Hakone National Park, Japan

Mt Fuji Japan

Hakone National Park, Japan

The Hakone National Park is part of the sprawling Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, which also includes Mount Fuji, Fuji Five Lakes (including Lake Kawaguchiko near the iconic peak), the Izu Peninsula, and the Izu Islands. This collection of favourite tourist destinations dotting various prefectures of Japan cover more than 1,200 square kilometres. Its proximity to the capital city by bullet train from the Shinjuku Station makes it a popular destination and day trip from Tokyo, even among domestic travellers.

The mountain resort of Hakone is famous for its hot springs resorts (onsen) and breathtaking views of Japan’s iconic volcano, Mount Fuji. On your tour of Hakone National Park, enjoy a traditional spa package in one of the many onsen that dot the area and along the shores of beautiful Lake Ashi (Lake Ashinoko). You can relax in your bath at either a public bath house or a ryokan or inn.

Don’t be surprised as well if you see a pirate ship on Lake Ashi. These replica pirate ships take tourists who want a river cruise and a closer view of the volcano.

 A pirate ship on Lake Ashi, Japan
A replica pirate ship on Lake Ashi, Japan

Just across the street from the south shore pier of the lake is the Narukawa Art Museum, which houses masterpieces of nihonga (Japanese-style paintings). The museum also has a panorama lounge and café overlooking Lake Ashi. On a clear day, guests can be treated to a view of Mount Fuji and the torii gate of Hakone Shrine.

Mt Fuji and Lake Ashi with the red torii gate of Hakone Shrine, Japan
Mt Fuji and Lake Ashi with the red torii gate of Hakone Shrine, Japan

The Hakone Tozan Cable Car or Railway is Japan’s oldest mountain railway connecting Odawara to Gora, but it is the June and July ride from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora that tourists flock to the train in order to view the beautiful scenery and the landscapes filled with blooming ajisai (hydrangea).

From Gora, you can take the cable car to Sounzan, and from there ride a gondola on the Hakone Ropeway that will take you to the shore of Lake Ashi. This is a lovely way to get a picturesque view of Hakone. (Note that due to damage from Typhoon Hagibis, the railway is currently closed until autumn 2020, and the cable car line has been suspended until March. The Ropeway resumed operations in October 2019.)

Hakone is also on the path of the old Tokaido Road, a historical highway that once connected Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto, serving as checkpoint to control traffic during the feudal Edo period. A reconstruction of this checkpoint can be seen on the shore of the lake, connected to a small museum that gives more insight regarding the region’s samurai period.

 

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