12 Hours in Hakone – Autumn Special
Hakone is a really nice area in Kanagawa prefecture and is perfect for a daytrip from Tokyo. For sure, you can go there every time around the year, but every season has its special atmosphere and highlights. Now, with October ending, let us take a look how to spend a wonderful day in Hakone in autumn.
Our travel starts in Tokyo. To make it easy, let me choose Shinjuku station. There are several ways to make your way to Hakone area, one of the most popular is the Romance Car. This limited express is operated by Odakyu Railway and brings you to Hakone-Yumoto station within 85 minutes for 2080 yen. With slower trains you will take around 2 hours, however, these will cost you only 1190 yen one-way and you have to change trains at Odawara. For sure, there are also JR trains you can use.
For our autumn travel we will next jump on a train of the Hakone Tozan Railway (箱根登山電車) which is the oldest mountain railway in Japan. The ride from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora station will take you through beautiful nature and you can already enjoy the autumn colors here. It takes around 35 minutes and costs 400 yen, definitely worth a ride.
Let us start our sightseeing tour with Gora Park (強羅公園). This one is located only 5 minutes from Gora station, so easy to access. The admission is 550 yen and you actually find a western styled landscape garden there including a large fountain, rose garden and greenhouses. However, the park is surrounded by trees and you can see the red leaves by a relaxing walk around.
Just above Gora Park you find the Hakone Museum of Art (箱根美術館). First you can take a look around the exhibition displaying Japanese ceramics from Edo period. But the main reason to visit is the outside area. First, there is a moss garden which looks very beautiful in autumn time. You can have a short break at the teahouse and sip some green tea. Then go on to the Sekirakuen Garden, a Japanese landscape garden which also offers you stunning views. However, notice this is only opened on weekends, national holidays and every day in November. Admission here is 900 yen, so spend some time to take a look everywhere.
You might be hungry now. Have a quick lunch around Gora station, before we go on.
Normally you could use the Hakone Tozan Cablecar now and go up to Hakone Ropeway, which gives you a wonderful view from above over the red colored Hakone area. However, even though the ropeway is operating, the trails around the top at Owakudani (大涌谷) are closed for tourists at the moment because of volcanic gases. So, this time, let us take another route.
From Gora station you can take a Hakone Tozan Bus heading for Sengoku, which takes around 20 minutes and costs 420 yen. Just 2 minutes from there you find the Choanji Temple (長安寺), a very beautiful place surrounded by nature. The temple belongs to the Soto school of Zen Buddhism and is well known for its over 200 Buddha statues, each with unique impressions, you can find everywhere around the temple area. Especially in autumn, when all the trees are changing their colors this place is gorgeous. And the best: admission is free.
Let’s hop on the bus again and go to Togendai. This takes around 10 to 15 minutes and costs 440 yen. Now we are at the northern end of Lake Ashi or Ashinoko (芦ノ湖) which was formed through volcano eruption over 3000 years ago. From here you can enter the Hakone Sightseeing Boat which is shaped like a pirate ship. The travel from Togendai to the other southern side takes around 30 minutes and you can enjoy the red colored hills and mountains around. On clear days you also might be lucky and catch a view of Mount Fuji. Plan in 1000 yen for the ship cruise.
From the Moto-Hakone ship pier it takes a five minutes walk to the next destination: Hakone Shrine (箱根神社). This shrine is located inside the forest, too, and is especially famous for the red torii gates standing in Lake Ashi. From there a way leads up to the main building which is also held in red color. You can stroll around the area for free. Sometimes wedding ceremonies or wedding photo shootings are taking place at Hakone Shrine, so keep your eyes open.
It is slowly getting dark now and we should go back to Hakone-Yumoto station. The bus from Moto-Hakone brings you thee within around 35 minutes (960 yen). Take a look around the station area and use the time to buy some souvenirs at the small shops there.
Hakone is famous as Onsen area, so what would be a trip to Hakone without the visit to an Onsen. Because it is already dark and getting cooler, it is perfect timing to do something good for your tired body. From Hakone Yumoto you can get inside the free shuttle bus to Hakone Yuryo (箱根湯寮), a great onsen up the hill. Enjoy the few of the red leave while dipping in the hot water at the open air baths. Admission to the large communal baths costs 1400 yen, towels are for sale for 450 yen. If you want some private time, you also can rent one of the private baths for 60 minutes starting from 4000 yen per room. Towels are included in the prices.
After the hot bath you are relaxed and it is getting time to get in the train back to Tokyo. Buy one of the traditional bento boxes at the station and enjoy your drive back, reflecting all the beautiful autumn places you have seen over the day.
If you calculate only the travel costs for trains, buses and ship, we get something around 5000 yen. Because of this, it might be a good idea to purchase the Hakone Free Pass for your trip. The 2-day pass costs 5140 yen from Shinjuku station and allows you unlimited rides on the Hakone buses, trains, ropeway, cable car and sightseeing ship. It even gives you free admission to Gora Park and discount at several other facilities such as the Hakone Yuryo Onsen. Take a look here for more information.
And now, enjoy your autumn travel to Hakone!
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