Hakone, What to Do When You're Not Climbing Mt. Fuji
Updated: Feb 25
This town sits below the tallest spot in Japan, Mt. Fuji. Hakone, the gateway to Mt. Fuji and surrounding national parks, affords the best views of the mountain from Lake Ashinoko, and is just two hours from the center of Tokyo. I took a 1.5-hour bus ride from Yokohama to Hakone. It's a very easy day trip, especially if you have the Japan Rail Pass. If you plan on hiking Mt. Fuji, make sure you are coming at a time of year when its open to climbing (July - August).
Psst…Want more Japan travel tips? Check out these other posts:
Read on for what I did in Hakone when I was not there for climbing season.
Table of Contents
MY FAVORITE experiences in hakone
visiting the hakone shinto shrine
Torii Gateways lead upwards into the mountains and cedar forests, some 400-years-old, at the Hakone Shinto shrine from the waters of Lake Ashinoko, where Japanese legend says a nine-headed-dragon sleeps.
Before entering the main pathway to the overhead temples, turn right to wash your hands outside of the Torii Gateways. I took my time hiking up the stairs to the highest shrine and listened to the water lap the shores of Lake Ashi.
taking a cable car ride to mt. komagatake
Mt. Fuji isn't the only mountain in Hakone. Take a cable car ride to Mt. Komagatake, the second largest cable car in the world. I took the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway, one of two ropeways in the area, to the summit of Mt. Komagatake for views of the sulfur hot springs, Lake Ashinoko, and on a clear day, Sagami, and Surgua Bay’s distant seven islands of Izu, and of course, Mt. Fuji in the distance.
The cable car will stop for about ten minutes at the summit, which is all you’ll want in the freezing weather. Get the best view of Mt. Fuji on the right side of the cable car tower, but make sure to save a few minutes on your way back to view the islands glittering in the distance. Mt. Fuji is notoriously shy, so plan for a clear day.
HAKONE OPEN AIR MUSEUM
Bathe in the hot spring foot bath after witnessing 300 pieces of Picasso’s art. I spent the afternoon walking outside in the sculpture garden, and then I headed to the hot spring foot bath to relax and enjoy the surrounding views of the valleys and mountains. The Open Air Museum intended to create a balance between nature and art.
Grab some tea at the indoor cafeteria and find the koi fishpond, where you can buy cups of food to entice the giant swimming monsters to the surface. Better yet, take a step indoors to view their indoor galleries. Their Picasso Collection is one of the biggest in the world.
BOAT RIDE ON LAKE ASHINOKO
Enjoy the warmth of the cabins below deck in a replica pirate ship, while Mt. Fuji waits outside. Take in the unbeatable views of Mt. Fuji and surrounding mountains like Komagatake, but don’t forget to appreciate Lake Ashinoko itself, a lake formed by volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Don't forget to bring a jacket. Japan is cold at times. Japan by windy ship is colder.
There’s a red Torii gate in the shores of the lake that’s famous amongst photographers. Leave your mark by getting your own shot of this beautiful shrine.
DINNER ON THE LAKEFRONT
I headed to Hakone’s lakefront to watch the reflection of Mt. Fuji. Enjoy sitting on traditional tatami mats and viewing Lake Ashinoko, while you wait for your traditional meal, a bowl of noodles with green tea or hot sake.
Lake Ashinoko glitters like diamonds, so try to arrive just before sunset and definitely, definitely, get a window seat.