Lake Ashi lies at the heart of the Hakone area. Many of Hakone’s best cultural, historical, and activities can be found along her shores. The best way to explore the lake is to take one of the sightseeing boats. There are four ports on located on the East and West sides of the lake. Taking a tour of the area will usually neccessitate taking one of the comfortable leisure boats from one end of the lake to the other. Enjoy the views on the 40 minute cruise of the surrounding mountains, Mt. Fuji, cool breezes, and the picturesque beauty of the bright red shrine gates seemingly floating on the water.
There are two companies running two different boats on the Lake.
You can use the convenient “Hakone Free Pass” on the Hakone Sighteeing Cruise. This ship runs from Togendai Port > Hakone Port > Moto-Hakone Port > Togendai Port. (During crowded times it is worth paying the small extra fee for access to the “First Class” area for more space, less stress, and a more enjoyable experience.
The Hakone Yuransen runs from Kojiri Port > Hakone-En Port > Hakone-Sekisyo Port > Moto-Hakone Port > Hakone-En Port > Kojiri Port
Togendai: Located on the north side of Lake Ashi, Togendai Station is the terminus for the Hakone Ropeway and a transfer point for a number of transportation options servicing Hakone. The Odayku Express bus connects you directly to Shinjuku. And the famed Hakone Ropeway, starting in Sounzan, ends here and makes the transfer to the sightseeing boat smooth and convenient. There are wonderful nature trails to enjoy in the Togendai area. (Hakone Ropeway is still partially open due to volcanic activities, for more information please visit: http://www.hakoneropeway.co.jp/foreign/en/ )
Kojiri: Kojiri Port for the Hakone Yuransen is just a couple of minutes from the Togendai Port. Make sure that those two boats use different ports.
Hakone-En Port: Hakone-en is the home to the Hakone Aquarium, Prince Hotel, and the Komagatake Ropeway. The aquarium is impressive for its size and an enjoyable option for those with kids. The Komagatake Ropeway will take you to the top of Hakone’s highest peak with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains, Mt. Fuji, and the distant Pacific Ocean below.
Hakone-en port is only for The Hakone Yuransen, not for the Hakone Sighteeing Cruise.
Moto-Hakone Port: This port gives you access to the historic Hakone Shrine, Narukawa Art Museum, and a number of shops and restaurants along the lake shore. The Hakone Shrine has been considered a “power spot” for centuries, being visited by samurai, shogun, and travelers on their way between Tokyo and Kyoto on the old Tokaido Road. One of the best preserved sections of this famous road is located just to the west side of the Moto-Hakone port. The “Suginamiki” is lined with towering cedars planted hundreds of years ago under orders of the Shogun.
Moto-Hakone Port for The Hakone Yuransen and the Hakone Sighteeing Cruise are located different places.
Hakone Machi Port/Hakone-Sekisyo Port: You can easily access a number of interesting Hakone sights from here. Just to the east of the docks is Onshi Park. Onshi Park was once the summer retreat for the Japanese Imperial Family. The elevation of Hakone and cool lake breezes provided welcome respite from the hot and humid Tokyo summers. The park is now free to walk around and enjoy the beautifully manicured gardens. Find a quite spot and enjoy some of the best views of the lake.
The lake was formed thousands of years ago in the dormant crater of the Hakone volcano. The beauty and serene nature of the area is a highlight and attraction to those seeking an experience counter to the bright neon lights of Tokyo. The best way to get a feel for the area is on one of the sightseeing boats crisscrossing the lake. Please join Explore Hakone’s private tour if you are looking for a more intimate and insightful experience.