Guide to getting from Tokyo to Hakone, and choosing a hotel in this scenic onsen town (Tokyo Day 4)

It’s Day 4 in Tokyo. Today, I would be moving my “barang barang” (belongings) to Hakone, a hot spring town located about two hours’ train ride from Tokyo. 

Check out this post if you like to include a mountainous destination not too far from the very busy and populous Tokyo.

I highly recommend Hakone as a destination because it offers a tourist-friendly route or loop, that presents diverse experience to make your Tokyo trip even more memorable. 

Tokyo Hakone
One of the attractions in Hakone – a volcano with a black egg

Embark on an interesting Loop Tour around Hakone

In Hakone, you’ll get to travel via land, water and air all in a single day. Other than an active volcano, you’ll can also take in the beautiful view of Lake Ashi and savour sweet afternoon snacks at an ancient teahouse.

And don’t forget the daily onsen you get to enjoy. Dipping your tired body in hot spring is a must-try experience, especially so in Hakone as this town is known as one of the best onsen (hot spring) resorts in Japan. 

Without any further ado, check out my experience getting from Tokyo to Hakone, and completing an anti-clockwise Hakone Loop on Day 4 of my Tokyo solo trip.

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How to get from Tokyo to Hakone?

Today, I’ll be checking out of my hotel in Akihabara, Tokyo and making my way to Hakone which I would base myself in for the next 3 days. 

One important thing to do is to get a Hakone Free Pass, which offers you the easiest and most cost-effective way to travel to and within Hakone.

You can either get a 2 or 3 days pass. I highly recommend a 3-day pass as this would give you more time to enjoy the onsen town leisurely (and can also buffer you from bad weather).

>> RELATED: See what I did in Hakone on a rainy day

In fact, I would have gotten a 4-day pass if there’s one available. Nope, there isn’t in case you wonder.

Hakone Free Pass
My 3-day Hakone Free Pass

Start your journey from Shinjuku Station (Odakyu Line)

To get to Hakone from Tokyo, you will use your Hakone Free Pass to:

  1. Travel from Shinjuku station (in Tokyo) to Odawara station (a station near Hakone)
  2. Then transfer at Odawara Station to get to Hakone-Yumoto station (15 minutes train ride)

To skip the need for transfer (#2) especially with heavy luggage and all, I highly recommend that you top up about ¥1,200 (as at time of writing) for the Romance Car. You can do so at Odakyu Service Centre at Shinjuku Station or via its official website. 

Odakyu Service Centre
Top up for Romance Car at Odakyu Service Centre at Shinjuku Station

Why top up for Romance Car?

I’m speaking from personal experience because I’ve tried both the default local train and Romance Car.

Romance Car not only brings you directly to Hakone-Yumoto station, you also get a comfortable seat with table attached. There’s also ample space to stow your luggage.

You can munch some snacks, surf the net or even take a nap. 

Tokyo to Hakone (Romance Car)
Comfortable seat on Romance Car to Hakone

While the view on Romance Car isn’t fabulous, at least you’ll be facing the direction the train is travelling towards instead of sitting in a row (and facing the opposite row) in a local train.

Hakone Romance Car
View from Romance Car (Hakone Free Pass)

For the sake of experiment, I took the default (local train) on my return trip and deeply regretted it. Other than having to do a transfer at Odawara, I also had to hold on to my luggage to prevent it from rolling across the train.

This meant that I couldn’t relax or afford to doze off for the entire 2 hours journey. It was pretty torturous waiting for the destination to be reached. Did I mention the commute time was longer?

So, I think it’s totally worthwhile to top up for the Romance Car.

HAKONE TIP: Get the Romance Car schedule ahead, either from Odakyu Service Centre or its official website to can cut down train-waiting time. 


Now, check out my interesting ride on a Romance Car!

(9.20am)

After boarding the Romance Car, I was delighted to find the seat next to me unoccupied, and happily placed my luggage next to me.

Hakone Romance Car
Happy for a short while as I thought I had the whole row to myself

Alas, after just one station, a lady came and took the seat. I had to quickly roll my luggage to the back of the cabin.

The blessing in disguise was how I got to make a local friend – we chatted throughout the 1.5 hours journey covering topics from the difference between Mochi and Daifuku, to beauty and food recommendations. 

Getting from Tokyo to Hakone
Chatted with a Japanese local throughout the 1.5 hours journey to Hakone

This friendly lady used to stay in Canada decades ago and was conversant in English. Now, here are some of the tips she shared (and I’m sharing with my dear readers here):

  • Mochi vs Daifuku: Mochi has no inner filling – it’s rice and water. Daifuku on the other hand is a mochi stuffed with sweet filling.
  • Beauty Recommendations: She recommended Decorte Serum and Yaman Needle Killer Serum
  • Things to try in Hakone: Other than the usual attractions, she recommended a Japanese Fishcake museum near Odawara (see location). 
  • Arigato vs Arigato Gozaimasu vs Arigato Gozaimashita: “Arigato” is casual, like “Thanks!”. “Arigato Gozaimasu” is more formal, like “Thank you!”. “Arigato Gozaimashita” is past tense, when action you are thanking is completed. 

Did you know the above already? If not, put a “Arigato” in the comments field to thank my Japanese friend (and me for sharing). :)

> RELATED: Some said Decorte Liposome Serum is a must-try elixir. Is it true?

Japan beauty recommendations
Japanese beauty products recommended by local

 


Yay! I’ve reached Hakone-Yumoto Station!

(11am)

I took 1 hour 40 minutes to reach Hakone-Yumoto Station. It was an easy journey as I was busy chatting with my new-found friend.

But even if there was no one to chat with, I would have enjoyed the ride given the personal space that I had. I could do a lot of things during the ride to kill time. 

Hakone-Yumoto Station
Arrived at Hakone-Yumoto Station

Getting to Hotel in Hakone (and depositing luggage)

Now, what I needed to do next was to get to my hotel in Hakone. I’d intentionally chosen a hotel that was within walking distance from Hakone-Yumoto station.

But it was a 15 minutes’ walk – not exactly a walk in the park as I had to drag my luggage upslope over uneven road surface. The consolation was the great river view along the way. 

Hakone river view
Strolling along river to get to my hotel in Hakone

TIP: If you have limited time in Hakone, you may consider depositing your luggage at Odawara or Hakone-Yumoto station so that you can start your tour immediately – luggage-free. They will send the luggage to your hotel. More details and pricing available here

Hakone luggage delivery service
People queuing to deposit their luggage (for delivery to their hotel in Hakone)

I deposited my luggage at Tenseien hotel and relaxed a bit, used the toilet and all. 

Hotel Tenseien in Hakone
Me at Hotel Tenseien in Hakone

By the time I was back at Hakone-Yumoto Station, one hour had passed. That’s okay as I had a luxury of three days in Hakone. :)

 


How to choose a hotel in Hakone? 

Based on research and my experience staying at Hakone, I’d derived the following tips in looking for a hotel in Hakone. :)

In terms of where to stay, you may want to either stay near:

  1. Hakone-Yumoto station for easy access to the train station, Tozan Railway and amenities (and be near the river)
  2. Lake Ashi for beautiful lake view
  3. Gora Station for higher-altitude stay with amenities and proximity to tourist attractions

As a solo traveler with a large luggage to manage, I chose option #1, that is to stay near Hakone-Yumoto station. Another reason for staying here is because I love the soothing sound of river, which my hotel in Hakone offered.

Where to stay in Hakone
River flowing just outside my hotel in Hakone

Which type of Hotel to Stay in: Resorts, Business or Ryokans

In terms of the type of hotels to stay in, I had initially booked myself a business hotel near the train station as it was affordable for solo-travellers as compared to a Ryokan. 

TIP: Ryokan is a Japanese inn and normally comes with Japanese structure and equipment.

Ryokan is quite expensive and many covers one or two meals daily (e.g. breakfast and dinner). You are basically looking at paying at least 3 times the price if you choose a Ryokan over a business hotel.

Furthermore, it would be more awkward for a solo traveler to stay in a Ryokan than at a business hotel, because the former seemed to be popular among couple and family.

Why I chose a Ryokan as a solo traveler

I changed to a Ryokan hotel at the last minute and didn’t regret my decision. Over the next 3 days, you would see me enjoying a very authentic Japanese experience at Hakone.

Ryokan in Hakone
You’ll wear Yukata within the hotel premises

The Ryokan certainly played a major role by offering the following experiences:

  • Walking bare-footed or with socks within hotel premises 
  • Wearing Yukata in the hotel premises, e.g. dining areas, lobby or garden
  • Sleeping in traditional room (on tatami and futon)
  • Dipping in high-quality onsens (hot spring) everyday (this is my hotel’s open-air onsen)
  • Enjoying a meal in the hotel (or in your room)
  • Guests are out of their room more often than when staying in a hotel (e.g. to use the amenities or onsen)

Hope the hotel info was useful in helping you choose an accommodation in Hakone.

Let’s resume our tour in Hakone. I was back at Hakone-Yumoto station after depositing my luggage at the hotel.

 


First Lunch at Hakone before beginning the Tourist Loop

(12.15pm)

My prior food research brought me to BOOTEA, a restaurant that offered pork dishes. I ordered a Pork Chop with Rice at ¥1,650 and the food came quickly.

Hakone Food Recommendation
Rice topped with pork slices

See the generous slices of pork? That made a hearty lunch and would supply me with enough energy to begin an interesting tour around this scenic town.  

Hakone recommended food
Generous slices of well-marinated pork

This concludes Part 1 of Day 4 post. Next, watch me as I commence on the tourist-friendly Hakone loop.

Essential Info (Day 4 AM):

Map Locations of Tokyo Itinerary (Day 4 AM)

Keikyu Ex Inn Akihabara Hotel > Akihabara Station > Shinjuku Station > Romance Car via Hakone 3-day Pass > Hakone-Yumoto Station > Tenseien Hotel > BOOTEA Restaurant

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