If you’ve ever looked up day trips from Tokyo on the internet, Hakone will be one of the most prominent results. With it being the real-life location of Tokyo-3 from Evangelion and having many hotsprings, temples, and a great view of Mt. Fuji, that status is well-deserved. It’s also home to one of my favorite museums in Japan which has sculptures that resemble vaporwave visuals called the Hakone Open Air Museum. You should also try swimming in the famous red wine onsen at Yunessan to smooth your skin. Wherever you go you’re bound to discover something interesting here because the nature is vast.
I’ve been to Hakone five times by myself and also with friends so I’ve seen all its major attractions. Here are some of the coolest things that I’ve found:
Eva-Ya: The Evangelion Goods Store
As you exit the station and begin your wonderful journey here, one of the first things you’ll come across is Eva-ya; Hakone’s own original Evangelion Store. Here you will find a number of goods from the anime including water bottles based off the characters’ designs, food with the NERV logo on it, and a life-sized Rei Ayanami. Asuka fans don’t fret because she has plenty of merchandise too! One of my best purchases here was Misato’s cross-shaped necklace (not pictured). I also enjoyed the Unit 01-colored ice cream. Of course you can visit the official Evangelion stores in Tokyo too, but this is the one located where the anime takes places and has slightly different merchandise.
Owakudani is Hakone’s volcanic crater that has sulfur vents and hotsprings making it a beautiful mountain getaway. The sulfide causes the rocks to gain their lovely red hue. In order to reach Owakudani, you must take a cable car ride from Hakone Ropeway. There are black eggs sold here that are said to increase your lifespan. I bought a four-pack of them and thought they were very delicious! Only time will tell if their effect is really long-lasting. Unfortunately due to the danger of the volcanic gas some of the hiking trails have been roped off here, but watching the plumes of smoke form from the main viewpoint is an amazing sight. This crater is definitely worth seeing!
Cable Car Fee: See discounts on the Hakone website (I recommend getting the one with the pirate ship fee included too).
Yunessan is my favorite onsen in all of Hakone because of its famous red wine onsen you can bathe in among many other unique hotsprings and pools. This is a mixed-gender hotspring so swimsuits are required in most areas unless you rent a private onsen or pay to enter the gender-segregated bath called Mori no Yu. The plus side is that you can enjoy Yunessan with all of your friends! Last time I went they had coffee, sake, and pearl-water baths too. Some of the baths rotate while others are permanent additions. The outdoor area has water slides, a mystical cave that you can explore, and various hot springs positioned so you can get a clear view of the mountains. This is always the most relaxing part of my trip. During certain times they serve free glasses of red wine too so be sure not to miss out!
Entrance Fee: 2,900 (a bit expensive, but worth it for the variety here)
I’ve already mentioned that the Hakone Open Air Museum is by far my favorite museum here (see my article The Top 3 Most Innovative Art & Technology Museums for more information), but I also want to point out beautiful Hakone Venetian Glass Museum. This forest of glass has beautiful Venetian-inspired designs and adornments like nowhere else I’ve ever seen. Outside you can find trees and a bridge intricately decorated with glass ornaments as well as a miniature pond. Inside there are many hand-crafted glass sculptures and jewels as well. I was very impressed with the aesthetic here:
The Okada Art Museum is also worth checking out. Though I don’t have any recent pictures, they have many beautiful sculptures in the mountains and footbaths you can use too. There are some traditional Japanese handcrafts and artifacts displayed too.
Entrance Fees: Varies on the museum, but I would research beforehand and budget 3000 – 5000 yen depending on what you want to see. Keep in mind these are some of the best museums outside of Tokyo and have that awesome mountain view!
Hakone Shrine & Pirate Ship Tours at Lake Ashi
A trip to Hakone isn’t complete without seeing Lake Ashi and the famous Hakone Shrine along the shores. I first saw it in the winter when snow was on the ground, but the summer is the ideal time to go if you want to experience the lake. My friend and I decided to buy the tickets to ride the pirate ship and drank a bottle of Captain Morgan on it in true spirit. The ship was very spacious and we could feel the gentle breeze of the lake while staring at the view of Mt. Fuji in the distance. It was exhilarating—an experience like nowhere else in Japan! I think the only other place where you can ride a pirate ship quite like this is at Tokyo Disney, but you don’t have the awesome mountain backdrop that you do here.
Cable Car Fee: See discounts on the Hakone website (I recommend getting the one with the cable car fee included too).
From Shinjuku Station, you can take the Romancecar Express to reach Hakone-Yumoto Station in 1.5 hours for 2300 yen.
Once reaching the station, all of the places I listed can be reached via bus within an hour, but I would allow yourself 6-8 hours here at least. It took multiple trips in both the summer and the winter for me to see everything here, but you could probably see these things in approximately 2 days.
If you decide to stay here overnight, Hakone Japan has some good choices. I plan to stay at a ryokan in the future and will write about my experience.