If you’re visiting Hakone for 2 days and considering a Hakone free pass, then I’m here to tell you to go ahead. You can visit the Mt. Fuji area and all the surrounding areas that will give you solid guidelines on how to see all of the main sights in the area, using different modes of transportation, from buses to trains to cable cars and ropeways. Getting a Hakone free pass will also allow you to use a “romance car”, a luxury tourist train back to Tokyo on options.

Hakone is a wonderful mountainous town in Japan, not too far from Tokyo, where there are plenty of hot springs (also known as onsen). Besides plenty of options to rest and relax, there are also plenty of shrines, a lovely cruise to experience, and of course, eight different ways to see the neighbouring towns.

What is a Hakone free pass?

Routes you can take with the Hakone Free Pass Image credit: Odakyu
Routes you can take with the Hakone Free Pass
Image credit: Odakyu

A Hakone free pass is a pass that allows you unlimited use of various transportation lines in the area, rather than stopping by at every mode of transportation just to pay a free. It also gives you discounts on various sightseeing attractions, including museums, hot springs, restaurants and more. You can choose to purchase your pass from Odawara Station on your way from Osaka or Tokyo. Alternatively, you could also purchase it from Shinjuku station. You have the option to include round-trip tickets using the Odakyu “romance car” train service – a luxury train service, or just go without. A Hakone free pass is available for 1 or 2 days, depending on how long you have. The price for a 2-day Hakone free pass is 5,140 yen (US$46) for adults and 1,500 yen (US$13) for children, including a round-trip to Shinjuku, Tokyo. If you have a JR Pass and are coming from Osaka to Odawara (like we did), you can pay lesser by just getting a pass for the area and then just a return ticket to your next destination.

Hakone 2-day itinerary

Day 1

Odawara

When you first reach Odawara, before you purchase your pass, you can make use of the “hands-free” service by delivering your bags to your hotel at a nominal rate (if you show your pass, there is a discounted rate). This enables you to check out Odawara Castle.

Odawara Castle

As soon as you get off the Odawara station, make sure you walk on to the Odawara castle, constructed during the Edo period. This wonderful castle has a lot of artefacts that you can admire. Take some time strolling around the park as well.

Gora

Hot Springs / Onsen

The lovely hotel we stayed at
Me in my yukata (summer kimono)
Me in my yukata (summer kimono)

Hop on the Odakyu line & transfer to the Hakone Tozan train that takes you to Gora. The good part about this train is that it will describe every stop and what you need to see when you get there. Gora is one of the best places to stay in a ryokan, complete with breakfast, dinner & hot springs. A common etiquette in the public hot springs is to go shower first before dipping yourself into the hot spring. You need to be nude, there is no other way. No swimsuits are allowed. These hot springs are truly hot, often above 50 degrees, so be warned! Half an hour in the hot springs will give you the most benefits. Tattoos are frowned upon at public baths, so it’s better if you get a room with a private onsen.

Accommodation

We stayed in an old ryokan called Gora Kansuiro, and we had our very own private bath! They also provide you with robes & slippers. If you’re a bit tall (like F.C.), you will find yourself bumping your heads on the low ceilings, so be careful! The hotel provides an extensive breakfast & dinner, kaiseki style. You can opt for either an English or Japanese breakfast.

Our stunning ryokan
Our stunning ryokan

Gora Park

Hakone

The lovely Gora Park is located quite close to Gora Kansuiro. It’s a lovely nature trail that you can relax and explore on your own pace.

Owakudani

Try the black eggs at Owakudani
Try the black eggs at Owakudani

To get to Owakudani, first take the cable car from Gora to the Sounzan station. From there, hop on to the scenic Hakone ropeway to the next stop at Owakudani station. Enjoy the sights from above and try to spot Mt Fuji! From Owakudani, you can go and see the lovely hot springs around the area and have the opportunity to try “black eggs” – eggs prepared in volcanic steam that are said to have medicinal properties. I kind of stayed far away from this as I dislike boiled eggs, but it’s worth trying if you don’t mind them! There are also restaurants here, where you can enjoy a spot of lunch with scenic views.

Togendai-Ko

The lovely cruiseliner in the background

From Owakudani, head to Togendai-Ko, where you can go for a Hakone sightseeing cruise. Enjoy the beautiful sights on Lake Ashi and admire the greenery and tranquillity that surrounds you with Mt Fuji in the backdrop. Get off at Hakone Machi-Ko.

Hakone Machi-ko

Stop by for a bit of coffee and a pastry at Bakery & Table Hakone, which has delicious food as soon as you get off the boat. Then, I encourage you to look at the beautiful shrines in the area, the most notable being the Hakone shrine. You can then head back to your hotel via the various scenic routes all over again, or just take a Hakone Tozan bus back to your hotel. On the way, make sure you check out the Hakone Open Air Musseum for some of the most interesting art exhibits. There are also several other shrines & museums you can check out, but the open air museum is a must-see.

Day 2

Lake Kawaguchi & Mt Fuji

Lake Kawaguchi is a great place to view Mt. Fuji uninhibited. If you took your Hakone free pass with an extension to Mt Fuji, you can take the Kano-Shigetsu Metsuri bus to Jurigi, where you can stay in a hill-station style resort. You could also try out the Yeti ski resort. Alternatively, you could get off at Gotemba station, do a bit of shopping and then take the Fujikyu bus to Kawaguchiko station, where you can take a cruise. On the way, you can also have the option of stopping by Lake Yakanaka to view Oshino-hakkai (Eight Springs of Mount Fuji). Thrill seekers can also stop by Fujikyu Highland to try some adrenalin raising rides!

I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to visit Hakone, it truly is a wonderful and special place. I hope you enjoyed this series on Japan as much as I did!

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