museum, which is so so so beautiful I can’t believe I have not discovered this place earlier!⁣ ⁣ Based on a theme of classic Venetian glass often admired by royal family in Medieval times, you are made to feel like a European aristocrat, sitting at the sunny terrace enjoying pasta 🍝 and fruit tea 🍹while being serenaded by an Italian performer.⁣ ⁣ Look at the sparkly crystal garden! I love how the crystals are made to suit seasonal changes – now you can enjoy both susuki 🌾 (autumn) and Christmas trees 🎄 (winter) at the same time. Mind you, it’s not LED lights!! The iridescent sparkles in rainbow hues glisten when the sun shines through, so beautiful it’s almost surreal.✨⭐️🌈⁣ ⁣ Remember to put this onto your list the next time you visit Hakone. Anyone convinced yet? 🥰⁣ ⁣ #cheesieinKanagawa

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Area: Sengokuhara (仙石原)

Website: https://www.hakone-garasunomori.jp/entrance/english/

 

3. Lalique Museum Hakone

For those who are into more serious art, here’s a classic one for you – Lalique Museum, featuring over 1500 masterpieces of French artist, René Lalique.

A mat of lush green greets you upon entering the museum, leading you up to the entrance of the main museum.

No photography is allowed inside the museum, but do expect beautifully designed perfume bottles, jewelries, interior decors and more. I found Lalique’s peculiar fascination with incorporating insects into his design rather refreshing. Definitely for those of who has an eye for fine art.

Here’s the most special exhibition of the museum – “Le Train”.

It’s a real express train filled with Lalique’s design where you can enjoy a luxurious afternoon having tea and cakes in this gorgeous wagon. It’s extremely popular so reservation is recommended!

Area: Sengokuhara (仙石原)

Website: http://www.lalique-museum.com/common/about/english.html

 

4. Choanji Temple 長安寺

If you are visiting Hakone in autumn, this might be one of the best spots for some maple extravaganza.

Will you just look at the colors!

The entire compound exudes serenity I could really spend hours just talking really, really slow walk.

Here’s a short video:

While essentially a zen Buddhism temple, you can find a couple of torii gates that is typically found in a shrine instead. And I find that really charming.

 

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Area: Sengokuhara (仙石原)

 

5. Cruise Lake Ashi 芦ノ湖

You simply cannot leave Hakone without cruising the iconic lake at least once.

There are a few types of water vehicles you can choose from including from the magnificent pirate ships which accommodate hundreds, the thrilling Ninja bus to little paddling swan boats for two.

Today, I went on a pirate ship adventure and there are even a few types of pirate ship. The one I was on was “Queen Ashinoko”, a classic deluxe boat with wood decor from floor to ceiling adorned in vivid colors.

The one next to us was “Victory”.

It will take around 25 min cruise (one way) around Lake Ashinoko from Motohakone-Ko to Togendai-Ko. On the way you will pass by the iconic Hakone Shrine and Kuzuryu Shrine, and on a fair day you may even catch Mt Fuji in the background!

You may also take both ways so you will return to where you were when you started.

Sunset on a cruise is absolutely a beautiful experience too.

Area: Motohakone (元箱根)

Website: https://www.hakone-kankosen.co.jp/foreign/en/

 

6. Gora Brewery & Grill

Fancy a local beer and some good food in a quiet atmosphere? Come to Gora Brewery & Grill, produced by the famed NOBU restaurant chain.

Other than creative dining, the restaurant’s wooden interior is pretty interesting with a modern touch and I’d say it’s more of a semi fine dining style than casual, although the atmosphere is pretty relaxing oveall.

Sample the 4 different kinds of beer produced locally gazing out to the Japanese garden from the bar window.

And the bonus? A hot spring foot bath right outside the restaurant where you can warm up a little while enjoying your local brew.

Area: Gora, 10-min walk from Gora Station

Website: https://itoh-dining.co.jp/gorabrewery/

 

7. Gora Park 強羅公園

The thing I love about Hakone is that other than its very traditional hot spring old town charm, sometimes you actually feel like you are somewhere in Europe. Case in point, Hakone Glass Museum which I introduced earlier where you immerse in western fairy tale wonderland and here at Gora Park, you are transported to France.

At this oldest French-style landscape park opened in 1914 (I can’t believe it’s that old!), where you will find yourself lost in a maze of rose garden.

Stop and smell the roses.

There’s also a beauuuuutiful huge fountain which azure hues rival the bright blue sky.

I love big trees. And this one makes me feel like I’m in a French story book.

Area: Gora, 5-min walk from Gora Station

Website: https://www.hakone-tozan.co.jp/gorapark/en/profile/

 

8. Craft Making at Crafthouse

Well, I am still inside Gora Park! If you have some time to spare (I’d say between 30-min to 1 hour), engage in a craft experience at CRAFTHOUSE.

 

There are also stores selling all sorts of hand made accessories and lifestyle goods.

The craft experiences available ranges from pottery, glass blowing, dry flower arrangement, etc. Whichever suits your schedule or rocks your boat.

For me I only had 30 minutes so I picked to craft my own jewelry – a pair of beaded earrings.

You get to choose from a myriads of beads in assorted textures and cute colors, ranging from clear, wooden, metal to ethnic-patterned.

Here’s my design, completed under 15 minutes. You like it?

Jewellery craft experience is priced from JPY2500~.

Area: Gora, 5-min walk from Gora Station

Website: https://www.hakone-tozan.co.jp/gorapark/en/joy/

 

9. Owakudani 大涌谷

Owakudani is one of the most iconic attractions in Hakone, and those who have been to Hakone before probably have been impressed by the magnificent sight of this surreal crater puffing out sulphuric fumes all over, which could be observed from the ropeway itself.

Logistic – to get to Owakudani, first you will start at Gora station and take the cable car (a cable car in Japan means a tram-like car going uphill, not the cable car we are familiar with in Singapore and Malaysia, so don’t get confused) up to Sounzan station(早雲山駅), and then transfer to the Hakone Ropeway (the real daggling cable car in the sky!) and get off at Owakudani.

Sometimes the ropeway’s operation do get interrupted when there’s strong wind. So do check the weather before you decide to head up.

I love it. The bird’s eye view over the colored mountain in autumn is so worth the ride.

 

I’m sure you already know about the famous black sulphur eggs, which is said to add 7 years to your life if you eat one of these. I think by the rate I’m globbling one after another I should live to 300 years old by now.

Don’t forget to check those black egg stools out, and perhaps enjoy your tasty treat there too overlooking the fuming crater.

Watch a short video:

Area: Owakudani

Website https://www.hakoneropeway.co.jp/foreign/en/ohwakudani/

 

10. Yoshiike Ryokan’s Japanese Garden

Now we are back to the base of Hakone, and even if you don’t stay at Yoshiike Ryokan, one of the very prestigious ryokan in Hakone who boasts of 6 hot spring sources, you should definitely check out their beautiful Japanese garden – Sangetsuen.

Sangetsuen is a formal villa garden that recreates the scenic spots of various place, it’s hard to believe such an impressive garden which is quite large is housed inside a ryokan! Look at how they even installed a camera stand for your selfie at the best spot of the garden.

There. Like this.

Area: Yumoto (6-min walk from Hakone-Yumoto Station)

Website: https://hakone-japan.com/things-to-do/localtours/cultural-experience-2/

(You can stroll around the garden of Yoshiike Ryokan while listening to the detailed information of the native local guide.)

 

11. Tea break at Cha No Chimoto

Chimoto is a traditional wagashi (Japanese sweet) store in Yumoto with over 60 years of history. You can find lots of adorable Japanese-style sweet treat here.

Their signature sweet is “Yumochi”, a soft mochi with yokan (sweet bean jelly) wrapped in the middle.

There’s a little cafe next to the store so you can have a little outdoor tea break for just one coin (JPY500).

A really delicate Japanese dessert that makes a perfect snack break before you go on with more walking around Yumoto area.

Area: Yumoto 

Website: http://chanochimoto.com/

 

12. Eat Taigohan Kaiseki Youraku

In the mood to splurge a little for lunch? Youraku, a quiet restaurant tucked along the Hayakawa river, provides just the right bit of afternoon luxury.

During day time, the interior is brightly-lit with an outdoor patio where you can dine at too (if it’s not too cold!), while watching autumn leaves flutter and sound of the gentle stream, and of course, your very elaborated Tai Gohan – sea bream rice, kaiseki-style.

Look at how beautifully plated it is! The Tai-gohan is served in a Tai-shaped bento box, with lots of delicious side dishes to complement. I ordered one of the cheaper course “Wakaba” which cost JPY2300+, yet it already is extremely satisfying!

I must say that their agedashi tofu was absolutely delish! Soooo soft, mildly seasoned yet full of umami goodness, I was so impressed I was really considering ordering a second serving (although I’m not sure if they provide just the agedashi tofu!)

Make sure you try it!

The chef works in Taiwan before so he speaks Mandarin while the lady staff speaks fluent English.

Area: Yumoto (12-min walk from Hakone-Yumoto Station, you may also take a bus here)

Website: http://www.youraku.co.jp/english.htm

 

 

13. Calligraphy lesson at Fukuju-In (Hakone Kannon) 福寿院 (箱根観音)

Honestly, this temple is soooo off the beaten path and hidden, even on the internet!! I couldn’t find any information about it and it’s a miracle it even gets any tourists, but guess what? Somehow people just find their way there!

It says “forever friends”. Awww.

See what I mean? It’s located in… literally like nowhere, haha. Follow the sign (two photos above) go down a flight of stairs and you will see this little building hanging over a concrete cliff. A very friendly monk will be there to greet you.

You can pick from these very authentic traditional cultural experience, and I’m so impressed that they try to make it so foreign-friendly, with English menu and even instruction!

I picked calligraphy which cost JPY2000 and the lesson is about 1 hour. Whether you have experience in calligraphy or not, your teacher will be passionately guiding you step by step, and practice until you are confident enough to go.

Even if you don’t read Chinese or Japanese, your teacher will have a mini counselling session with you to find just the perfect word that resonates with your heart. For me it is “sakura”.

You can then bring your stamped and framed masterpiece back home to hang it at the hall of fame. ^^ I thoroughly enjoyed the session!

Watch my experience:

 

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Area: Yumoto (it’s so hidden so it’s best to drive or take a bus and get off at Tainochaya)

Website: https://hakonekannon.jimdofree.com/

 

14. Meet a geisha 湯本見番

Yes! Guess what? You can meet a geisha and interact with them right at Hakone!

The place is called Yumoto Kenban, a geisha house where geisha practice and perform.

Unfortunately it was an off day during my visit that day, I would really have loved to watch the performance!

At designated time, you can actually watch the geisha perform and play traditional games with the geisha, with English explanation, and in the end have a little chit chat session and of course, picture time with the beautiful ladies, and all of this for only JPY1500!!

Even if you don’t speak Japanese, you can still enjoy talking with the geisha and a really rare chance to take a peek into the life of a geisha.

Area: Yumoto (5-min walk from Hakone-Yumoto Station)

Website: https://www.meetgeisha.jp/en

 

15. Souvenir shopping around Hakone Yumoto Station

One of the most iconic spot at Hakone Yumoto, you will see lots of tourist taking photos at this bridge!

Lastly, before you head back to Tokyo, do spare some time for shopping at the shopping street just across the station!

Enjoy a freshly made Japanese pastry while you shop.

And watch the shokunin demonstrate konbu-shaving fresh on the spot and even get to taste the dashi it makes. Absolutely flavorful. Love it.

Murakami Umeboshi store is one of the most popular and long-standing stop selling sour plum and I loooove sour plum so it was heaven for me.

There are soooo many kinds of sour plums to choose from omg just looking at this I’m salivating from imaginary sourness lol. There are also different salt content percentage you can choose from. The higher, the more sour/saltier.

My favorite was the 7% umeboshi. Mild and juicy, super yummy.

When in Hakone, remember to check out Hakone Yosegi-zaiku craft (寄木細工), a traditional craft where different pieces of wood of different colors are assembled to create a variety of accessories and decors. Check out these miniature tea sets omg!

My favorite is the “Himitsu Bako” – Secret Box, it’s actually a puzzle box where you will have to follow certain steps to slide open the box. There are different levels of difficulty, ranging from 5 steps to over 20 steps! Makes a great souvenir or brain yoga time. Haha.

Area: Yumoto

Website: https://hakone-japan.com/things-to-do/foods-shops/shops/

 

Good Bye

So we are back to Hakone-Yumoto station, where you can either go on a train ride back or be in the comfort of a bus ride.

Good bye and see you soon again, Hakone!

 

Stay: Hakone Yutowa

Newly opened in August this year, Hakone Yutowa is your traditional meets stylish modern hot spring hotel in Gora area, just 5-min on foot from Gora Station.

I mean, how about a decor wall full of cute books and the cutest couch?? The library is your perfect place to have some precious me time indulging in small reads based on the theme of four seasons.

On the second floor, a spa lounge called “Nakaniwa” greets you where you can slide open the door and find an outdoor garden with swings too!

And and and… a huge foot bath pool! At night, there’s even an outdoor bonfire furnace to warm you up. It almost feels like a resort, I love it.

The hotel room is very minimalistic and comfy. I mean, with all these amazing facilities, you probably want to just spend most of the time chilling at the spa lounge, garden, library, hot spring…

In pretty yukata too!

The dinner provided by Yutowa is something new to me. Traditional ryokan I have been to offers an extensive kaiseki-style course meal that usually ends up way too much for a small stomach.

And here at Yutowa, you are served a luxurious selection of starters and main dish (wagyu beef!!), and then you have a large table of buffet to select from. So half course, half buffet.

Buffet spread.

There’s also free flow alcoholic drinks including umeshu…

And Japanese sake, my favorite.

Of course, your journey to Hakone will not be complete without a nice soak in the bath. There are two public hot spring bath you can choose from.

The clear spring above, or this milky bubble bath.

For those who are not comfortable with public bath, there are also FREE private onsen bath, with reservation.

Area: Gora (5-min walk from Gora Station)

Website: https://www.hakoneyutowa-hotel.jp/en/

 

 

And that’s all for today about Hakone! If you need more info and tips, you may visit the website below for all you need to know about Hakone:

https://hakone-japan.com/

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