Hakone was our next stop following four days of stay in Tokyo. The contrast with Tokyo’s high tech megapolis vibe was very evident. Gone are the high buildings, lights, and crowds, and you are surrounded by nature and Japanese tradition. We wanted to truly experience the ryokan inn and Hakone is known for that. It is also popular for its hot springs (onsen) its ropeway and views of Mount Fuji!
Hakone (箱根町 Hakone-machi) is a town in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The town had an estimated population of 12,000 and has been designated as a Japanese National Geopark by the Japanese Geoparks Network.
We picked a mountain ryokan with a restaurant, near Hakone Gora Park. The whole experience was very traditional. Rooms are as you would expect in the Japanese style (known as washitsu). There are no beds and during dinner, the hotel staff sets up these futons on the floor (tatami). They are actually surprisingly comfortable but kind of short (if you are taller than 6 feet). The meals are all prepared by a master Chef with multiple courses etc. The hotel we stayed at was Lalaca in Hakone.
We really enjoyed the food and the entire atmosphere. During the entire experience, you are dressed in the traditional Japanese home robes. Another awesome feature of the hotel and Hakone, in general, was that you have an onsen on-premise you can enjoy at a scheduled time. It is a natural hot spring bath very similar to the ones we experienced in Iceland.
Another experience you can enjoy is the well known Hakone ropeway. During our visit, we did not get the best weather but even with the rain we still liked the ropeway a lot. You actually get a clear view of Mount Fuji while enjoying an aerial funitel line! Also very visible from the stop at the top of the mountain are the many hot springs and gorgeous views of Hakone. There are some souvenir shops at that stop as well.
Another view you get from the Hakone Ropeway is that of the Lake Ashi. It is a very scenic lake which you can explore via these sailing warship style ships and/or ferries. It was overall pretty touristy with various activities around the lake. Note that we did not like the food at the restaurant located at the ropeway stop. The restaurants after you disembark the ship on the other side of the lake were on a whole different level! The trip with the ship is not very long so stay hungry until you get to the other side 🙂
Lake Ashi is a crater lake that lies along the southwest wall of the caldera of Mount Hakone, a complex volcano that last erupted in 1170 CE at Ōwakudani. The lake is known for its views of Mt. Fuji, its numerous hot springs, historical sites, and ryokan. The lake is located on the Tōkaidō road, the main link between Kyoto and Tokyo.
If you have a drone with you or just some time to kill and you are in the vicinity of Hakone do that at Lake Ashi. Beautiful views on the ground and up in the air. The fact that you can get a clear shot of Mount Fuji is absolutely awesome. Also, the warships themselves are great to look at as they come one by one at their stop.
Overall we really enjoyed Hakone. It was everything we thought it would be and more. Great true Japanese traditional experience which stays with you forever. The ryokan setup was great, the food was amazing and the only thing we wished we were luckier of was the weather.