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hakone

Things to Do in Hakone: The Ultimate Guide!

Thalia Harris

Thalia Harris

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A person standing near Hakone shrine.

Hakone is a captivating destination that promises to enchant your senses and ignite your spirit of adventure. This picturesque town, renowned for its natural hot springs, stunning vistas, and rich cultural heritage, offers a tapestry of enchanting experiences.

What can I eat in Hakone?

One of Hakone’s most famous treats, the rum raisin vanilla cookie sandwiches, are a true delight for the senses. These delicate cookies are filled with luscious vanilla cream and studded with plump, rum-soaked raisins, creating a harmonious blend of flavors and textures. Each bite is a delightful symphony of sweetness, with the rum-infused raisins adding a delightful depth to the creamy filling.

A plate of raisin sandwich cookies.
Have you ever had raisin sandwiches with vanilla cookies before? Image via Shutterstock

No visit to Hakone would be complete without indulging in the iconic shiroi koibito. These beloved white chocolate sandwich cookies are a true embodiment of Japanese confectionery artistry. Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, each cookie has a velvety white chocolate ganache, creating a heavenly fusion of rich, creamy flavors. Not to mention, they also make for a nice afternoon tea snack!

For those with a penchant for traditional German baked goods, Hakone offers the irresistible baumkuchen. This unique cake, often called a “tree cake,” is made by layering thin rings of batter over a rotating spit, resulting in a mesmerizing pattern of concentric rings. Each bite unveils a delightful blend of caramelized flavors and a chewy texture.

A plate of matcha baumkuchen, a popular afternoon tea snack.
Baumkuchen is shaped like a tree ring. Image via Shutterstock

Last but not least, the castella, a Japanese sponge cake, is a must-try for any sweet tooth visiting Hakone. This light and airy cake is renowned for its delicate texture and subtle sweetness, making it the perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of tea or coffee. Enjoy it plain or with a drizzle of honey or syrup for an added touch of indulgence.

What can I do in Hakone?

Experiencing Hakone’s onsen (hot springs) is a popular activity. These natural baths, powered by volcanic activity, offer a peaceful retreat. Dive into the steaming waters; their minerals heal your body and soul, rejuvenating you completely. Be sure to mind the onsen etiquette while doing so!

An onsen on a balcony in a Hakone ryokan.
An onsen is a hot spring. Image via Shutterstock

You can also visit the Hakone Shrine for a deeper cultural experience. This ancient Shinto shrine sits among tall cedar trees, a place of calm and respect. Additionally, you can see beautiful torii gates, admire the architecture, and engage in centuries-old rituals.

Don’t miss Owakudani on your trip to Hakone. This volcanic valley is undoubtedly famous for its dramatic scenery and geological wonders. Climbing the trails, you’ll find steaming vents and sulfuric gases, showcasing the earth’s power. Moreover, the colorful, mineral-rich pools are a sight to behold. All in all, Hakone also offers many outdoor adventures. Enjoy hikes through green forests, explore clear lakes and rivers, or take in Mount Fuji’s stunning views from different spots in the town.

What souvenirs can I get from there?

When you visit the scenic town of Hakone, don’t miss the exquisite marquetry woodwork showcasing Japanese craftsmanship. This art, known as yosegi-zaiku, is a centuries-old tradition in Hakone, making it an ideal souvenir.

The local marquetry involves assembling thin wood slices, chosen for their grain and color, into beautiful patterns. This also creates a stunning mix of nature and craftsmanship, each piece narrating a tale of patience and skill. Decorative coasters or trivets are popular souvenirs. They also feature complex patterns or traditional motifs like cherry blossoms or Mount Fuji, crafted from different woods.

A marquetry box with intricate woodwork.
This woodwork is also called “wooden mosaic art”. Image via Shutterstock

Why is marquetry special?

These pieces generally beautify your table and remind you of Hakone’s cultural richness. For a significant keepsake, consider a marquetry box or jewelry case. They also demonstrate the artisans’ skill, with wood layers blending smoothly, offering a feast for the eyes. As a result, these boxes, ideal for storing valuables or as display art, are likely to become treasured family heirlooms.

Overall, you can explore everyday items like ballpoint pens and chopstick rests in Hakone’s marquetry for a practical memento. These items bring Japanese elegance to your daily life and keep the beauty and craftsmanship of Hakone close.

Are you looking for some delicious snacks from Hakone? Check out Sakuraco! Sakuraco delivers traditional Japanese snacks, teas, sweets, and snacks from local Japanese makers directly to your door so you can enjoy the latest treats directly from Japan!

What other areas should I visit?

When exploring the captivating region surrounding Hakone, venture to the nearby city of Odawara. This historic gem is undoubtedly brimming with cultural treasures and natural wonders. This charming destination also offers a delightful array of experiences enriching your journey through Japan.

Odawara is perhaps most famous for its iconic castle, a magnificent fortification testament to the region’s rich samurai heritage. Additionally, you can wander through the meticulously reconstructed grounds, marvel at the intricate architecture, and immerse yourself in the fascinating history within these walls. The adjacent Odawara Castle Museum and Samurai Gallery provide a comprehensive look into the lives of these legendary warriors, with displays of armor, swords, and accounts of epic battles.

Odawara Castle at night.
This castle was built in the mid-15th century. Image via Shutterstock

This city also offers a wealth of outdoor adventures for those seeking a deeper connection with nature. Embark on a leisurely stroll along the Sakawa River, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of Mount Fuji, verdant rice fields, and glimpses of local life. Alternatively, challenge yourself with a hike through the coastal hills of Nebukawa or the lush forests of Ashigara, both easily accessible from the city’s train stations.

What else can I do in Odawara?

No visit to Odawara would be complete without indulging in the local culinary delights. You can also savor the taste of kamaboko, a surimi fish paste that has been a beloved tradition in the area for centuries. Afterwards, explore the vibrant Odawara Fish Market, where you can witness the hustle and bustle of a working fishing port and sample the day’s freshest catches.

A green flower field near Odawara Castle.
Odawara is near Hakone. Image via Shutterstock

To taste Odawara’s rich cultural heritage, immerse yourself in the city’s traditional crafts. Witness the intricate art of yosegi woodworking, where skilled artisans meticulously assemble thin wood slices to create stunning marquetry patterns. Or, try your hand at chochin-making, crafting traditional Japanese lanterns that once guided travelers through the region’s rugged terrain.

Why should I check out things to do in Hakone?

Hakone is a destination that truly captivates the senses and ignites the spirit of adventure. Because of its rejuvenating hot springs and awe-inspiring natural landscapes to its rich cultural heritage and exquisite culinary delights, this enchanting city offers a tapestry of experiences that will leave you spellbound.

Whether you seek relaxation, adventure, cultural immersion, or simply a chance to savor the finer things in life, Hakone promises an unforgettable experience. Embrace the opportunity to explore this enchanting town, and let its unique charms leave an indelible mark on your journey through Japan. Have you ever been to Hakone before? Let us know in the comments below!

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