South of Mount Fuji and 90km west of Tokyo is the lakeland, mountain and onsen area known as HAKONE (箱根), always busy at weekends and holidays. Most visitors follow the well-established day-trip route, which is good fun and combines rides on several trains or buses, a funicular, a cable car and a sightseeing ship, styled as a seventeenth-century galleon, across the lake, Ashino-ko. However, the scenery is so pretty, and there’s so much else to do – such as seeing great art at the Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Pola Museum of Art, not to mention soaking in numerous onsen – that an overnight stay is encouraged. Weather permitting, you’ll also get great views of nearby Mount Fuji.
The traditional day-trip itinerary, described below, runs anticlockwise from Hakone-Yumoto, gateway to the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, then over Mount Sōun, across the length of Ashino-ko to Moto-Hakone, and back to the start. Approaching Hakone from the west, you can follow a similar route clockwise from Hakone-machi, on the southern shore of Ashino-ko, to Hakone-Yumoto.