Hakone: The Perfect Day Trip through Breathtaking Scenery and Artistic Interests

Situated in the picturesque mountains of Kanagawa Prefecture, 箱根 Hakone offers a delightful day trip destination for visitors seeking a break from the fast-paced life of Tokyo. During the Edo Period (1603-1867), it was a primary way station for feudal lords to travel from the capital to the provinces. Known for its scenic beauty and 温泉 onsen (hot springs), Hakone is a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike, providing a satisfying mix of culture, outdoor activities and relaxation.


Although the fastest way to reach Hakone from Tokyo is to take the Shinkansen bullet train to 小田原 Odawara Station (approximately 35 minutes) and then transfer, the most comfortable and scenic option is to take the Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar” from Shinjuku Station. The scenic Hakone Tozan Railway, Japan’s first mountain railway line, offers another alternative for travelers. The main terminal to access the Hakone area is 箱根湯本 Hakone-Yumoto Station (OH51), which is approximately 85 minutes from Tokyo Station by the Romancecar. 強羅 Gora Station (OH57) can also be reached via Hakone-Yumoto Station, with an additional 35 minutes of travel time. From the stations, many of Hakone’s main attractions can be reached by bus, the Hakone Tozan Cable Car and Ropeway, or local trains.

The scenic あじさい橋 Ajisai-bashi (lit. “hydrangea bridge”) in Hakone-Yumoto.

Food and Drink

Hakone is renowned for its local cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Some notable dishes to try include:

箱根豆腐 Hakone Tofu: Delicately textured tofu made from fresh mountain spring water, often served with dipping sauces or incorporated into traditional Japanese hot pot dishes. You can find this specialty in restaurants around Hakone-Yumoto and Gōra.

A dish of Hakone Tofu.

箱根温泉まんじゅう hakone onsen manjū: A local specialty, these sweet buns are cooked in the vapor of Hakone’s hot springs. Composed of wheat and rice flours with a red bean paste center, they offer a unique taste. You can enjoy them fresh in hot spring towns like Hakone-Yumoto and Gora or take home beautifully packaged boxes as souvenirs. Relishing these buns amidst Hakone’s scenic beauty provides a truly immersive cultural experience.

Enjoying some onsen manju fresh from the store. [Photo for illustrative purposes only]

Scenic Cafés: Hakone boasts a range of cafés that combine delicious offerings with stunning views. Whether overlooking Lake Ashi or nestled in the mountains, these spots provide the perfect setting for a relaxing break. Enjoy freshly baked pastries, assorted sweets, refreshing drinks and aromatic teas while immersing yourself in the breathtaking landscape.

A refreshing treat on a summer day at a cafe overlooking Lake Ashi.


Though not a shopping hub per se, Hakone does offer some charming stores selling local crafts and souvenirs, especially in the Hakone-Yumoto and Gora areas. Visitors can find shops selling items such as:

寄木細工 Yosegi-zaiku: A traditional Hakone woodcraft technique, yosegi-zaiku is known for its intricate geometric patterns created from various naturally colored wood veneers. This art form is also used to make からくり箱 karakuri-bako (trick boxes), which feature one or more hidden compartments. These unique items showcase the exceptional craftsmanship of Hakone’s artisans and make for perfect souvenirs.

Opening a karakuri-bako made of yosegi-zaiku woodwork.

Onsen-themed goods: As Hakone is famous for its hot springs, many stores in areas like Hakone-Yumoto and Gora sell onsen-related items such as bath salts, towels, and wooden bath buckets. These artisanal products make for perfect souvenirs or gifts to bring back from your trip.

Hakone-Yumoto Shopping District: Stretching along the main road near the station, this district features charming stores with many of the local crafts and specialty items mentioned above. Moreover, fans of the popular anime franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion, which used Hakone as one of its settings, can visit the Eva-ya store in the station building for exclusive themed merchandise. This lively area is perfect for exploring and finding memorable souvenirs from Hakone.

The area near Hakone-Yumoto Station offers ample shopping opportunities.

Sightseeing and Activities

Hakone offers an array of sightseeing and activities to suit all tastes. To begin with, art lovers will enjoy the following:

箱根彫刻の森美術館 Hakone chōkoku no mori bijutsukan Hakone Open Air Museum: Located a half hour by train from Hakone-Yumoto Station, this unique museum showcases an impressive collection of modern and contemporary sculpture in a stunning outdoor setting, as well as indoor exhibits featuring works by Picasso and other renowned artists.

Inside the gorgeous “Symphonic Sculpture,” a landmark at the Hakone Open-Air Museum

箱根ガラスの森美術館 Hakone garasu no mori bijutsukan The Venetian Glass Museum: This gorgeous museum not far from Gora Station showcases a stunning collection of Venetian glass art in a romantic, Italian-inspired setting. In the vicinity of the museum, local glassworks studios offer visitors the chance to witness glassblowing and participate in workshops, while some shops also offer glasswork creations to take home.

Hakone is also famous for its gorgeous natural attractions, such as:

芦ノ湖 Ashinoko Lake Ashi: A beautiful crater lake surrounded by lush forest located just a half-hour bus ride away from Hakone-Yumoto, Lake Ashi offers breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji on clear days. A popular activity is taking sightseeing cruises, some of which are replica pirate ships, or exploring the lakeshore on foot or by bicycle.

Gorgeous Lake Ashi is popular with tourists from all over the world.

箱根ロープウェイ Hakone Ropeway: This aerial lift, which connects the Sōunzan Station in Gora to the Tōgendai Station near Lake Ashi, provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, Lake Ashi, and even Mt. Fuji on clear days.

The scenic Hakone Ropeway.

大涌谷 Owakudani Valley: A volcanic valley with active sulfur vents and hot springs, where visitors can experience the famous black eggs mentioned earlier. The area also offers hiking trails and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Owakudani is accessible from the Hakone Ropeway.

Onsen: Hakone is famous as an onsen resort area. There are several day spas and hot spring facilities with no attached hotel, as well as some that do have accommodations but also allow day use. You can find these facilities scattered throughout Hakone, particularly in Hakone-Yumoto and Gora. For visitors who might be hesitant to experience communal bathing, many facilities offer private baths, such as family baths, allowing you to enjoy the hot springs in a more comfortable and private setting.

Dipping in an onsen while sipping on some sake. [Photo for illustrative purposes only]

箱根大名行列 Hakone daimyō gyōretsu Hakone Daimyo Procession: One of the highlights of Hakone’s cultural calendar, this procession reenacting the travel of 大名 daimyō (feudal lords) in the Edo Period is held annually in November. Participants dressed in authentic period costumes march through the streets of Hakone-Yumoto, offering a glimpse into Japan’s feudal era.

In sum, Hakone’s beautiful natural scenery, art scene, rich history, and relaxing hot springs make it an ideal day trip destination for visitors looking for a refreshing and entertaining escape from their Tokyo itineraries. With so much to see, do, and eat in the various districts of Hakone, you’ll find yourself wanting to return again and again.