Treat Yourself to a Hakone Weekend Getaway
Hakone is a gorgeous mountainous area in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan. Officially classified as a Geopark by UNESCO, Hakone is famous throughout Japan for its sulfur hot springs, Shinto shrines, and black eggs hard boiled in sulfur. Hakone is just a short train ride from Tokyo, as a result it has become a luxurious tourist town that couples traditional Japanese grace with extravagance and comfort.
Odakyu Hakone Romance Car is by far the easiest and most luxurious way to travel to Hakone from Tokyo. This sleek train is shaped like a shinkansen bullet train, with vast windows, and comfortable seating, offering a scenic tour of the countryside. With a top speed of 145 km/h, the Romance Car will get you into Hakone in about an hour and a half.
What to Do
- Hakone Jinja Shrine is a grand, traditional Japanese Shinto shrine with a vivid red tori gates nestled nearby in the waters of Lake Ashi.
- Lake Ashi is a 19 km crater lake next to the Hakone Jinja Shrine. On a good day, you can see Mt. Fuji from any of the ferry cruises. If you can, try to get to Lake Ashi early in the morning; the sunrise over the lake, mountains, and nearby shrine is absolutely breathtaking.
- The Hakone Open-Air Museum is the first and largest open air museum in Japan. With an interactive, 70,000 square meter sculpture garden and works from Picasso, Henry Moore, and Churyo Sato, the Hakone Open-Air Museum is a great place to spend the afternoon.
- The Great Boiling Valley (Owakudani) is a volcanic valley with sulfur hot springs. It is famous for their kurotamago (black eggs) that are hard-boiled inside the sulfur springs.
The Tenzan Tohjikyo hot springs have natural cave formation baths to provide an unique experience for foreigners.
Hakone Hotel Kowakien has both a water park for those that prefer wearing bathing suits and a traditional hot springs for those going au natural. The traditional side has Dead Sea style salt baths with different temperatures and concentrations, while the outdoor section has waterslides and rapid pools.
Hakone Kamon is a more simple and traditional onsen bath house, famous for their indoor and outdoor baths, including baths in large ceramic pots called Tsubo Baths.
Hakone Yuryo has public and private bath rooms for families or couples that wish to bathe together.
What to Eat
Try kinmedai (a local white meat fish with golden eyes) sushi caught from Sagami Bay and kamaboko fish cakes. Eat fresh soba at the Hatsuhana soba shop along the Haya River. Most shops use the crystal-clear river water to cook soba and tofu.
Munch on the mountain brownies in Sagamiya. These freshly made Hakone brownies are popular among tourists.
Try a black egg, kurotamago, from the sulfur springs. Mottled black on the outside and normal on the inside, according to Japanese legend, these eggs will prolong your life by seven years. But the legend cautions not to eat more than 2 1/2 eggs at a time!
Where to Stay
Hakone Ichinoyu Honkan is a gorgeous Japanese styled ryokan luxury hotel with a long established history in the area. With public and private bathrooms, extensive facilities, and a famous beauty salon, Ichinoyu is the essence of tradition and elegance.
Gora Kadan is the former summer villa of the Japanese imperial family. Famous for its luxury, architecture and onsen for promoting smooth skin and good health, the Gora Kadan is a tourist favorite.
Taiseikan is a traditional Japanese ryokan nestled in the river valley. Meals are brought to your room and the outdoor onsen hot springs provides an excellent view of the valley.
Fujiya Hotel is a magnificent and historic Victorian style hotel that blends Western and Japanese styles, creating an area of comfort for visitors.