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24 Hours in Hakone

2023-04-19

Hakone, nestled in the lush green mountains of Kanagawa Prefecture, is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. With its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and soothing hot springs, it's no wonder that this small town has become a mecca for travelers seeking a break from the chaos of modern life. Hakone is also filled with historical landmarks, unique museums, and a delectable array of traditional Japanese cuisines.

For those who only have 24 hours to explore this gem of a town, we've put together an itinerary that covers all the must-see landmarks and experiences, guaranteeing an unforgettable day trip to Hakone.

 

Getting around

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There are several options to choose from to get to Hakone. Odakyu Railways operates the Romance Car limited express that runs from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station for 2,470 JPY. Odakyu Railways also sells the Hakone Free Pass, a two-day discounted pass covering the round trip from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto Station and unlimited use of the Hakone Tozan Railway, Hakone Ropeway, and the Hakone Sightseeing Boats on Lake Ashinoko. For 6,100 JPY, the Hakone Free Pass is a fuss-free and affordable way to travel around Hakone.

Alternatively, if you have the JR Pass, you can also take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen to Odawara Station and then transfer to the Hakone Tozan Line to Hakone-Yumoto Station. The Hakone Free Pass is also available from Odawara Station for 5,000 JPY.

 

The adventure begins

10:00 a.m. — Breakfast

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Start the morning with breakfast at Timuny, a quaint two-story cafe right across from Hakone-Yumoto Station, overlooking the Haya River. Get your caffeine fix with a cup of their delicious drip coffee or refreshing tea blends. Timuny is supported by Sarutahiko Coffee — a specialty coffee shop in Tokyo — so their coffee beans are of the highest quality! If you’re feeling peckish, the cafe also has a selection of sandwiches and homemade cakes to provide you with enough fuel to go exploring.

11:00 p.m. — Hakone Open Air Museum

Set amidst the stunning natural beauty of the mountains, the Hakone Open Air museum features over 120 sculptures and art installations by renowned artists from around the world. It is Japan’s first outdoor, open-air museum of art and is one of Hakone’s must-visit destinations.

Take a leisurely stroll through the open-air galleries and marvel at the art displayed against the backdrop of mountains, trees, and blue sky. The museum also houses several indoor exhibitions showcasing various art movements and styles, from contemporary art to modern Japanese art. Make sure to check out the Picasso Pavilion, which displays the works of the legendary Spanish painter Pablo Picasso.

Beyond the art, the Hakone Open Air Museum also features a foot bath where visitors can soak their feet in hot spring water while admiring the surrounding nature, as well as a sculpture park for children to play and interact with.

1:00 p.m. — Lunch at Tamuya

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Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to Tamuya, a cozy little restaurant serving up authentic Japanese food. The restaurant only has one main course on its menu: a 1,500 JPY set menu of rice, a poached egg, specialty miso soup, Hakone silver tofu, and the star of the show— yamaimo paste. Yamaimo paste is a type of Japanese yam that has been carefully hand-grinded, and to eat it you have to mix the paste together with the rice and a bit of wasabi.

What you get is an incredibly refreshing meal that is not only tasty but filling as well. There is no better way to embrace the natural ingredients of Hakone than to try a cuisine combining all of them together.

2:00 p.m. — Owakudani

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Take a 30-minute bus to Owakudani, a volcanic valley known for its unique geothermal activity and scenic beauty. Created during the last eruption of the Hakone volcano some 3,000 years ago, Owakudani is an area of bubbling pools of boiling water, sulfurous fumes, and hot springs. Visitors can take a scenic ropeway ride that traverses the valley and provides stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Ashinoko.

Another must-try while at Owakudani are its black eggs that are boiled in the hot springs and sold at various shops and stalls in the area. It is said that these black eggs have unique health benefits that can increase your lifespan by seven years, making it a peculiar but perfect gift to get as a souvenir.

For the more adventurous, there is a 40-minute walking trail through the volcanic zone. You’ll be able to get up close and personal with the bubbling sulfuric craters and the unique volcanic scenery. This walking tour requires advance reservations and costs 500 JPY, but it is quite popular, so make sure that you book as soon as you can!

4:00 p.m. — Hakone Kowakien Yunessun

After exploring the awe-inspiring volcano, take a dip in a relaxing hot spring resort to ease your aching joints. Hakone Kowakien Yunessun is a huge spa resort with two main areas, the Yunessun area which is an amusement park with epic water slides and bizarre pool areas that requires swimwear, while Mori no Yu is the more traditional onsen with relaxing open-air baths

Both are worth experiencing in their own right, but the Yunessun area has quirky-themed pools that you should definitely try out! One of the highlights is the wine bath, which is a fragrant hot spring containing wine, which was apparently adored by Cleopatra and Queen Mary for its skin rejuvenating qualities. If you’re more of a coffee person, they also have a coffee hot spring bath containing nel dripped coarse coffee brewed at low temperatures. If that’s not your cup of tea, then try out their green tea bath — and if you’re still craving more, try their Japanese sake bath.

7:00 p.m. — Dinner at Ryokan

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End the day with a traditional multi-course kaiseki or seafood dinner at a ryokan. For those who want to feast on a luxurious dinner, Hakone Yumoto Onsen Tsukino Yado Sara has a seasonal dinner plan that includes Wagyu beef sukiyaki, Wagyu beef shabu-shabu, and Seafood shabu-shabu. The ryokan also features private open-air baths in all rooms, giving you the perfect way to unwind and relax after a long day.

For those on a budget, consider staying at Hakone Yumoto Onsen Hakone no Mori Okada, which serves a dinner buffet plan featuring seasonal ingredients at their Sky Lounge restaurant. Besides the buffet serving Japanese, Western, and Chinese food, they also have a live kitchen that serves up freshly made sushi, tempura, and teppanyaki which is meat grilled on an iron plate upon your request. With an abundance of hot spring sources around the facility, Hotel Okada boasts exquisite indoor, outdoor, and foot baths for your enjoyment.