Armed with a travel pass, you will be able to see some incredible destinations in the Hakone area. Your point of entry to the area will often be Hakone-Yumoto town, and lots of cute shops and restaurants are in the immediate vicinity of the station, ready to explore. The typical ‘round course’ from here will first head to Gora, on the Hakone Tozan Railway – Japan’s oldest mountain railway. The valley is dense with trees, and the trains make three ‘switchbacks’ as you wind your way through the valley. Be sure to check out the Hakone Open Air Museum while you are in Gora, a vast park of colourful sculptures – some of which are ‘interactive’ for the younger members of the family. A dedicated Picasso gallery exhibits some impressive pieces too, so allow yourself a good amount of time to visit. After the spectacular cablecar ride, a ropeway takes you from Sounzan over the volcanic landscape of Owakudani, where sulphurous fumes fill the air, and black-shelled boiled eggs can be purchased, cooked in the steaming pools of water. This area is sometimes closed off if volcanic activity is dangerously high, but buses still connect travellers to their next stop along the circular route.
From Togendai, on the north shore of Lake Ashinoko, boats that resemble pirate ships will take you south across the waters to the town of Hakone-Machi. On a crisp and clear day, Mount Fuji can be spotted in the distance – but even without this, the surrounding mountains, forest and iconic red torii gate on the shore (part of the Hakone Shrine) make for some incredible photographs. We would recommend the walk from Hakone-Machi to Moto-Hakone, a wonderful half hour stroll along the lakefront with some great shops, eateries and a reconstruction of the old Tokaido Checkpoint (the road historically linking Tokyo to Kyoto). The sightseeing boats can take you on this final leg also, and the views are just as lovely from the water. Finally in Moto-Hakone you can board one of a number of buses to your overnight accommodation, or back to Hakone-Yumoto Station. It is – of course – possible to visit a number of great places outside of this circular journey, with buses being the most common transportation choice while you are in the area.