More and more people are heading to Asian nations on vacation, and one of the best things about heading to Asia is the incredible diversity and variety one can see in the many different nations of this particular continent. Nowhere is this more evident than Japan. Not only is Japan home to thousands of years of history and culture, but it’s also a highly modern nation, home to the biggest and most futuristic metropolis on Earth: Tokyo.
Many visitors to Japan choose to fly into Tokyo and can spend weeks exploring the big city, visiting its many monuments, interesting museums, fascinating themed restaurants, vibrant video game arcades, and eclectic shopping areas. There’s a lot to do in Tokyo, from visiting the historic Senso-ji temple and Meiji Jingu shrine, to admiring the city from the top of the Tokyo Tower.
The Japanese capital is a wonderful and exciting place to explore, but if ever you feel the need to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city streets for a little while and experience a different side of Japan, organizing a day trip to Hakone could be a great idea. Located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone is a small mountain town surrounded by beautiful scenery, natural hot springs, and amazing mountains.
Getting to Hakone from Tokyo
Hakone is only about 50 miles outside of Central Tokyo, os it's perfect as a destination for a day trip out of the big city. It's also a very different place to Tokyo. While the Japanese capital is classed as an urban jungle, with nothing but streets and skyscrapers all around, Hakone is a green and vibrant location with mountains, lakes, forests, and vegetation. It's situated in the far western part of Kanagawa prefecture, and you can get to Hakone from Tokyo by train, bus, or car.
Getting to Hakone from Tokyo by Train
Japan is famous all over the world for its bullet trains and highly efficient rail network, so the train is one of the best ways to get anywhere in the Land of the Rising Sun. For your day trip to Hakone, one of the best options is to ride in the Odakyu Romance Car direct from Tokyo Station to Hakone.
The journey takes about an hour and 40 minutes in total and is a scenic and enjoyable ride. You can also catch the Odakyu Romance Car from Shinjuku Station or Odawara Station. Whichever option you choose, the journey time will be more or less the same.
Getting to Hakone from Tokyo by Bus
As well as the train, you may also choose to take the bus from Tokyo to Hakone, and again, there are several options available. The bus will often be the cheapest option to get anywhere in Japan, so it’s a good choice for those traveling on a budget. The best route and starting location for you will depend on where you're staying in the city.
If you're in the Akihabara area, for example, you can hop on the JR Yamanote Line over to Tokyo Station, transfer to Odawara Station, and then right the bus direct to Hakone-Yumoto Station. You can also take buses from both Narita and Haneda Airport to Odawara Station and then get the bus from there.
Getting to Hakone from Tokyo by Car
Last but not least, you might choose to rent a car and make the drive out to Hakone yourself. It's important to remember, however, that driving in Japan is quite different to driving in many other places. Traffic must keep to the left in Japan, just like in the United Kingdom and several other countries, so this can take some getting used to.
In addition, as a very large and crowded city, Tokyo can be quite a tricky place to drive around. If you do decide to make the drive, use a GPS or map to plan out your route and follow signs for Hakone. The drive can be done in less than 90 minutes, but is dependent on traffic conditions.
Important Information and Things to Do in Hakone
- Getting Around - Hakone is the name given to a town, but also designates a larger area with multiple smaller towns dotted around. If you'd like to make your way around and don't have your own car, you don't need to worry. The Hakone area is equipped with a very efficient public transportation network involving buses, trains, cablecars, and even ropeways. A good option for those who want to simplify their day trip is to buy a Hakone Free Pass and have unlimited use of all travel and transportation options in the Hakone area. You can even include the cost of your transport to and from Tokyo in the purchase of this pass.
- Best Time to Visit - There's no bad time to visit Hakone, but if you want to avoid most of the crowds and enjoy good weather, visiting in late spring or fall is a good idea. The weather in Hakone is quite similar to Tokyo, as there isn't a huge distance between these two locations, but the mountainous nature of the Hakone region tends to make it a little cooler and wetter, so you'll need to prepare for this accordingly in terms of choosing the right clothes and packing the right items for your day trip.
- Hakone Spa - Many people love to enjoy a natural hot springs or spa experience while in Japan, where these kinds of locations are known as 'onsen'. There are countless onsen all over Japan, especially in mountainous and volcanic areas like Hakone. This is one of the best places to enjoy hot springs near Tokyo, so it should definitely be a part of your day trip experience.
- Other Things to Do - As well as spending some time soaking in the hot springs, visitors to Hakone may also want to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum, which was the first of its kind in Japan and features all kinds of beautiful sculptures and artworks in a wide, open area. Lake Ashi is another popular spot to visit, with lots of good recreation activities and nice restaurants with lakeside locations. While visiting Lake Ashi, you can stop off at Hakone Shrine, which has over a thousand years of history behind it.