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Hakone Travel Guide- Everything You Need to Know

If you’re traveling to Japan, Hakone is a great place to visit during your trip. Hakone is part of the traditional countryside and is renowned for its natural hot springs, and breathtaking views. It offers a perfect mix of relaxation and exploration. Hakone is also pretty easy to get to by bullet train from Kyoto, Osaka or Tokyo and the local Hakone train, or taxi. Below is the Hakone travel guide, filled with everything you need to know before visiting Hakone.

Hakone Quick Links

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I visit Hakone during my trip to Japan?

If you’re planning a multi-city trip, it is easiest to start in Tokyo, head to Hakone and then go to Kyoto from there.

How to get to Hakone from Tokyo

The easiest way to get to Hakone from Tokyo is by taking the bullet train (Shinkansen). You’ll leave from Tokyo station. The bullet train will arrive at the Odawara station, which is the Shinkansen train station closest to Hakone. If it’s a clear day, you can see a pretty view of Mount Fuji on your way to Hakone. From there, you can either take the scenic local Hakone Tozan Railway, which winds its way up to Gora, or you can take a taxi if you’d prefer to get to your hotel a little faster. The Hakone Tozan Railway runs through nature and feels more like an attraction in itself, so it is worth it to experience at least one time.

You can also get to Hakone from Tokyo by taking the Romance car limited express train from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto. It takes about 80 minutes. It is a special train operated by the Odakyu Railway company and is not included in the JR Pass.

How to get to Kyoto from Hakone

The easiest way to get to Hakone from Kyoto is by taking the bullet train (Shinkansen). You’ll leave from Kyoto station. The bullet train will arrive at the Odawara station, which is the Shinkansen train station closest to Hakone. If it’s a clear day, you can see a pretty view of Mount Fuji on your way to Hakone. From there, you can either take the scenic local Hakone Tozan Railway, which winds its way up to Gora, or you can take a taxi if you’d prefer to get to your hotel a little faster. The Hakone Tozan Railway runs through nature and feels more like an attraction in itself, so it is worth it to experience at least one time.

What do I need to know before going to Hakone?

There are many important things to know before going to Hakone. Understanding all of this will help make your travel to Hakone and travel in Hakone much easier.

Getting to Hakone

  • Hakone doesn’t have any international airports, so you will need to fly into Osaka or Tokyo.
  • From Osaka, Tokyo, or Kyoto you can take a bullet train to Hakone and then the Hakone Tozan Railway to get to your hotel.
  • Check to see the closest top on the Hakone Tozan Railway to your hotel, some are walking distance but others you may need to arrange transportation with your hotel or take a bus.
  • There are great views of Mount Fuji while you are traveling to Hakone, in addition to the great views of Mount Fuji from Hakone. Sometimes visibility can be limited due to weather conditions, and you may have better luck in the early morning or during the cooler seasons.

Getting around Hakone

  • There are buses in Hakone, but we followed directions from our hotel to get around Hakone. From our hotel, we were able to walk to the Hakone Ropeway. Once we did the Hakone loop, our hotel instructed us what bus to take, which stop to get off and then they picked us up from that stop, which was about a 5 minute drive from the hotel.
  • Apple Maps gives better directions than Google Maps.
  • The Hakone Free Pass includes transportation in Hakone like the Hakone Ropeway and Hakone buses.
  • You can buy the Hakone Free Pass you can buy at any Odakyu line station (Shinjuku, Odawara) and the Hakone Yumoto train station. We bought the Hakone Free Pass at the Hakone Yumoto train station at the end of our bullet train ride from Tokyo. There was a bit of a line, so one of us shopped for snacks next door while the other waited.

Eating in Hakone

  • Don’t miss the black eggs (eggs boiled in volcanic hot springs) while you are visiting Hakone.
  • Some ryokans include all meals, and you should eat your meals at the ryokan instead of finding a local restaurant in the area to get the full experience of the ryokan.

Onsen Cultural Etiquette

  • Very important if you are going to go to an onsen in Hakone – tattoos! In Japan, tattoos are often associated with organized crime, and many hot springs (onsens) have policies restricting entry for individuals with tattoos or require they be covered by stickers that they provide.
  • Proper onsen etiquette also typically includes washing yourself thoroughly before entering the bath and not wearing swimwear in the communal baths.
  • There will be a shower near the onsen to wash yourself before entering the bath.

Cultural Etiquette

  • Hakone places high importance on etiquette so it’s important to understand the basics before coming to Hakone as it’s important to be respectful.
  • Bowing is a common form of greeting and shows respect in Hakone.
  • Some establishments and temples will ask you to remove your shoes before coming in. Many of them provide bags or a space to leave your shoes.
  • Forming orderly queues is a common practice in Hakone– for example at the train station and getting on the Lake Ashi pirate ship.
  • Be aware of places that have restrictions on photography – especially in temples and shrines.
  • Japan places great important on respecting elders.

Language & Translation

  • The official language is Japanese and while English is taught in school, not everyone is fluent. It’s helpful to learn a few basic Japanese phrases and install Google translate on your phone.
  • Google Translate is necessary, you can point your phone at a picture / sign / menu and it’ll immediately translate it. Also helpful to tell taxis where you are going.

WiFi & Electricity

  • WiFi is widely available in the cities and many hotels provide free WiFi.
  • Consider renting a portable WiFi device as you’ll use WiFi frequently for translation on your phone and directions. You’ll need constant connectivity when traveling in Japan.
  • Japan uses type A and type B sockets, with a standard voltage of 100V and a frequency of 50/60Hz. I like this power adaptor best as it includes power adaptors for all countries compactly.

Cash and Credit

  • The official currency is the Japanese Yen (JPY). The Yen only has full amounts i.e. no 1.50, only 1.00. The change is a full yen or greater.
  • While credit cards are accepted in many places, some markets and smaller establishments only accept cash so it’s best to have some cash on you. Reloading Pasmo in the train station also required cash, but we were able to pay for the Hakone Free Pass, and the Hakone Open Air Museum by credit card.
  • Getting cash before you get to Japan is easier and cheaper, and one less thing to do when you arrive in Japan.
  • You can also exchange currency in the airport but it’ll be cheaper through your local bank

Shopping

  • There is some local shopping to check out in Hakone while you’re there, especially snacks.
  • Pack an extra bag or save room in your suitcase for the stuff you buy.
  • It is not customary to bargain and negotiate in Japan.

Tipping Culture

Good news if you think tipping has gotten out of control in the US. Tipping is not a common practice in Japan, and actually is often considered inappropriate in many situations. It is best to not tip in Japan and if you want to show gratitude they have a concept called omotenashi. Instead of tipping, you can express gratitude through small gifts or tokens of appreciation. This could be something like bringing a popular candy from home and gifting it to them.

Additionally, a simple and polite “arigatou” (thank you) is always well received.Bottom of Form

How many days should I spend in Hakone?

The ideal duration of your stay in Hakone depends on your interests. If you don’t have much time you can see part of what Hakone has to offer in a day trip. Staying overnight and spending at least a day and a half will enable you to enjoy all of the top things to do in Hakone, though the itinerary will need to be pretty scheduled to get to everything. If you want to be able to enjoy all of the top attractions in Hakone and not rush, two nights is the perfect amount of time to spend in Hakone. If you prefer a slower, relaxed vacation spending three or more nights in Hakone is ideal.

Day Trip to Hakone

If you only have the opportunity to spend one day in Hakone, one day is better than nothing. Leave early from the city in order to maximize your time in Hakone. Plan to take the Hakone Tozan railway only one way to get the experience, and take a taxi the other way which is quicker. Taking the Hakone loop of the Hakone Cable Car and Lake Ashi cruise and trying to squeeze in an onsen the same day will be very rushed so it is best to pick one or the other.

One Night in Hakone

One night in Hakone, and two almost full days will give you enough time to do all of the highlights in Hakone, though it still may feel a bit rushed. You’ll be able to enjoy the onsen and spa, a few hours doing the Hakone Ropeway and Lake Ashi cruise and a few hours at the Hakone Open Air Museum.

Two Nights in Hakone

For a more relaxed visit that gives you enough time to soak in the peace and nature that surrounds you, two nights in Hakone is perfect. You have time for multiple onsen experiences, the Hakone Open Air Museum, the Hakone Ropeway and Lake Ashi cruise, a spa treatment and relaxation.

Three Nights or More in Hakone

If you want to explore the Hakone region in greater detail, or spend additional time relaxing in nature spend three or more nights in Hakone. You’ll have a more leisurely pace and get to enjoy all of Hakone’s top attractions.

Best Time of Year to Visit Hakone

The best time of year to visit Hakone depends on personal preference and what you want to do when you’re visiting Hakone. The weather in Hakone varies throughout the year. During Hakone Summers (June to August) you’ll experience warm and humid weather. This is a great time for outdoor adventures, though you will experience occasional rain showers. While in the winter (December to February), the weather in Hakone can be cold, with the possibility of snow. This is the best time to enjoy the onsen (hot springs). Temperatures range from (32°F to 50°F). in the winter in Hakone. Both Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) weather in Hakone is mild, and are popular times to visit for pleasant weather and beautiful scenery. No matter what time of year you visit Hakone, you can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the regions hot springs. Here is what the weather is like in Hakone every month of the year.

What is Hakone famous for?

Hakone is most famous for the therapeutic onsens (hot springs), and its scenic landscapes. The area has many ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), many of which offer onsen experiences. Soaking in onsens is a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. The Hakone region is characterized by its stunning natural beauty including lush forests, serene Lake Ashi and picturesque ountains. In Hakone, you can experience some of the best views of Mount Fuji on clear days.

Hakone is also famous for its outdoor activities including hiking in the scenic landscapes, the Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone Tozan Railway, Hakone Cable Car and boating on Lake Ashi.

What are the best things to do in Hakone?

There are many great things to do in Hakone, many of which are outdoors. You can relax in an onsen (Hot Springs), take the Hakone Ropeway to the volcanic valley of Owakudani, and then cruise around Lake Ashi on the Lake Ashi pirate ship. After you depart the Lake Ashi pirate ship, you can walk about 15 minutes over to the Hakone Shrine which is located on the shores of Lake Ashi. In addition, you can take some great hikes in Hakone and enjoy a wonderful spa. Here we go in more depth about the best things to do in Hakone.

Is Hakone Safe?

Hakone is considered a very safe destination for travelers. Hakone has a low crime rate and is known for its safety, cleanliness and strong sense of public order. If you happen to lose something, there is a good chance it will be turned over to the local authorities or lost and found. The culture places a high value on honesty, and it is a very respectful society.

If you do need emergency services, the emergency number in Japan is 110 for police, fire and ambulance services.

Japan is prone to earthquakes. Most buildings and public spaces have clear earthquake safety instructions.

How to save money traveling in Hakone?

There are many ways to save money when traveling in Hakone. Buy the Hakone Free Pass at the Hakone Yumoto train station, which will save you money on the local buses, Hakone Ropeway, and Lake Ashi Pirate Cruise as it’s all included in the pass. Spend some time on one of the amazing hikes in Hakone or walking around the town.

Traveling in the off season, and especially at a time other than Cherry Blossom Season will save you money on accommodations. If you stay at a ryokan that has their own onsens, you will get to use their onsen for free. Some ryokans also include dinner and breakfast and you can save money by enjoying the food that’s included instead of separate meals at restaurants.

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