A Ling Guide: 5+ Amazing Things To Do In Hakone

Small dwelling next to tress and water - Things to do in Hakone Ling app

Are you visiting Japan for a calming getaway far from the bustling city centers and looking for things to do in Hakone? You’ve landed on the right post! In this Hakone guide, you’ll discover the activities that are unique to this city that, although off the beaten path, is full of exciting adventures at every corner.

Maybe inspecting the relics in a museum of art interests you? Or loosening up in your own private onsen or hot spring? Or getting to see mythical, giant Torii gates up close? I’ll break down a few fun things to do in Hakone.

Before we get into specifics on where you should go, let’s talk about what you should do… and that’s learning a bit of Japanese! Get started with a few basic phrases to get you on your way because there’s a chance you might not run into any English speakers. More on this later in the article!

Things To Do In Hakone

Let’s get cracking straight to what you are supposed to do in Hakone in order to have a fulfilling visit!

1. Marvel At Art At The Hakone Open Air Museum

An outdoor museum? It’s true! The Hakone Open Air Museum is nestled in nature with sprawling sculptures decorating the lush green grounds against a stunning mountainous backdrop. The Museum of Art has tons of exhibits both indoors and outdoors designed to tickle your fancy through Japanese, East Asian art, and international artists alike. An example of the latter being celebrated is how the Hakone Open Air Museum has an entire two-story exhibit dedicated to the paintings, sculptures, and ceramic works crafted by Pablo Picasso.

Outside is where the sculptures call home, including a large piece dubbed the Symphonic Sculpture which is more of a tower reminiscent of something straight out of the Rapunzel fairy tale. Here, visitors can scale through a spiral staircase enclosed by walls of colorful stained-glass. When you get to the top, a beautiful panorama awaits you from the viewing platform that allows you to take in the surrounding valleys and mountains.

Nature and art – the best of both worlds combined into one destination that would be enough to get you to shout omoshiroi (面白い) when you visit the Hakone Open Air Museum.

Shrine on water, Torii gates, Hakone Japan

2. Pay Respects At The Hakone Shrine

Hakone’s most famous Shinto shrine stands at attention, seemingly guarding the looming Mount Hakone just behind it and along the shores of Lake Ashinoko (called Lake Ashi for short.) Though obscured by the dense forest around the area, there’s no mistake the Hakone Shrine lies just beyond the famous (and huge!) red Torii gates, with two of them planted over the main street of Moto-Hakone and another one swimming in the waters of Lake Ashi.

There’s a gorgeous view expecting you that will make you say Sugoi! (すごい) if you start from the torii gate in beautiful Lake Ashi and head down a path through the forest that leads you to a set of steps lined by glimmering lanterns. When you reach the end you’ll be treated to the main building of the shrine, standing proudly amongst the vibrant trees.

Another shrine just as beautiful as the Hakone Shrine called Mototsumiya (whose name means “original shrine” in Japanese) stands at the tip-top of one of Mount Hakone’s peaks. You can take the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway – a cable car system not to be confused with the Hakone Ropeway which we’ll discuss next – from Hakone or via the hiking trails.

3. Climb On The Hakone Ropeway

The Hakone Ropeway (箱根ロ-プウエイ) is a popular way for visiting Hakone. The ropeway itself is a gondola system that soars over trees, connecting the Sounzan Station with Togendai Station, and makes stops at Owakudani and Ubako stations along the way. If you’ve ever seen a ski lift, think of it like that, except in the mountains and the pods are enclosed. The Hakone Ropeway is fully covered by the Hakone Free Pass – a discount pass meant for exploring Hakone that offers unlimited use of Odakyu public transportation (buses, trains, boats, ropeways, etc.)

Take advantage of that Hakone Free Pass and use it to embark on a sightseeing adventure via the Hakone Ropeway, catching a ride above the trees to take a look at the sulfuric, natural hot springs of the Owakudani Valley bubbling below. The ropeway’s gondolas depart every minute and accommodate around ten people each, so file in and get ready for a thirty-minute journey.

Railway with train - Things to do in Hakone Ling app

4. All Aboard The Hakone Tozan Railway

Take a ride on Japan’s oldest mountain railway, the Hakone Tozan Railway (箱根登山電車), and you’ll zoom through a narrow, densely wooded valley passing over a series of bridges and tunnels that add to the spectacular natural scenery. This small red train makes stops at stations along the way.

Here’s a special travel tip: if you ever visit Hakone between June and July, I especially recommend taking the 35-minute ride stretching from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora. A sprawling bloom of hydrangeas (ajisai in Japanese) adorn the tracks and glow beams of purple, pink and blue under that golden hour sun. The Hakone Tozan Railway might not be the first place you’d think of to visit, but it sure is a hidden gem to discover great sights!

5. Soak In The Hakone Hot Springs

A trip to Japan is never complete without taking a dip in hot springs, and after trekking through the many floors of a museum of art, around the Hakone Shrine, and past Mount Fuji, you deserve a moment of peace! Whether you choose to slip into natural hot spring baths or relax in a private onsen, there’s no wrong choice to make here. 

Hakone is known for its hot springs all around Japan! These days, there are around a dozen springs that feed into the many bath houses and ryokan (public bath houses) in the Hakone region. These ryokan are Japanese-style inns where daytime visitors can take a brief rest and bathe in the natural, high-quality hot spring powers. If you find yourself never wanting to leave, though, you can stay the night and enjoy an extra day sipping green tea and taking advantage of those healing waters.

Hakone’s most famous hot spring, Yumoto, is found at the entrance to the Hakone area near Odawara. It’s almost as if the city is welcoming you into its own hot springs to alleviate your tiresome travel woes! All along Lake Ashi are plentiful hot spring spots, so don’t fret if you pass one up, because there’s a good chance you’ll find another option waiting for you.

6. Feel The Zen At The Hakone Botanical Garden

In the highlands of Fuji Hakone Izu National Park is the delightful botanical Japanese garden of wetlands. Founded in 1976, this park boasts over 1700 varieties of marsh and alpine plants exclusively native to Japan. 

You can stroll through different types of marshland by walking along numerous boardwalk paths perched atop the murky waters – but don’t confuse these for a hot spring because you might not enjoy goopy lily pads and tadpoles all over you! You’ll find informational signage written in both Japanese and English so you can learn lots about the plants that populate the wetlands.

Helpful Travel Phrases In Japanese

Now that your itinerary is all packed with fun things to do in Hakone, why not learn some Japanese vocabulary and phrases that can help make your trip even better? Below is a chart that will help you mix and match questions and statements with the names of places you’ve just learned about. Use this as a cheat sheet if you’re roaming around Hakone and need a helping hand.


Where is…?はどこですか。[…] wa doko desu ka.
Can you help me?ちょっといいですか。Chotto ee deska?
How do I get to…?にはどうやって行けばいいですか。Asakusa ni wa dō yatte ikeba ii desu ka.
Do you know…?しっていますか?Sih teh ee mass-kah […]?
Where can I buy souvenirs?どこでお土産を買えますか?Doko de o miyage o kae masu ka?
Excuse me.すみませんSumimasen.

Places In Hakone

Hakone Tozan Ropeway箱根登山電車Hakone Tozan Densha
Hakone Shrine箱根神社Hakone Jinja
Lake Ashi芦ノ湖Ashinoko
Hakone Ropeway箱根ロ-プウエイHah-cone-ay Rowpoo-way
Hakone Open Air Museum箱根彫刻の森美術館Hakone Chōkoku No Mori Bijutsukan
Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands箱根湿生花園Hakone Shisseikaen
Mt. Fuji富士山Fujisan
Hotel room/Guest roomsホテルの部屋Hoteru no heya
Souvenir shopsお土産店Odosan-ten

Learn Japanese With Ling

Since you’ve reached the end of this post, now you know what to do in Hakone should you find yourself roaming around there. From a soothing hot spring visit to seeing the famed Hakone Shrine to stopping to smell the flowers in a Japanese garden, there are so many things to do in Hakone!

If you want to know more Japanese than what would just get you asking about that Hakone Free Pass through Sounzan Station to see views of flowers and Mt. Fuji from above, then you should delve into more Japanese learning with Ling! The Ling app offers great and easy-to-use Japanese lessons that can be accomplished as quickly as 10 minutes a day. Check it out now and see what all the fun is about!

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