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Your Guide to All Things Hakone, Japan

Situated to the southwest of Tokyo, Hakone is a mountainous area dominated by Japan’s tallest peak, Mt. Fuji. In OROKO, many us have been to Japan and explored its many highlights. Hakone offers a peaceful tranquillity in between exploring the country’s vibrant cities. If you don’t know much about Hakone, here are a few reasons why we love it!

Hakone’s Location

Just over half an hour from Tokyo by bullet train, Hakone can easily be incorporated in a classic Japan itinerary. We recommend travelling to Hakone from Tokyo and staying one night before taking the bullet train to Kyoto. It is a great introduction to the incredible bullet train system and an excellent way to break up your journey. Hakone’s transport system is incredible, so it is easy for visitors arriving at the train station to reach their accommodation in the mountains quickly. We always arrange luggage forwarding and the Hakone Free Pass for our clients, promising a seamless experience throughout.

Traditional Ryokan

Ryokans are one of Hakone’s main attractions. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that typically features tatami-matted rooms, traditional futon bedding, onsen and kaiseki dining. Guests are encouraged to wear yukata; a casual version of kimono. It is an excellent way to experience the country’s historic culture and traditions in style. Some of our favourite luxury ryokans include Hakone Gora Byakudan and Ryokan Hakone Ginyu. They both feature panoramic mountainous views, beautiful communal and private areas and of course, renowned kaiseki.

Hakone onsen

Japan is a highly volcanic country that holds a strong onsen (hot spring baths) culture. The powerful bond with onsen stems from religion and the geothermal water’s healing powers. Holding a long history in Japan, Samurais healed their wounds in the onsen after important battles. Hakone is regarded as one of the finest hot spring resorts in Japan and thus the best place to experience it for yourself. For us, the best way to experience your first onsen is in your ryokan, where you will have a private thermal bath on the terrace with terrific views.

Healing powers of onsen

Continuing the theme of onsen, Hakone’s hot springs are said to contain healing properties. Depending on which hot spring source is used, the properties differ. Many onsens feature mildly alkaline sodium chloride that resembles the properties of seawater and is said to help treat muscle and joint pain, enhance heat retention and aid in moisture absorption. Another common water source is from the hydrogen carbonate springs of Sengokuhara. Also known as the ‘skin beauty springs’, it helps soften skin and has a healing effect on skin ailments.

Japanese kaiseki

Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course dinner. It showcases the chef’s skills and techniques as well as the beauty of the seasons. Traditionally prepared for the royal noble classes, kaiseki is a lavish ‘haute cuisine’ experience. Though many kaisekis can vary, the degustation menu usually consists of an amuse bouche, selection of appetisers and sashimi. It then moves on to grilled, deep fried, steamed and pickled courses. We recommend experiencing kaiseki in a luxury ryokan. Dress in seasonal yukata and dine in a private room to really enjoy Hakone’s seasonal dishes.

Outstanding Views | Lake Ashi & Mt Fuji

Two huge attractions in Hakone are Lake Ashi and Mt Fuji views. The caldera lake boasts wonderful views of Mt Fuji, best experienced on a Hakone sightseeing cruise. Choose to cruise from one end of the lake to another or take a round trip around the lake to return to Hakone town. This is the best way to take scenic photographs and see the true beauty of the mountainous terrain. If you are not afraid of heights, the Hakone Ropeway Cable Car is another incredibly scenic option. Enjoy views of the geothermal springs of Owakundani Valley as well as Lake Ashi and Mt Fuji. Both options are included in the Hakone Free Pass.

Unique local cuisine

Though kaiseki is a huge part of the Hakone experience, there are also excellent options for lunch. The mountainous town is renowned for Hakone soba and the kuro-tamago black egg. The unique eggs are hard-boiled eggs that have been cooked in the hot springs of Owakudani and are said to add seven years to your life. Restaurants by the lake also offer delicious lunches. For a traditional experience, dine at Shinsho Soba. Sit at the tatami tables and sample famous soba and some of the best tempura we’ve ever tasted.

Hakone Shrine

Hakone Shrine is a popular landmark to visit while in Hakone. Hidden within the dense mountain forest, lantern-lit paths connect the spiritual shrine to the torii gate. A torii is a traditional Japanese gate often found within a shrine complex. It is said to symbolise the boundary between the ordinary and sacred space. A great photographic landmark, the red Torii of Peace looks out over the peaceful Lake Ashi.


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