Hakone is a stop of many itineraries while visiting Japan. The mountains, nature,museums, and hot springs of the area draw people from around Japan. For any trip to Japan there never seems to be enough time to do everything. Hakone also has many things fo you to do and explore. Here is some information on whether a day trip or overnight trip to Hakone is good for you.
Hakone is less than two hours from Tokyo. You should take the Odakyu Romance Car from Shinjuku Station of the JR Tokaido Line and transfer at Odawara Station. Either trip will take less than two hours. There is a lot to see so get started early if you are planning to make a day trip to Hakone. A day trip from Tokyo to Hakone should start about 8:30am and get you back to Tokyo around 6:30pm.
The “Hakone Loop” is a suggested itinerary that will let you see the most popular attractions in the Hakone area. Make sure you get a Hakone Freepass to make the transportation by bus, train, boat, and ropeway cheaper and more efficient. The Hakone loop can be enjoyed in either a clockwise or counter clockwise route. Going counter clockwise will be less crowded, but allow you to see all the same sites.
With just a day, the highlights that can easily be seen together are the Hakone Shrine, Lake Ashi, steaming vents of Owakudani, and the towns of Moto-Hakone, Yumoto, and Gora. If you manage your time correctly you might be able to fit in a short hike the Chisuji Waterfalls or one of the many museums in Hakone.
An Overnight Hakone Stay
Hakone is best experienced ovenight because it gives you a chance to see more, but also lets you stay in one of the many people accommodation in the area. Hakone has refined the art of Japanese hospitality, omotenashi, over the centuries. People have travelled between Tokyo and Kyoto for hundreds of years and many stayed in the Hakone area. You can enjoy the area more with a stay at a traditional ryokan, luxury resort, or western hotel.
Staying in Hakone allows you to breakup your exploration of the area into two days. Choosing an area to stay can also influence how you explore the area. Gora is centally located, Yumoto is close to transportation, Miyanoshita has a historic vibe, Sengokuhara gives you easy access to Mt. Fuji, and Moto-Hakone lets you enjoy the peaceful lakeside area.
The western Kanagawa area also has some amazing sites to vist that an be easily reached from Hakone. Using Hakone as a base of exploration you can visit the castle and fish markets of Odawara, beaches and seaside town of Manazuru, zen temples and mountains of Ashigara, green tea fields and sake factories of Matsuda, Mt. Fuji and Gotemba are all just a short trip from Hakone.
Staying overnight gives you a chance to enjoy the beauty of Japan at a comfortable pace while also giving you the option of seeing some wonderful sites in the area. Just making it a day trip works into many itineraries for Japan and still gives you a chance to see the highlights in the area.