Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and it is less than 100 kilometers away from Tokyo. Famous for hot springs, outdoor activities, natural beauty, and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji, Hakone is one of the most popular destinations among Japanese and international tourists looking for a break from Tokyo. There are a number of spots of interest including the Owakudani valley, Lake Ashi, Sengokuhara Pampas, Moto-Hakone, and the lane of cedar trees along Kyu-Kaido Street (Hakone Checkpoint).
Various methods of transportation, such as the mountain railway, cable car, ropeway, and a cruising boat, are available to bring you to these spots. The best time of the year for splendid views of Mt. Fuji are the winter months of December and January.
In addition, Hakone is also home to various museums. The Hakone Open-Air Museum, the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings, the Pola Museum of Art featuring Western paintings, and the Venetian Glass Museum are only a few.
Lake Ashi (or Ashinoko) was formed in the caldera of Mount Hakone after the volcano’s last eruption 3000 years ago. Today, the lake with Mount Fuji in the background became the symbol of Hakone. The best views of the lake in combination with Mt. Fuji can be enjoyed from Moto-Hakone, from the Hakone Detached Palace Garden and from the sightseeing boats cruising the lake.
Note, however, that clouds and foggy conditions often block the view of Mt. Fuji, and you have to consider yourself lucky if you get a clear view of the mountain. Visibility tends to be better during the colder seasons of the year compared to summer and in the early morning and late evening hours.
Two companies, Hakone Sightseeing Boats, and Izuhakone Sightseeing Boats operate boats between Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi at the lake’s southern shores and Togendai and Kojiri at the lake’s northern end. A cruise from one end of the lake to the other takes roughly 30 minutes and costs 970 yen. The Hakone Free Pass is valid on the pirate ship-shaped Hakone Sightseeing Boats but not on boats operated by Izuhakone.