Hakone Open Air Museum
While we were in Tokyo we decided to take a day trip to Hakone that is one of the closest and most popular day trip destinations from Tokyo. The beautiful area of Hakone has everything… hot-springs, mountains, lakes and beautiful views of Mount Fuji. We left early so we could see everything in the Hakone area.
Getting there was half the fun. Since we had a Japan Rail Pass we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Odawara that took a little over an hour. In Odawara we bought Hakone Free passes that allowed travel throughout Hakone on private railways, cable cars, ropeways, buses and boats. It’s a pretty inclusive ticket. It’s great fun to make the circuit around Hakone.
Starting at the Hakone Yumoto Station we took the charming two car electric train that goes through forests and over streams on the way to the first stop, Gora. It only took 45 minutes and was super scenic. There were beautiful hot-springs along the way but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to stop. Maybe next time.
It’s worth a long stop at the Hakone Open Air Museum which is possibly Hakone’s number one attraction. It’s very interesting, with beautiful 20th century sculpture shown in gardens and meadows. There are over 400 sculptures on view from artists such as Picasso, de Kooning and Henry Moore. There’s also a Picasso Pavilion showing his art ranging from pastels to ceramics. It’s one of the worlds largest collections. The picture Gallery nearby has paintings by Miró, Renoir, Kandinsky and many more. Fantastic place to see.
We then took the Cable car to Sounzan which has the Hakone Museum of art that shows pottery and ceramics from 4000 BCE to the Edo period. Again, very interesting. We stopped for tea and a snack at a teahouse there that is in a moss garden that is quite beautiful.
With our Hakone Free Pass in hand we next got on the ropeway gondola which provides a scenic half-hour trip over the mountain to Togendai that lies next to Lake Ashi. Breathtaking views. The ropeway is the best route to Togendai for sightseeing, but if you want to get there quickly instead, make sure to take the bus. Not half as picturesque though.The circuit then continues with a boat ride across the lake to the town of Hakone-machi. The boats are pretty interesting as they’re Disney-like replicas of pirate ships. It’s pretty weird to be sailing in a pirate ship in the middle of Japan but the views are incredible. It’s really quite fun.
At Hakone-machi there were plenty of buses ready to go back to Odawara and the train to Tokyo. It's easy. All in all, Hakone was a wonderful day trip from Tokyo with lots to see and do. All the scenery, The Hakone Open Air Museum and the transportation itself makes Hakone an unforgettable destination. Highly recommended!