04 May 2015

Hakone is a place that prides itself on natural beauty and outdoor sightseeing spots. A popular destination that boasts hot spring baths, incredible nature, and an opportunity to see the changing seasons of Japan. Here are the best five places in Hakone to enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors:

Hakone Gora Park

Five Places to Enjoy the Nature of Hakone

(image by flickr.com)

A park which has many buildings that have remained as they have been since its opening. The tea ceremony, pottery, glassblowing, sandblasting and many other things can be experienced here.

Located at the end of the Hakone Tozan Railway, this is Japan’s first French-style garden that opened in Gora. One characteristic is the placement of the pond and other facilities symmetrically and geometrically on the vast site on the slope. Gora Park is a very precious park that has continued to exist in its complete form as a Western-style garden. Within the park grounds of sloping roads and many stairs, there is a difference of 40m between the west and main gates, and you can witness an unusual phenomenon during winter when the snow falls inside the park. The scenery and the flora brought to life by the change in temperature and slope are highlights that you will want to see all over at leisure. It is a park where you can enjoy flowers throughout the four seasons, but a particular area to see is the rose garden. A thousand roses of 140 varieties are planted there, and they make for a splendid collaboration with the fresh leaves and the autumn foliage.

Admission: ¥ 550

Guidebook from Planetyze about Hakone Gora Park
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hakone Gora Park
Tours of Hakone Gora Park

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

Five Places to Enjoy the Nature of Hakone

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Japan’s first wetland garden that starts from Hakone where 1700 species of flora live in the wetlands and marshes that exist between the high and low mountains of the nation. Closed during the winter.

Hakone Botanical Garden centers on the plant life thriving in the rivers and marshes originating from the wetlands. One particular feature is the walking path where you can look around the primeval wetlands from the lowlands to the mountains, and the wetlands that formed thereafter in order. 

There are 8 zones within the garden: deciduous broad-leafed forests, dry grassy plains, low moors, Japanese moor grass plains, high mountain flower fields, high moors, the Sengokuhara wetlands and hygrophyte forests.

The flowers of more than 100 types of plants bloom in the garden. October is the peak time for Japanese pampas grass in the adjacent Sengokuhara. The grass that spreads out all over turns gold under the sun to become a shining carpet, a magnificent sight. As the autumn gets into full swing in the garden, the area is surrounded by the colors of flowers such as violet bellflowers and gold toad lilies. Right by the entrance, grass from mountains and fields from other countries is planted. Worthy of note are the unusual water plants from abroad. On the information board at the entrance, the best times to see the flowers are listed at any time. 

Admission: Adult: ¥ 700 / Child: ¥ 400

Guidebook from Planetyze about Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands
Tours of Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

Hakone Ropeway

Five Places to Enjoy the Nature of Hakone

(image by Hakone Ropeway website)

Hakone Ropeway takes 24 minutes and has 4 stations. The time on board is short, but as a way to see the important spots of Hakone, it is indispensable. The view is so wonderful that on sunny days, you can see as far away as Tokyo Skytree. Take the ropeway from Lake Ashi to Owakudani, riding up the Hakone mountain cable to Sounzan Station through every station. 

Lake Ashi has a circumference of 19 km that was created from volcanic activity about 3000 years ago. You can take a walk while viewing Lake Ashi at Kojiri Fureai Park 5 minutes from the Togendai Station. Within the park, there is a mysterious atmosphere with the many twisted trees. If you are going to Hakone or Old Hakone from here, take the sightseeing cruise ships on Lake Ashi for an elegant tour.

Owakudani Station is another stop, located within a national park. It’s the smoking area of the Hakone volcano which is currently showing the volcanic activity from about 3000 years ago. The tea house black eggs over there are famous since eating one of them is said to prolong your life by 7 years. The smell of hydrogen sulfide is intense, but you can get the feeling of the power of the great nature. A wide landscape unfolds in front of you as you go up the steep slope from Sounzan to Owakudani. You wonder if you are actually walking in the sky. Do not miss out on this moment.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 730 / Child: ¥ 370

Guidebook from Planetyze about Hakone Ropeway
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hakone Ropeway
Tours of Hakone Ropeway

Sengokuhara

Five Places to Enjoy the Nature of Hakone

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Wetlands and pampas plains that expand through a wide area of Hakone. The autumn pampas, which has been selected as one of The Top 50 Picturesque Sceneries of Kanagawa and The Top 100 Flowers of Kanagawa, is visited by many during the early spring when the controlled yamayaki burning of the mountain occurs.

On the slopes of Mt. Daigatake in Sengokuhara, Japanese pampas grass grows all over. At the end of summer, the tips of the grass start to turn gold and the pampas have lush green stems. Entering late fall, the grass takes on a golden color and taking in the sunlight, the scenery becomes a golden carpet. While thoroughly enjoying the pampas, going up the lone path reveals a landscape that resembles a golden sea as far as the eye can see. You can view splendid scenery where the plains are in harmony with the surrounding mountains and wetlands.

The annual custom of yamayaki occurs between mid and late March. The plains’ vegetation and scenery are maintained through fire. About 200 local residents set fire to 18 hectares of the plains, and the growing fire burns the grass down in one shot. The burned plains bathe in the sun’s rays and warm up rapidly so that the spring flora bloom in white and violet and the pampas start to bud.  

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Sengokuhara
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sengokuhara
Tours of Sengokuhara

Onshi-Hakone Park

Five Places to Enjoy the Nature of Hakone

(image by flickr.com)

Onshi-Hakone Park is located on Togashima Peninsula which juts out into Lake Ashi. The Hakone Detached Palace that had been built in 1886 collapsed twice due to earthquakes. It was then later opened up as a Hakone park. With its panoramic view of the lake, the surrounding mountains and Mt. Fuji ahead, it is a superb viewing spot that has been selected in “The Top 50 Picturesque Sceneries of Kanagawa Prefecture” and “The Top 100 Views of Mt. Fuji in the Kanto Region”. The well-maintained hedges and large trees lend to the special atmosphere that is distinct with this historic park. It has been registered as a National Monument with its contribution to the development of landscape gardening culture.

The cornerstones from the main building of the former detached palace remain in the middle of the park and are in front of the Lakeside Observation Building that is reminiscent of the old palace. Information on the Hakone Detached Palace is displayed on the 1st floor with a café on the 2nd floor. From the balcony, you can get a grand view of Hakone from the best location. For other observation points, there is Benten-no-hana, To-no-hana Plaza and other sites where you can get views of the landscape from various angles. In the garden, you can enjoy scenery throughout the four seasons such as the cherry trees in spring, the azaleas and hydrangeas of early summer as well as the summer greenery and the autumn colors. There are also the 200 mossy stone steps and the undulating small road that goes around the park so that you can also get a taste of hiking.  

Around the park, there is the Hakone Checkpoint, Hakone Shrine, an old cedar-lined highway among other sites of interest where you can also visit. At the park, you can also rent out electric bicycles and do some touring from there.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Onshi-Hakone Park
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Onshi-Hakone Park
Tours of Onshi-Hakone Park

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