What is the best day trip from Tokyo? A mere hour and a half train ride can pull you out of the neon and noise constantly filling Tokyo, and into a peaceful mountain town full of natural hot springs. This Hakone day trip itinerary will guide you to a Shinto shrine, a scenic lake, views of Mount Fuji and – if you’re up for extending to an overnight visit – a traditional Japanese ryokan stay, complete with onsen baths.
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Best Time to Visit Hakone
Generally the best time to visit Japan is in the spring. Late March to early April is cherry blossom season in Japan, but because Hakone is in the mountains peak bloom comes a bit later – from early to late April. There are a number of cherry blossom viewing spots around Hakone including along the Haya River, in the Kowakidani Horaien Gardens, in Gora Park, and in Onshihakone Park.
There is also some particularly striking fall foliage in Hakone from mid-October to early December. Because the season is longer and because fall foliage is easier to view from the Hakone Ropeway than cherry blossoms, November is the best time to visit Hakone on a day trip from Tokyo.
How to Get to Hakone
There are a few transportation options for your Hakone day trip from Tokyo. All of them leave from JR Shinjuku Station.
The most affordable way to get from Tokyo to Hakone is by local train. For 1190 yen or $10.80 USD, you can take an hour and a half ride on Odakyu Line express train to Odawara Station. From Odawara, it’s a 15 minute ride on the Hakone Tozan Line to Hakone-Yumoto Station.
There are also buses that travel from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Hakone, but the local trains are faster and less expensive.
Finally, the Romancecar is technically the fastest way to get from Tokyo to Hakone, but it only shaves five to ten minutes off the local train travel time and the fare is almost twice that of the Odakyu Line. There are a few conveniences like a cafe, large bathrooms and the fact that you do not need to change lines at Odawara, but are these really worth the price? For the little time you spend on the train, I think your best option for travel from Tokyo to Hakone is the local train.
A quick word about getting around in Hakone. I highly recommend not just spending a day in Hakone, but making your trip an overnight stay. A Hakone Free Pass will allow you unlimited bus and train rides in the area for two days, including round-trip travel from Tokyo. This costs 5700 yen or $51.73 which is a bit steep. You should only book a Hakone Free Pass if you plan on visiting several places in the Hakone area. Round-trip train fare from Tokyo and a ride on the Hakone Ropeway are less expensive.
Where to Stay in Hakone
If you’re planning a Hakone day trip, you may expect to return immediately to Tokyo. If you do, you’re missing out! One of the best things to do in Hakone is experience a traditional Japanese ryokan. I highly recommend turning your Hakone day trip into an overnight stay. Make it a weekend trip from Tokyo, or turn your visit into a stopover between Tokyo and Kyoto.
There are many ryokan, or traditional Japanese inns, in the Hakone area, but they can be expensive. A far more budget friendly version is Tent Hakone. Tent is where traditional ryokan meets modern hostel. You can sleep on tatami mats but in a shared room like a hostel dorm. You can soak in an onsen, but also get to know fellow travelers in a shared kitchen and lounge. They also have a bar where you can taste sake or Japanese whisky, and a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for reasonable prices. Tent charges 3500 yen or $31.76 per night for a 6-bed female dorm, whereas most proper ryokan charge 15,000 to 25,000 yen or $135 to $225 USD a night.
Tips for Solo Female Travelers
Hakone is one of the world’s most relaxing destinations for solo female travelers. The tranquility and reflection its natural beauty inspires is part of what makes it such a great day trip from Tokyo. Transportation is not too difficult to navigate and Japan is one of the safest destinations for solo female travelers. If you enjoy solo female travel because you like being by yourself, this is a great trip choice for you. If you prefer more activity, you might enjoy yourself more staying in Tokyo.
What to Pack for a Hakone Day Trip
To see everything I travel with, read my full RTW trip packing list for solo female travelers. These are just a few items I consider must-haves for a Hakone day trip.
My favorite day trip bag is an anti-theft cross body purse from TravelOn. Though you’re unlikely to need the anti-theft features in Japan, the bag is a great size and has an exterior pocket for a water bottle.
Hakone is in a more mountainous area of Japan, so especially if you are traveling in spring or fall, pack a good pair of warm socks. SmartWool is my favorite brand.
Before you take a dip in an onsen, proper etiquette is to shower first. Many onsen will have soap and shampoo available in a shower area near the bath, but you can also bring your own. A solid shampoo bar will save space, last for months and doesn’t have to go in your liquids bag.
If you’re spending the night, sleeping on tatami mats in a ryokan can get a little chilly. A silk sleep sheet can give you an extra layer of warmth in an easily collapsible package.
What to Do on a Hakone Day Trip
Soak in an onsen
An onsen is a natural hot spring in Japan and Hakone is a hot bed for them, if you’ll pardon the pun. These natural geothermal baths aren’t just relaxing – they are lauded for their healing properties and the mineral-rich water will leave your skin feeling incredible after a dip. If you are not staying overnight in a ryokan, many of these traditional Japanese inns have public day passes available for their onsen for anywhere between 500 and 2000 yen or $4.54 to $18.15 USD. Japan Guide has a list of baths in the Hakone area and Inside Japan explains the etiquette of communal bathing.
Catch a view from the Hakone Ropeway
The Hakone Ropeway stretches from the end of the Hakone Tozan Line over sulfuric hot spring-ridden Owakudani Valley to beautiful Lake Ashinoko. Ten-person gondolas depart every minute and on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji. Be warned though – cloudy days are common and you might have to settle for valley views! Travel is covered by the Hakone Free Pass, or you can purchase a round-trip ticket for 2600 yen or $23.59 USD.
Cruise Lake Ashi
Near the end of the Hakone Ropeway is a departure point for sightseeing cruises on Lake Ashinoko. The Hakone Free Pass includes a 30-minute cruise on the pirate ships operated by Hakone Sightseeing Boats. Be careful – there is another operator on the lake, Izuhakone Sightseeing Boats, that does not accept the Hakone Free Pass.
The end of Lake Ashi near Hakone Ropeway is Togendai, and on the other end of the lake are two docks: Hakone-machi and Moto Hakone. Just a five-minute walk from Moto Hakone lies a large Shinto shrine with massive red torii gates. Admission is free and the shrine is open 24-7.
Hakone Open Air Museum
This outdoor sculpture museum features work by Japanese and international artists. It is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from Gora, the terminal station of the Hazon Tozan cable car. Admission is 1600 yen or $14.52 USD.
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