Introducing … Hakone!

During my research trip last autumn, I spent several days in Hakone, a hot spring resort in the Fuji Five Lakes region of Japan. Hakone is famous for many things, including views of Mount Fuji, onsen (hot spring baths),  and the ability to enjoy “sightseeing through different modes of transportation”–including trains, cable cars, ropeways, and a ride on a pirate ship. 

I went to hike a preserved section of the Tokaidō–once, a famous travel road connecting Kyoto with Edo–but added a few extra days to the trip to ensure I had time to enjoy Hakone, too. (Spoiler alert: I loved it so much I returned with my son two months ago, and plan to go back as often as possible, every time I’m in Japan.)

The trip to Hakone really begins in Odawara (a major station about an hour southwest of Tokyo), where travelers transfer to the Odakyu Line for a local train to Hakone-Yumoto Station. 

HY Train

 (Travel tip: buy a Hakone Freepass in Odawara. As its name implies, the “freepass” gives the holder free access to all transportation in Hakone–including the bus, train, cable car, ropeway, and pirate ships–for either 2 or 3 days, depending on the length of pass you buy. I saved more than $100 over 3 days by using one, and recommend it highly.)

The trip to Hakone-Yumoto takes about 15 minutes. Like most Japanese trains, the Odakyu Line cars have comfortable, plush seats and large windows. The scenery is lovely – though not nearly as nice as what you’ll see when you actually reach Hakone:

View to Ichinoyu

At Hakone-Yumoto station, I transferred to the Hakone portion of the Hakone Tozan Railway, Japan’s oldest mountain railway (the line from Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto is also technically part of the Hakone Tozan Railway, but the portion that begins in Hakone-Yumoto is the truly special part).

I’d reserved a room at the Tonosawa Ichinoyu Shinkan–a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) just one stop north of Hakone-Yumoto.

Tonosawa Station is tiny, little more than two platforms with covered benches squeezed into a cleft of the mountain.

Trains from Hakone-Yumoto travel through a tunnel to reach the station:

Tonosawa Station (2)

And depart immediately into another, to head farther up the mountain:

Tonosawa Eki Hakone (1)

However, the station also has a surprising secret – which I’ll share with you on Monday!

Have you ever visited Hakone? Where did you stay when you were there?