Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hakone is a beautiful destination known for its onsen, beautiful nature, museums, and iconic views of Mount Fuji. Located on a mountain of the same name, it's part of the scenic Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, which is Japan's most visited national park. The town of Hakone itself is quite large, containing multiple town centers and numerous attractions worth exploring. Only an hour to an hour and a half southwest of Tokyo, Hakone has become one of the most popular weekend destinations among Japanese and international visitors alike who want a break from the busy city. For this reason, we suggest visiting on a weekday, if possible, to avoid the weekend crowds. Although Hakone makes an excellent day trip from Tokyo, it is best enjoyed with a night at one of the many onsen ryokan. Besides its natural beauty, the area has much history. During the Edo period, Hakone was known as the entrance to the Kantō Plain. Travelers along the popular Tokaido trade route that connected Kyoto to Edo⏤now Tokyo⏤ knew their long journey was almost over when they reached Hakone because it was the last mountain range on the way to Edo. One of the most convenient ways to get around Hakone is by using the Hakone Freepass. This pass allows one person unlimited access to all the buses, trains, boats, cable cars, and ropeways in the Hakone area that are affiliated with the prominent Odakyu group. It also provides discounted admission to several tourist attractions and, optionally, a round trip from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. There is a lot of see and do in this region, so, here are our top 5 recommendations in Hakone. Number 5, the Hakone Open Air Museum The expansive and pristine grounds of the Hakone Open Air Museum are dotted by large sculptures which visitors can walk around and appreciate up close. With views of the surrounding grand Hakone mountains, the museum achieves an appealing balance of art and natural beauty. Of the multiple in- and outdoor exhibition spaces, one of the most notable is the Picasso Exhibition Hall. Displayed across two floors, this is one of the largest collection of works by Pablo Picasso in the entire world, containing over 300 paintings, sculptures, and ceramic works by the famous artist. Of the outdoor sculptures, one of the the largest is called the "Symphonic Sculpture", which is a stained glass tower visitors can enter and climb with an excellent view from the top. The museum has a large permanent collection as well as several rotating exhibition spaces. The grounds are also home to multiple shops, cafes, and a foot bath. Number 4, the Hakone Shrine At the foot of Mount Hakone on the edge of Lake Ashinoko stands one of the most recognizable and photographed icons in the area, the large torii gate of Hakone Shrine. From here, paths lined with traditional red lanterns lead from the shore into the dense forest where the shrine buildings are located. The shrine complex itself is made up of multiple structures, including several other torii gates, a smaller shrine dedicated to the legendary 9-headed dragon, Kuzuryu, and the main shrine itself. Originally, the shrine was established on the summit of Komagatake, one of Mt. Hakone's multiple peaks. However, it was relocated to the shore of Lake Ashinoko in 1667. The original Hakone Shrine called Mototsumiya is known for often being shrouded in an atmospheric fog and still stands on the top of Komagatake, which can be visited by either taking the Komagatake Ropeway or walking up hiking paths. Number 3, the Old Tokaido and Hakone Checkpoint During the Edo period, the Tokugawa clan built 5 major trade highways, allowing merchants and travelers to walk or ride between the nation's important centers of industry and culture. By far the most trafficked route was the Tokaido, which connected Kyoto to Edo. Along the Tokaido were over 50 towns where travelers could restock and rest. In addition, there were 2 checkpoints where officials would inspect travelers' documents and goods⏤one in Arai and one in Hakone. Positioned in the mountains just west of Edo, the Hakone Checkpoint controlled traffic into and out of the city. Mostly, this included checking for smuggled weapons or for wives and children of feudal lords trying to escape the city. In 2007, an exact replica of the Hakone Checkpoint was finally unveiled after years of construction. Complete with gates, stables, prison, and armory, visitors can experience for themselves what it was like to travel through the historic checkpoint during the Edo period. Although the Old Tokaido has been replaced by modern roads and train lines between Moto-Hakone and Hakone-Yumoto, a portion of the walking trail has been preserved. The best section being between Moto-Hakone and Hatajuku, where parts of the original stone path remain. Walking this segment takes between 75 to 100 minutes and brings travelers past a traditional Japanese tea house called Amazake Chaya, which has been welcoming visitors since the Edo era. Number 2, Hakone Onsen Mount Hakone is a volcanic mountain with ongoing hydrothermal activity such as hissing steam vents, which can be observed in the Owakudani area, particularly from the Hakone Ropeway. As a result, Hakone has an astonishing 17 natural onsen. These act as the source of the many bath houses and ryokan in the area and make it one of Japan's premiere onsen destinations. The onsen waters of Hakone can be enjoyed at a public bath house or at a ryokan. Guests of these Japanese-style inns are given unlimited access to the pools of the inn where they are staying. Most ryokan will also welcome daytime visitors, but will charge an admission fee. If you aren't staying at an inn, there are plenty of excellent bath houses to choose from, a prime example being the Hakone Yuryo bath complex, which provides bathers with pleasant views of the surrounding forest while they soak. It has the usual gender separated public areas with a variety of pools to enjoy and also a large selection of private baths for families or couples. Aside from bathing, onsen towns in the Hakone region such as Hakone Yumoto typically have a variety of quaint shops and eateries and are pleasant places to explore. Number 1, Lake Ashinoko Formed by an eruption 3,000 years ago, this caldera lake offers some of the area's best views of Mount Fuji and is the peak of Hakone's natural grandeur. The most famous view is from Moto-Hakone, a small port town on the southeast side of the lake. Like the other lake-front towns, Moto-Hakone caters to tourists looking for lake-side hotels, restaurants, and hot springs. Nearby, on the southern peninsula of Lake Ashinoko next to the Hakone Checkpoint is the Hakone Detached Palace. This was once a summer home of the Japanese imperial family, but is now open to the public and free to visit. The manicured park surrounding what's left of the old palace has pleasant walking trails that offer more beautiful views of the lake and, on a clear day, Fuji itself. The other great way to tour Lake Ashinoko is by taking a sightseeing cruise. A couple of companies offer boat tours. Of these, the tours operated by the Hakone Sightseeing Boats Company, whose boats resemble pirate ships, are covered by the Hakone Freepass. Although the sight of Mount Fuji is famous from Lake Ashinoko, it's not always visible. The best times to see it are during the colder months and in the early-morning and evening hours of the day, but even then, it can still be elusive. We hope this top 5 list gives you a good place to start when planning your trip to Hakone. 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