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Hakone – The History and Nature of Lake Ashi

In the heart of Hakone lies Lake Ashi, brimming with vast, beautiful landscapes and stunning views of the icon of Japan, Mount Fuji. And, while it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of the place, it would be a great shame to miss out on the local culture, the temples and museums, and of course, basking in the warming hug of natural onsen. Located only an hour from Tokyo, this is the ideal excursion, and we have selected some of the best activities to share with you.

Lake Ashi from Komagatake.

A Spectacular View of Mount Fuji from the Komagatake Ropeway

From Hakone-en on the east bank of Lake Ashi, where the Prince Hakone Lake Ashinoko is located, you can reach an 1327-meter observatory in just 7 minutes via the Komagatake cable car. Follow this path at the top and you can find Hakone Mototsumiya Shrine on the top of Komagatake Mountain.

There are two viewing spots: one to the south for a view of Sagami Bay and one to the north for a view of Mount Fuji. If there are no clouds, we can even see Tokyo Skytree from here! Regardless of the weather, there is always a breathtaking view of Lake Ashi below.

Although I could only glimpse the summit of Mount Fuji for a few seconds as it peeked through the clouds momentarily, the 360-degree view of the surrounding area is well worth a visit in all weathers!

  • Komagatake Ropeway.
  • The summit of Mount Fuji, a bit!
  • Hakone Motosumiya Shrine at the summit of Mount Komagadake.

General Information :

  • Round trip : ¥1,300 (one way for ¥800). Hakone Free Pass holders can get a discount.
  • Business hour : 09:00 – 16:30 (The last ropeway from the top is at 16:50).
  • Open everyday.

Kuzuryu Shrine and Its Torii in the Lake

Just a scenic 20 minute stroll along the wooden path from Hakone-en Station along the shores of Lake Ashi will take you to the small Kuzuryu Shrine, often referred to as the Hakone Shrine. Kuzuryu literally means “nine-headed dragon”, a malevolent legendary creature who inhabited the lake and who is now the deity that protects it.

The shrine also has a red torii, the traditional entrance to Shinto sites, immersed in water. This scene is a photographers paradise which can be easily photographed from the dock next to the main lodge. On Valentine’s Day, the sanctuary is frequented by many young women who are waiting for love!

  • The torii of Kuzuryu Shrine.
  • Kuzuryu Shrine.
  • A passway to Kuzuryu Shrine.

Lake Cruise on Lake Ashi

In front of the Komagatake ropeway, take the Seibu company boat to Hakone-en pier. In addition to being both convenient and quick transportation to the center of Moto-Hakone or Hakone-Sekisho, it is also a very pleasant and scenic cruise and provides a good opportunity to admire the landscape of Lake Ashi. Be sure not to miss the vermillion torii of Hakone-ji Temple that’s immersed in the lake on your way! All the practical information is available here.

  • Another torii for Hakone-ji Temple.
  • Take a lake cruise on Lake Ashi.
  • A Seibu cruise boat.

General Information :

  • One way ticket : ¥360 to ¥1,000 depending on the destination.
  • Business hours : check the schedule for up to date information.
  • Regular departures, approximately every 30 minutes.

Tea Ceremony Wearing Kimono

Sekisho Tabimonogatari Kan offers restaurants and souvenir shops right next to Hakone-Sekisho-ato Pier. On the first floor, you can rent a kimono for the day and take part in a tea ceremony. First of all, you will have to choose from the many kimonos available. I chose a floral pattern on a pink background. Then you can select the obi (the belt) to match the kimono. Being dressed in vast amounts of layers by a delicate dresser is an experience in itself, which is finalised by the implementation of the obi a good 20 minutes later. Once complete, you can walk the halls in kimono (for up to 16pm if you really want) and enjoy a typical Japanese photo shoot!

I could also partake in another traditional experience: the tea ceremony. Normally, we prepare tea before tasting it, but here it is up to you to prepare matcha, Japanese green tea, following the instructions in English. Everything is well explained, from the preparation of the tea to the gestures of the tasting. The tea is even accompanied by small pastries.

  • Try a matcha ceremony wearing kimono.
  • Talk a walk wearing kimono.
  • Obi.

General Information :

  • Price : kimono + tea ceremony : from ¥3,500 (¥3,000 for only kimono experience)
  • Business hour : 10:00 – 16:00

Japanese Garden in Narukawa Museum

In Moto-Hakone, the Narukawa museum collects aroud 400 contemporary works of traditional Japanese painting using natural pigments (minerals, mother-of-pearl, Indian ink, gold leaf), called nihonga.

Perched on a hill overlooking Lake Ashi, the museum also offers a magnificent view of the surrounding area, including Mount Fuji. You have to admire this panoramic view comfortably from the panoramic lounge or the museum café. You can also go down to the garden to contemplate the sculptures and soak in the natural beauty! To access the museum, you can choose between taking an escalator or following a path (which is a little steep). In autumn however, we advise you to take the path to admire the autumn leaves (koyo) and particularly the Japanese maples.

Narukawa museum.
A view from the lounge.

General Information :

  • Price : ¥1,300 (¥900 for students and children)
  • Business hour : 09:00 – 17:00, open every day

How to Get to Hakone ?

Take the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station for twenty minutes to Odawara Station (covered by the JR Pass). From Odawara Station, take the Izu-Hakone bus to Moto-Hakone (a 55-minute ride).

Otherwise, from Hakone-Yumoto Station, take the Izu-Hakone bus to the same Moto-Hakone stop (a 30-minute ride).

You can also take the Prince Express bus to the Moto-Hakone stop, which goes directly from Shinagawa Station in Tokyo (a 2-hour trip in total for ¥2,200 – one round trip per day).

*This article was written in January 2018.

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