Every late October, early November, many people across Japan will get the calling to go to the mountains and see the changing of the leaves. For many Japanese, seeing the changing of the leaves in autumn is an essential tradition to be part of the natural rhythms of the four seasons. One such place within easy travel distance of Tokyo is Hakone National Park.
A visit to this wonderful sea of red and gold can be via Shinjuku on the Odakyu Line. You can get a great sense of being set free once the Odakyu Limited Express Romancecar starts to roll out of Shinjuku Station, effortlessly gliding you away on a new adventure.
The cityscape soon gives way to the suburban areas of Tokyo. As you cross the Tama River and enter the prefecture of Kanagawa you start to catch glimpses of the mountains, which are never too far away in Japan. Of course, it is possible to reach this natural spectacle from anywhere within Japan as there is a well-developed transport network ready to take you to this landscape of beautiful red and yellow autumn leaves.
Here, where it’s cooler, autumn arrives earlier than it does in Tokyo, and even the expansive grasslands transform from green to gold. Hakone is accessible by train, bus, private car, or – as some people choose to do – even taxi. Set deep within Kanagawa Prefecture Hakone can be reached in a little over ninety minutes from Tokyo.
The first time you catch a glimpse of the mountains and hillsides alight with color, sweeping down to a lakeside, or seemingly going on forever, is breathtaking. It’s a feeling that is further amplified when you finally get to see the full view of the perfect cone of Mt Fuji set amongst the blaze. It is something to behold, an image that has made a lasting impression on countless visitors from around the world.
To truly appreciate this natural spectacle, it is recommended you take either a sightseeing boat or ship on Lake Ashinoko. This can be a real highlight, as it truly allows a person to absorb the beauty of nature. The lake, clear and glinting in the autumn light, captures a mirror-like image of Mt Fuji. A vision so perfect it’s as if there are two magnificent peaks.
Sailing Over The Trees
Clambering on board the Hakone Ropeway, many visitors find themselves spellbound as they glide above the carpet of reds and golds. Here, suspended above seas of color, visitors can catch quick hints of other things, but it’s the white smoke billowing through the air from a 3000-year-old eruption as you pass Owakudani that cements a real sense of the ancient.
Upon entering the historic Choanji Temple, you will find yourself encircled by nature. With 500 pictures of Buddha’s disciples, including the statue of the Gohyaku Rakan, the experience takes hold. The subtle blend of temple and autumn leaves infuses into calm tranquility. You sit, you observe. You breathe. Many people find it to be such a special place that they look to return one day in the future.
You can find the temple by simply inputting this information into your map application: 82 Sengokuhara, Hakone, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0631
If you decide to travel by bus, it takes about 25 minutes on the Hakone Tozan Bus departing from Hakone-Yumoto Station. Be sure to alight at the Sengoku Bus Stop.
Hakone in Autumn: Sengokuhara Pampas Grass Field
An expanse of myriad greens in summer this rolling stretch of stunning grassland slowly fades to silver as the weather cools, then, as the colder months take hold, it suddenly deepens into a pale gold.
It’s quite magical as the quiet swish of the grass passes you by, and set against a backdrop of deep evergreen trees and an autumn blue sky it’s easy to see why so many people take countless photos of this beautiful mixture of texture, colors, and hues.
The Restaurants: Great Food Incredible Vistas
No visit to Hakone can be considered complete without a visit to one of the many splendid restaurants set within this fantastic place. Here, sat within the very essence of a Hakone autumn, you can truly appreciate the wonder of nature. It’s easy to find yourself whiling away the hours on an outside-terrace and not notice the time pass you by.
Although there are many ways to enjoy Hakone in a day visit, there are plenty of opportunities to while away more time. With fantastic hotels and ryokans offering further beautiful views and private gardens. You can enjoy an open-air bath in a hot spring as the autumn leaves set fire to the hillsides – perhaps while even enjoying some Japanese rice wine (sake).
Access to Hakone
From Narita Airport, you can go to Hakone-Yumoto by first getting to Odawara via Tokyo. From there, take the Hakone Tozan Railway. Narita to Hakone-Yumoto via Shinjuku is also an option, which many people enjoy. Here you can catch the Odakyu Limited Express. Odakyu also offers a Hakone Free Pass that covers a day return to Hakone and travel within the national park. From Haneda Airport, you can take a non-stop highway bus straight to Hakone.