Though Hakone and Lake Ashinoko are not part of the famous ‘Fuji Five Lakes’ region, it is nevertheless one of the premier spots for a day-trip from Tokyo, particularly for those who wish to gaze at Mt Fuji. It is also relatively closer to the city than other Fuji-viewing spots such as Kawaguchiko, but getting there and getting around is quite complex.
Unlike many sightseeing towns, Hakone is actually very spread out and requires extensive use of public transport to get around. The central attraction is Lake Ashinoko which has three separate areas around its shore: Togendai in the north, Hakone-en on the eastern edge and Moto-Hakone in the south.
Train from Tokyo to Hakone
As is usually the case in Japan, taking the train offers a bewildering array of different companies and different types of ticket. To Hakone, it can be equally confusing, but at least there is only one final destination. Hakone Yumoto is the closest station to the Hakone area but to get to the lake and other attractions requires taking a cable car through the mountains or getting onboard the Hakone-Tozan Mountain Railway.
To reach Hakone Yumoto, you can travel with the Odakyu company on their ‘Romancecar’ which goes directly there from Shinjuku in western Tokyo. The ‘Romancecar’ is not nearly as romantic as it sounds but is simply a well furnished limited express train with reserved seating and panoramic windows.
The same service also serves a host of other tourist areas in the Tokyo region, such as Kamakura and Ito. This particular journey to Hakone costs 2,080 Yen (ca. 20 USD) one-way and takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Tickets need to be purchased from an Odakyu kiosk or ticket vending machine but can also be bought online.
You can, of course, travel the same journey on a regular Odakyu train. While it costs just 1,190 Yen (ca. 11 USD), it requires transferring in Odawara and takes over two hours. Holders of the sacred JR Pass can also reach Hakone, but as JR don’t operate along the final stretch to Hakone Yumoto Station, you will need to change at Odawara and purchase a separate ticket. From here, it should only take about 15 minutes and cost 300 Yen (ca. 3 USD) to reach Yumoto.
Bus from Tokyo to Hakone
The advantage of taking a bus to the Hakone area is that you don’t need to bother changing trains and you can proceed directly to some of the more populated areas around the lake. The bus is also operated by Odakyu and tickets can be bought from the Odakyu Highway Bus office (1st floor of Odakyu HALC, West Exit of Shinjuku Station) or from any Odakyu Station but must be reserved prior to departure.
They have dozens of stopping points along the route, and particularly around the vast Lake Ashinoko so decide where exactly you want to go and pay the requisite fare (likely just over 2,000 Yen, ca. 20 USD).
On top of operating the main train and bus services to Hakone, Odakyu also offer a ‘Freepass’ option which provides a return journey from Shinjuku on either the Highway Bus or regular train service. In addition, the holder can travel freely on the Tozan Train, the Cable Car, the Ropeway, the Sightseeing Cruise ship and several of the Tozan area buses.
Furthermore, this pass allows you further discounts on some of the tourist attractions in Hakone. The two day option costs 5,140 Yen (ca. 51 USD) and the three day is 5,640 Yen (ca. 56 USD), but those wishing to ride on the ‘Romancecar’ need to purchase a limited express surcharge.
Car from Tokyo to Hakone
Renting a small car for the day from a budget website such as Orix or Tocoo will cost around 5,000 Yen (ca. 50 USD) but this doesn’t include the inevitable toll fees.
Tour from Tokyo to Hakone
Taking an all-day tour is a good way to skip any travel hassle. Therefore, they are quite a good option for anyone who wants to see as much of Japan’s tallest mountain as possible.
Best way to get from Tokyo to Hakone
There is plenty to do in Hakone to keep visitors occupied for at least one day and many will choose to spend a night at one of the enticing ryokans in the area. For those who wish to explore Lake Ashinoko and the wider mountainous area, as well as use all the transportation options on offer, the ‘Freepass’ makes the most sense.
Even if you just wish to head straight to the village of Moto-Hakone, for example, and spend the day relaxing near the lake, you will be spending almost 5,000 Yen (ca. 50 USD) to do so so the ‘Freepass’ is still a good possibility.