The Perfect 1 Day Trip to Hakone, Japan

Hakone is a popular tourist destination for visitors to Japan. Located about two hours outside of Tokyo, this charming lakeside community offers peaceful hikes, relaxing hot springs, and idyllic views of Mount Fuji when it isn’t hidden in clouds.

From Tokyo it is an easy day trip from Hakone and one of the most memorable Japanese experiences. 

Famous for its traditional ryokans, stunning nature, unique museums and historical sites, the mountain town along the Old Tokaido Highway is popular among both Japanese and international tourists. 

This Hakone day trip guide includes how to get from Tokyo to Hakone, what to do in Hakone, how to get around once you are there, where to stay (if you decide to spend a night or two) and thoughts on the Hakone FreePass and whether it is worth buying for a day trip to Hakone. 

Kayakers on Lake Ashi with a red torii gate in the background during a day trip to Hakone
A day trip to Hakone is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. | Image by Susann Schuster from Unsplash

Our Hakone Day Trip Experience

After spending several days in Tokyo, we decided to get out of the busy city in search of solitude and serenity on a day trip to Hakone.

The town, and particularly the scenic natural area surrounding Hakone, offers both relaxation and interesting sightseeing opportunities. 

From a steaming volcanic valley to peaceful hiking trails and picturesque views of the famous Mount Fuji from across Lake Ashinoko, it was almost a surreal break from the skyscrapers and neon lights of Tokyo, yet it is located less than 2 hours away.

A man on a bridge along the Lake Ashi hiking trails near Hakone-Japan
Our Hakone day trip experience included multiple forms of transportation and hiking around the lake.

How to get to Hakone from Tokyo

Many who make a day trip to Hakone from Tokyo purchase the Hakone FreePass which gives them unlimited transportation throughout the area.

Hakone is easy to get to by train from Tokyo. From Shinjuku station in Tokyo, you’ll take the train to Odawara Station. You’ll then transfer to another train to take you to Hakone-Yumoto Station.

For an additional cost, you can purchase a ticket on the limited express Romancecar, which is a luxury tourist train with reserved seating, or you can take a guided tour that picks you up from Shinjuku.

However you choose to do it, a day trip to Hakone is easily done from Tokyo. If you use the Hakone Free Pass, you will likely spend most of the day and evening in Hakone and around Lake Ashinoko, or Lake Ashi for short.

What is the Hakone FreePass?

The Hakone FreePass is an unlimited transportation pass around Hakone and the Lake Ashi area on the Odakyu Line.

The pass costs 5,000 yen per person (approximately $40). Children under the age of six are free. Although it may sound pricey, there is a lot included with the pass.

If you purchase the Hakone FreePass, your day trip to Hakone and Lake Ashi will include various methods of transportation, which ultimately are part of the Hakone day trip experience. 

The Hakone FreePass includes unlimited travel on the following:

You’ll also get discounts at about 50 local businesses and area establishments if you purchase the Hakone Free Pass.

The transportation pass can be purchased online or at an Odakyu sightseeing service center. You’ll find those at both Shinjuku and Odawara Stations. It’s important to note that theses unique transportation options servicing the Hakone and Lake Ashi area are not included on the Japan Rail Pass.


Hakone Tozan Train

The Hakone Tozan Train
The Hakone Tozan Train stopped at one of the stations.

Once you get to the Hakone-Yumoto Station you will board the Hakone Tozan Railway. It is one of Japan’s few mountain railways. There are bathrooms and a small store at Hakone Yumoto Station, if you need anything before boarding the train.

The small train takes you through a lush scenic area along a narrow train route for approximately 40 minutes. It slowly zigzags up steep inclines, stopping at several stations before finally arriving at Gora Station.

During the month of June when the hydrangeas are in bloom, the Tozan Train is affectionately called the Hydrangea Train because the narrow railway cuts through a path lined with the blooms on both sides.

Hakone Tozan Cable Car

The Tozan Cable car one of the modes of transportation included in the Hakone Freepass
The Hokone Tozan Cable Car, one of the modes of transportation included on the Hakone FreePass.

After getting off the train at Gora Station, you’ll then board a cable car that will take you up a mountainous area. Each cable car can accommodate 250 people. At that capacity, be prepared for the cable car to be crowded.

Fortunately, the ride up the steep mountainside is brief, lasting less than 10 minutes. You can choose to walk if you prefer to skip the cable car, but the walk up to the ropeway is very steep and will take longer than the cable car ride.

The funicular makes several stops along the way to Sounzan Station where the Hakone Ropeway starts. 

If you have enough time and want to explore before boarding the Tozan Cable Car, the Hakone Gora Park is located near Gora Station. Japan’s first French-style formal garden, the park hosts tea ceremony classes, as well as pottery making, glass blowing and other hands-on workshops.

Hakone Ropeway

A gondola on the Hakone Ropeway going over the Owakudani Volcano Valley
A gondola on the Hakone Ropeway going over the Owakudani Volcano Valley. | Photo by Andres Dallimonti from Unsplash

At the top of the mountain you’ll reach Souzan Station, and you will then transfer again to the Hakone Ropeway or gondola.

On a clear day, you’ll have a great view of Mount Fuji – Japan’s tallest peak – from the gondola. You will also go over the Owakudani active volcano valley, which has been coined the “Valley of Hell”.

Sulfuric steam coming up from the Owakudani Volcanic Valley, one of the best things to see on a day trip to Hakone, Japan.
Sulfuric steam coming up from the Owakudani Volcanic Valley, one of the best things to see on a day trip to Hakone, Japan.

From above, you’ll see sulfuric gas and steam pouring out from the ground. The ropeway takes about 8 minutes to get to Owakudani Station.

It will stop here where you will transfer to another gondola that takes you to Lake Ashi. You’ll remain on that ropeway for another 16 minutes. 

Before you transfer, stop and walk around the observation platform and try one of the black eggs that the area is famous for. (More about that below.) 

Hakone Sightseeing Cruise on Lake Ashi

The Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise going across the water, seen through Hakone's red torii gate on the water.
The Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise going across the water, seen through Hakone’s red torii gate on the water.

The second gondola drops you off at Togendai Station on the shore of Lake Ashi. There you can board a boat that resembles a pirate ship and cross the lake.

The cruise on Lake Ashi is a relaxing 40 minutes. From the boat, you’ll see the famous floating torii gates of the Hakone Shrine, and have another chance to get a glimpse of Mount Fuji, if the weather is right.

One of the most popular places to visit on a day trip to Hakone, Lake Ashi is a great place to hopefully get a glimpse of the striking Mt. Fuji, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Even if you don’t get to see the iconic mountain which is often shrouded in clouds, Lake Ashi is a picturesque lake surrounded by lush nature and is definitely worth visiting.

Things to do on a day trip to Hakone from Tokyo

If you have purchased the Hakone Freepass, everything in the itinerary above is included on the sightseeing tour. But there are a few stops along the way and additional things to do in Hakone and the surrounding area while on a Hakone day trip from Tokyo.

Eat black eggs in Owakudani

a hakone black egg
Eating a black egg in Hakone is said to add 7 years to your life.

Along the ropeway from Hakone to Lake Ashi you’ll stop at Owakudani.

The smell of sulfur in the Owakudani volcanic valley is extremely powerful the moment you get out of the gondola. The staff will give you a cloth to cover your face if the smell is too much to handle.

While there, stop in the gift shop and have a black egg or two. You can purchase them for a relatively inexpensive cost (5 cost approximately 500 yen).

The eggs are boiled in natural spring water that contains sulfur and iron. The boiling process turns the egg shell black, although the egg itself looks and tastes like a normal hard boiled egg.

Legend has it that eating one of the Owakudani black eggs adds 7 year to your life. I ate two. (Here’s hoping for 14 extra years of travel!) 

For an even better experience, you can hike up a short distance from the gift shop and volcanic valley viewing platform and actually witness the egg boiling process. There, you can also purchase a freshly boiled egg right out of the water.

The Owakudani Volcano Valley.
The Owakudani Volcano Valley. | Photo by Pen-Ash from Pixabay

Soak in Hakone’s Famous Hot Springs or Onsens

Hakone is also a popular spot for those seeking tranquil onsens or hot springs.

Visitors to onsens in Japan are typically separated by gender because you bathe in the mineral-rich hot springs nude. Kids are welcome with their parents at most onsens in Hakone.

We chose to skip this activity because our toddler was still in the process of potty training. However, if relaxation is what you seek, these traditional Japanese outdoor bath houses are said to be extremely therapeutic.

For families looking for hot springs that they can enjoy together in swimsuits, Hakone Kowaki-en Yunessun is a fun experience for all! The hot springs park has both traditional onsens and indoor and outdoor water park-style pools with slides, and even coffee, green tea, sake, and wine tubs.  

Hiking around Lake Ashi

lake ashi day trip hiking trails
A scenic hiking path around Lake Ashi in Hakone Japan

If you want to get away from the crowds and surround yourself with nature, take a leisure hike around Lake Ashi. There are beautiful trails around the lake that wind through the trees, offering a peaceful nature experience.

We skipped the sightseeing cruise and decided to hike to the Hakone Shrine instead. Our hike took us about 2 hours, and we seldom saw any other hikers while we were there.

If you have time you can take the sightseeing cruise and enjoy some hiking.

The Hakone FreePass includes unlimited transportation, so you can take the cruise, hike back to Togendai Station and then take the boat back across the water once again.

Visit the Hakone Shrine and It’s Floating Torii Gates on Lake Ashi

couple at the hakone shrine torii gate lake ashi
Standing beneath one of the floating torii gates on Lake Ashi at the Hakone Shrine.

One of the biggest draws to Lake Ashi is the Hakone Shrine, known mostly for the picturesque floating torii gate right on the water.

Torii gates are found throughout Japan, especially in cities like Kyoto and Nara.

The gates are typically found at the entrance to a shrine and symbolize the transition from the mundane to the sacred. The “red gate of peace” stands tall and majestic on the shore of Lake Ashi and is a popular photo spot for visitors.

The Hakone-jinja Shrine dates back to the year 757 when military commanders would pray at the shrine for safety and blessings. As the shrine grew in fame and popularity, travelers would journey to Hakone to visit the shrine and pray for safe trips.

Japan is a place of rich culture, traditions, and unique customs. Shrines like this, and the meaning behind them make visiting Japan with kids a fascinating experience.

The shrine is free to visit, although there is a small fee to enter the Treasure House. Those who purchase the Hakone FreePass also receive a discount on their admission.

Explore the Hakone Open Air Museum or One of Hakone’s Other Museums

A sculpture of a head laying on its side with greenery for hair at the Hakone Open Air Museum
A sculpture at the Hakone Open Air Museum. | Photo by Pen-Ash from Pixabay

The Hakone Open Air Museum is one of the best places to visit in Hakone, Japan.  When it opened in 1969 it was the first outdoor museum in the country.

It features dozens of modern sculptures throughout the outdoor space and more works of art indoors, including a gallery of sculptures by Picasso.  

Aside from the Open Air Museum, Hakone also boasts two other art museums, The Hakone Museum of Art and the Okada Museum of Art, as well as the Museum of Saint-Exupery and The Prince, a cute museum dedicated to the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who wrote the adored novel, The Little Prince

Try to Sight Mount Fuji at Lake Ashi

Perhaps the main reason the Hakone area is so popular for tourists is that it offers exceptional views of Mount Fuji – the landmark Japan is most famous for. The volcano, however, is often called a shy mountain because it’s typically shrouded in clouds.

While we were hoping for a Mount Fuji sighting at Lake Ashi, it turned out to be a cloudy, rainy day, and Mount Fuji stayed hidden from us. However the scenery was well worth the two hour day trip to Hakone from Tokyo.

For the best chance of seeing Mount Fuji, spend at least one night in Hakone. This not only gives you more time to explore this beautiful and fascinating area, but it gives you the early morning hours to catch a glimpse of the mountain before afternoon clouds roll in.

Where to stay in Hakone, Japan

If you choose to stay a night or two in Hakone, you’ll find a variety of traditional ryokans, hotels and Japanese townhouses similar to what you would find in other areas of Japan like Kyoto.

Suiun and the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa are both located near Gora where the Tozan Train and the Tozan Cable Car connect.

On the shores of Lake Ashi, Hananoyado Fukuya is a highly rated Japanese ryokan. And for those who want to stay lakeside with more of a hotel-feel, Hakone Hotel offers family-friendly lodging right on the lake.

Is a day trip to Hakone from Tokyo worth it?

Japan is one of the best Asian destinations for a family vacation. And a day trip to Hakone, Japan is a great way to get out of the busy city of Tokyo and see some of the beautiful countryside in Japan.

If you are limited on time, a day trip to Hakone is definitely worth it. But to truly feel the effect of the relaxing spa town and appreciate the atmosphere, it is worth spending at least one night in Hakone if your Japan itinerary allows.

Have a question about taking a day trip to Hakone, Japan? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

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This day trip to Hakone guide was first published in April 2018 and was updated in February 2024 for accuracy and current travel information.

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7 comments on “The Perfect 1 Day Trip to Hakone, Japan”

I visited Hakone in 2013 – we drove over from Yokosku where we were staying. Main goal: onsen! The one we went to was the only one where you could wear swimsuits. We also had great views of fiji. sadly, we missed the black eggs!

We missed the onsen, unfortunately, but would have loved to visit one, especially one where swimsuits were ok. Bathing naked with a bunch of strangers just doesn’t sound relaxing. ☺️

Glad we could help! The cruise is definitely touristy, but you get a great view of Mount Fuji from the lake and a beautiful shot of the torii gate at the shoreline from the water.

Sure! Right when you get off the ropeway/gondola, most people will take the sightseeing cruise. We decided to do the lovely hike through the wooded area instead. You literally walk out of the gondola station and you’ll see the trail off to the left. It follows the lake the entire way.

The one day trip looks amazing. We are going in May. Is it possible / required to make any reservations for the rope way, train, boat etc ? Or is it just about showing up and getting in line ?

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