9 things to do in Hakone Loop Tour (My first day in Hakone)

You’ve read how I travelled from Tokyo to Hakone in the morning. Now, let me embark on the tourist-friendly Hakone Loop Tour and share 9 things to do in Hakone.

Hakone Cruise

Specifically, I would be covering Hakone attractions in an anti-clockwise direction on my first day there.

You’ll also see why more than one day is recommended to fully enjoy this alluring onsen (hotspring) town located just two hours from Tokyo.

Don’t miss these posts!

 


Starting Hakone Loop Tour: 9 Things to do in Hakone 

My Hakone loop tour would begin at Hakone-Yumoto Station. With a Hakone 3-day Pass on hand, all my travelling needs from this point onwards would be covered.

I just needed to show my Free Pass to the transport staff before boarding each transport. For buses, be prepared to show the pass when you alight too.

Now, let us begin the official Hakone loop tour!

Hakone-Yumoto Station

 

1. Enjoy uphill ride via Hakone Tozan Train 

(12.50pm)

From Hakone-Yumoto Station, I boarded a Hakone Tozan Train bound westward towards Gora station. The uphill train ride brought me through scenic mountains.

Hakone Tozan Train

 

What’s unique about this ride was how the Hakone Tozan Train would pause and reverse at three spots as it “zig-zagged” up the steep incline. This “switchback” technique will bring you up to an altitude of 209 meters.

What is Switchback? In steep mountainous terrain, switchback is common as the train climbs to a certain point, then switches to another track that zigzags back and keeps climbing. Stopping and starting in this way allows the train to increase its altitude little by little. (Source: web-japan.org)

Tozan Train

You will feel the pressure in your ears. And your 4G connection may turn weak! After 45 minutes, the train reached the final stop at Gora Station.

2. Continue journey onboard Tozan Cable Car

(1.40pm)

At Gora station, I joined a short queue and boarded Tozan Cable Car, which was more like a monorail ride than “in-the-air” cable.

Similar to the Tozan Train (see #1), there are multiple stops along the route that can bring you to different attractions such as Hakone Gora Park. However, my aim today was to complete the Hakone loop, and I would go straight to the final station, at Sounzan Station.

It would take just 15 minutes to reach there.

3. Enjoy Panoramic view at Sounzan Station (Things to do in Hakone)

(2pm)

You’ll be captivated by an expansive and breathtaking view of the mountain landscape when you arrive at Sounzan Station.

Sounzan Station

At a height of about 750m, Sounzan is definitely a place worth spending a little bit more time in, as you get to enjoy stunning view while soaking your feet in public footbath. You can also order a cup of coffee!

Footbath at Sounzan Station

Unfortunately, time was a little tight for me and I had no choice but to quickly head to the next transport mode that would bring me up into the air. 

HAKONE TIP: One of the key attractions in the loop – Pirate Cruise – would stop operating around 5pm. Therefore, it’s important to plan and manage your time well if you want to complete Hakone Loop in one day! :)

4. In the air: Hakone Ropeway 

I boarded the Hakone Ropeway that brought me into the air. In the short 10-minute ride, I got to enjoy scenic view of the mountain.

But the best view of the ride was towards the end, when the cable passed over a steaming volcano. That’s Owakudani, the first real attraction of the day. 

Ropeway to Owakudani

5. Owakudani: A steaming volcano in Hakone

(2.15pm)

I alighted from the Ropeway and found myself at a totally different landscape. From green mountain views, what surrounded me now was brown and yellowish rocky terrain.

Owakudani Volcano at Hakone

Despite the smelly and rugged landscape, I found myself spending more time that I’d intended to at Owakudani.

A solid one hour stay started with lots of selfies against the volcanic valley.

Tokyo Hakone

It then continued to me buying black eggs (eggs boiled in hot sulfurous water) and shopping in the rather interesting and sizable souvenir shop. 

Things to do in Hakone
Lots of volcano theme items on sale at Owakudani

If you are hungry, there are quite a few eateries for you to refuel at Owakudani.

You can also walk to a nearby shrine and pay your respect to Jizo Bosatsu (deity of children and travellers). I also saw people performing a ritual by pouring water over a Buddha statue just outside the shrine and I followed suit. 

Owakudani Shrine

If you are interested in taking a walk into the volcanic zone, this place served as the entrance to the trail. But you have to make advance reservation (¥500 for the 30-minute trail).

I also visited a small Geo Museum and learnt a bit about Hakone and volcano (¥100 for admission). As you can probably tell by now, I definitely spent too much time here, given that the day would end early here in Hakone. 

So, can you see Mount Fuji at Owakudani? 

You’ll read that Owakudani is one of the places where you can see Mount Fuji in its glory. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it.

Mount Fuji TIP: Brochures would share various places you can catch a sight of Mount Fuji in Hakone. Please don’t place your hope too high. You would need a perfect weather. I spent too much time “chasing” Mount Fuji over 3 days, and left feeling disappointed. 

Owakudani Volcano at Hakone
Viewing deck at Owakudani

6. Downhill Ropeway Ride to Togendai Station

(3.30pm)

Done with Owakudani, I boarded the ropeway and continued my ride westward towards the last stop at Tongendai Station (located next to Lake Ashi).

In contrast to the earlier ride, this ropeway was on a decline and brought us over beautiful cedar woods.

Hakone Ropeway

Once again, Hakone brochure indicated a Mount Fuji viewing spot near Ubako Station, and advised passengers to sit on the right side of the cabin to get a better view of the mountain.

But as you already know by now, I didn’t see Mount Fuji despite deliberately chasing it for 3 days. Sob!

7. Hakone Pirate Cruise: A truly unforgettable experience!

(4pm)

At Togendai Station, I queued for the next Pirate cruise ride that would depart in about 25 minutes, at 4.25pm. This was the second last cruise of the day – the last one would depart at 5pm. 

Yay, we would be on water soon – specifically on Lake Ashi! What a diverse experience here at Hakone, that allowed one to be on land, air and sea in a single day.

TIP:  As Hakone is a popular weekend getaway for the locals, try to visit Hakone during weekdays instead of weekends to avoid long queues at all transport nodes.  

Onboard the Golden Cruise!

The best view I’ve enjoyed in Hakone was onboard the Pirate Cruise!

What to see in Hakone?

It was a truly memorable experience, from marveling at the opulent golden design of the ship to appreciating the intricate interior decor.

Hakone Sightseeing Cruise

Though windy, I chose to stand on the outdoor deck during most part of the 45 minutes cruise to take in the stunning view of Lake Ashi and mountains. From a distance, you can also spot the popular red shrine that seemed to float atop the water. 

Hakone Pirate Cruise

 

At around 4.45pm, I was fortunate enough to witness a beautiful sunset, where the water glistened under the setting sun, setting a nice backdrop to the golden ship. This cruise through Lake Ashi was a key highlight of my 9-day Tokyo trip!

Catch view of Mount Fuji? The cruise ride is said to offer another opportunity for one to view Mount Fuji. Yah lah, I didn’t see the popular mountain in my entire Hakone trip lah! 

Things to do in Hakone

8. Walked to Popular “Floating” Tori Gate (Heiwa no Tori)

(5pm)

The cruise ended at Moto-Hakone Port which is located at the southern end of Lake Ashi.

Here, I brisk-walked for 15 minutes towards the last attraction of the day – a popular Tori Gate known as Heiwa no Tori – that seemed to sit on Lake Ashi. 

Hakone Shrine

This must be the most touristy place in Hakone. Just look at the queue! Yup, join the line if you wanna take a photo with the red gate of peace. LOL! 

Floating Tori Gate in Hakone

I couldn’t be bothered lah and left. :)

HAKONE TIP: There is a shrine nearby. If you have some time, you can consider paying Hakone Shrine a visit (see map). 

9. Return to Hakone-Yumoto Station

(5.20pm)

From the “floating” Tori Gate, I retraced my steps back to Moto-Hakone Port. After confirming with the transport staff, they told me I should take Bus R back to Hakone-Yumoto Station.

Things to do in Hakone
Line of queue for bus departing from Motohakone-ko

When taking a quick toilet break at a nearby 7-11 while waiting for the next bus, I saw another Tori Gate on the main road itself.

It was big and unmissable, though probably less popular than the one on water. No queue here. :)

Things to do in Hakone

 


What I did in Hakone in the evening (after completing Hakone Loop) 

The night ended early in the tranquil town of Hakone (most shops and attractions would be closed), but it did not end early for me.

Here are the things I did after completing the Hakone loop on my first day in Hakone. 

1. “Tabao” Dinner at Hakone-Yumoto Station

Hakone is not exactly a place where you have lots of activities at night. Many restaurants closed by 6pm. And I reckon that’s due to the many Ryokans here that offer full-boarding (i.e. room with dinner). 

You can still find food at night in Hakone, but it’s good to do prior research and mark down those few restaurants. 

As my hotel was quite a walk away from the busy area, I decided to pack “convenient” dinner back to hotel. Not sure why, but the shelves with ready-to-eat food/bento at 7-11 (see map) were almost emptied. 

I had to settle for instant noodle, which I didn’t actually mind because they are tasty! 

TIP: If you encounter the same “empty shelves” situation, there’s a Lawson convenience stall a short walk away from 7-11 (see map).

2. Check in at Tenseien Hotel (Ryokan)

After getting dinner and snacks, I took a 15-minute slow stroll towards Tenseien Hotel, my base for the next 3 days.

Where to stay in Hakone

 

I had to get used to taking off my shoes at the hotel entrance, and walking barefooted in the hotel premises which was fun and memorable. :)

Check-in was quick. The reception staff gave me a bag of towels and directed me to a shelf full of folded Yukatas that I could choose from.  

Things to do in Hakone

My Western Style Room at Tenseien Hotel, Hakone

Here’s my “western-style” room, spacious by Japanese standard.

Hotel Tenseien Hakone

Tenseien Hotel was one of the cheapest Ryokans here, and this entry-level room that I chose didn’t come with a shower. It’s ok, because it’s normal for guests to take their bath at the public onsen. 

TIP: If you are travelling as a couple or family, you would likely have a bigger budget for accommodation. Do check out other Ryokans in Hakone which may offer great dinners or even in-room onsen.

My advice is to make sure you choose one with a good public bath, such as one with an outdoor onsen. 

From my room, I could hear waterfall (there are three waterfalls within the hotel premises) and my room faced the mountains.

It was really relaxing and I was very happy with my last minute decision to switch from cheap business hotel to a ryokan, even though I was travelling solo.

3. Enjoy dinner at comfort of spacious hotel room

(8pm)

I enjoyed my delicious bowl of instant noodle dinner in the room. The black eggs that I got from Owakudani came in handy to provide me with some protein. 

Hotel in Hakone
Enjoying a delicious bowl of instant noodle by the window (facing mountain)

4. Wear Yukata and pretend to be a Japanese!

After dinner, I tried on the Yukata and couldn’t help snapping some selfies! That’s another Japanese moment for me. 

I was soon ready to venture out of the room in my Yukata and socks. 

Ryokan in Hakone

5. Soak in beautiful outdoor onsen (hot spring)

The beautiful rooftop onsen was located on the 6th floor of Tenseien Hotel, comprising at least 6 indoor and open-air pools, as well as a sauna and steam bath.  

Hakone Hot Spring
About to enter the onsen (see red curtain)

The outdoor onsen faced the mountain, which was great for nature lovers. 

For obvious reasons, I couldn’t snap a photo of the onsen, but found these photos online. Apparently, you can use the onsen at Hotel Tenseien as a day guest even if you are not staying overnight. 

6. Explore Ryokan’s Facilities 

Done soaking the onsen, I then explored the facilities within the big “Japanese resort”.

Recommended hotel in Hakone
Relaxing room

At Tenseien Hotel, you can enjoy a massage or facial, rest at “relax room” or entertain yourself in the game room.

I also walked out to have a glimpse of one of the waterfalls within the hotel premises. 

Recommended hotel in Hakone
Clockwise: Massage, game room, waterfall

And that’s it for my first day in Hakone. There were still so many places I’d yet to explore in Hakone.

Don’t worry, I have two more days here. Check out what I did in Hakone on the second day

Essential Info (Day 4 PM):

Map Locations of Hakone Itinerary (Tokyo Day 4 PM)

Hakone-Yumoto Station > Gora Station > Sounzan Station > OwakudaniTogendai Station > Hakone Pirate Cruise > Moto-Hakone Port > Floating Tori Gate > Hakone-Yumoto Station > 7-11 > Lawson > Tenseien Hotel

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