The Tokaido – a route connecting Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto – was one of the most integral highways of 17th century Japan. Hundreds of years later, travellers still make the pilgrimage between these two mighty cities along a similar route, by a bullet train that shares the road’s name. It’s not a shock that Hakone still features as a mainstay on this journey, a worthy diversion into the quieter reaches of Honshu island. The proximity of Mount Fuji – shyly visible on clear days over the waters of Lake Ashinoko – has made this modest town a firm favourite, for locals and foreigners alike. Although it’s not always possible to see Fujisan through the clouds, a boat trip on the lake will give you plenty of other photo opportunities.
The geothermic region boasts some of Japan’s best onsen (hot springs) and tired adventurers can unwind in traditional inns, taking in the sights of the countryside. The perpetual volcanic activity in this area has created steaming vents and heated rivers, and entrepreneurial locals will happily sell you black shelled boiled eggs (kuro-tamago) and a promise of longevity. If you can deal with the sulphurous fumes, and volatile landscape, the hikes around Owakudani are spectacular.
For those preferring less danger in their downtime, Hakone boasts multiple museums and galleries, parks and botanical gardens, and more than enough cute shops to spend your yen in. These are linked by a multitude of transport options, including fleets of buses, trains, ropeways, cablecars and even some pirate-inspired ships. Depending on your interests, and how busy you like to keep yourself, one or two nights will be perfect – fingers crossed that Fuji makes an appearance for you.