Situated in the southwest of Kanagawa Prefecture in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is the town of Hakone. Famous both in and outside of Japan as a resort area brimming with natural hot springs of the highest quality, and for its stunning views of Mt Fuji.
Located in western Kanagawa Prefecture, Hakone is easily accessible from Tokyo by train and bus.
Take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station (90 minutes)
Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Odawara Station, and then take the Hakone Tozan Line from Odawara Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station (55 minutes)
There are 17 hot springs in Hakone, boasting 20 different types of spring water
The area is located at the base of the Mt. Hakone volcano
Lake Ashinoko formed as a result of Mt. Hakone's last volcanic eruption 3000 years ago
Hakone is made up of seven hot spring towns, one of which is Miyanoshita. The Fujiya Hotel opened in 1878, to attract foreign visitors, thus increasing the popularity of the area. Many well-known celebrities, including John Lennon, have stayed at this hotel over the years. Like Hakone's other hot spring towns, the retro atmosphere of the town works in its favor.
Another popular destination in Hakone is Yunessun, a kind of hot spring theme park. Here, you can bathe in a host of hot spring baths - some somewhat unusual such as the coffee, red wine and green tea tubs. There are both swimsuit-friendly and non-clothed areas, making it great if you aren't quite ready to bare everything.
The most iconic view in the area is arguably that of Mt. Fuji from the southeastern shore of Lake Ashinoko. For views from the water and to explore more of the lake, take one of the sightseeing boat tours. The pirate ship-shaped boats operated by Hakone Sightseeing Boats add a little extra fun to the experience.
Alternatively, ride the Hakone Tozan Railway through the area. Trains pass through dense forests and across bridges high up over picturesque gorges.
While Lake Ashinoko tends to get much of the attention, spare some time to visit Owakidani, a volcanic valley with active hot springs and sulfur vents. The scenery is surreal with volcanic gas and steam billowing up from all around.
If you can stomach the strong smell of sulfur and feel like a snack, you may want to try one of the black eggs sold in the valley. They are boiled in the hot springs and colored black by the sulfur. Eating one is said to prolong your life by several years.
Just a short walk from Chokoku-no-Mori Station is the Hakone Open-Air Museum. Spread over 70,000 square meters, this museum features over 100 sculptures by Japanese and international artists.