12 Ways to Make the Most of the Hakone Freepass
By Christy Anne Jones
On July 17, 2018
For those looking to get away from busy Tokyo for a little while and explore the natural wonderland of Hakone, the Hakone Freepass is the perfect travel option. Simple, stress-free and excellent value, the Freepass offers a round-trip ticket to and from Tokyo, plus unlimited travel for two or three days across the following eight major transportation systems that cover the Hakone and Odawara areas in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park:
- Hakone Tozan Railway
- Hakone Tozan Bus
- Hakone Tozan Cable Car
- Hakone Ropeway
- Hakone Sightseeing Cruise
- Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus
- Tokai Orange Shuttle Bus
- Kanko Shisetsu Meguri Sightseeing Bus
The Freepass also includes a wide range of other benefits and discounts — 12 of which you can read more about below.
Where to purchase the Hakone Freepass
Pick up your Freepass at either an Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center (located close to the West and South exits) or one of the ticket machines near to the entrance to the platforms for Odakyu trains at Shinjuku station. Machida and Odawara stations on the way from Tokyo to Hakone also sell the pass.
Odakyu Sightseeing Service Centers are open 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day of the year. Alternatively, you can purchase tickets yourself via the English-language ticket machines.
How much is the Hakone Free pass?
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If you’re planning on visiting a few different places in Hakone (and you should), the Freepass is definitely worthwhile. On average, you’ll save around ¥1,350 (children, ¥1,760) just on getting around. It’s also significantly easier to get on and off all of the different modes of transport in Hakone — buses, for example, usually require exact change for the fare to be paid when you get off. Simply flashing your Freepass saves a whole lot of time, effort and potential holding up of other passengers.
There are also plenty of chances to use the Freepass in the various affiliated attractions, stores and restaurants. While discounts are only small and depend on each place, over two to three days the yennies do add up. As the saying goes: Every little helps!
Thanks to the Freepass, you can spend less time worrying about tickets and costs, and more time exploring, soaking in the onsen (hot springs), tasting delicious, local foods and enjoying the natural beauty of this stunning snippet of Japan. Here are 12 ways to reap the rewards and get the very most out of your trip to Hakone.
1. Visit Odawara Castle and Museum
On your way to Hakone from Shinjuku, take a brief stop at 15th-Century Odawara Castle, a beautifully preserved treasure trove for Japanese history buffs.
The Freepass will give you discounted entry into the museum within. Climb to the top and enjoy the view of Sagami Bay.
2. Have tea at Amazake Chaya Teahouse
With your Freepass, jump on a Hakone Tozan Bus up to Amazake Chaya; a traditional teahouse and historic gem hidden amongst the foliage.
This teahouse pays homage to the traditional establishments that used to refresh travelers navigating the mountainous road between Kyoto and Tokyo during the Edo period.
Don’t forget to try the amazake (alcohol-free, sweet sake) and delicious mochi (glutinous rice cakes).
3. Soak in the hot springs of Hakone Kowaki-en Yunessun and Mori no Yu
It wouldn’t be a trip to Hakone without a relaxing soak in one of the region’s local onsen (hot springs).
Your Freepass will give you a discount on entry to both Yunessun, a fun collection of public pools (including the famous red wine and coffee baths), and Mori No Yu, the traditional, nude open-air baths.
Other onsen that offer discounts to Freepass holders include Hakone Yuryo, Kappa Tengoku, Yunosato Okada, Tenzan Tohji-kyo, Mayu no Mori (see no. 12) and Hakone Kohan-no-Yu.
4. Sail across Lake Ashi in a pirate ship
The best way to travel across the stunning Lake Ashi has got to be via pirate ship. Your Freepass will let you do just that on the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise. The cruise is especially beautiful in the autumn months and if you’re lucky, Mt. Fuji will show its iconic face.
Plus, in case you wanted to sail luxuriously (which I totally did) you can use your Freepass to get a discount on the first-class cabin.
5. Discover Hakone Shrine and Treasure Museum
While in Moto Hakone, check out the famous torii gate by the water and the shrine and Treasure Museum located just behind it.
Tucked away along the forested shore of Lake Ashi, the shrine complex is charmingly picturesque, while the small but interesting museum attached grants discounted entry to those with the Hakone Freepass.
The place is very peaceful — I could have spent all day wandering around here.
6. Enjoy traditional sweets at the Hakone Sweet CollectionPhoto by @hakone_sweets
The Hakone Sweet collection is a bi-annual festival that runs during the autumn and spring, in which chefs from all over Hakone create a wide range of traditional, beautiful and creative desserts. Use your Hakone Freepass to get discounts on as many interesting and unique sweets as you would like. Just make sure to wear loose pants that day.
7. View the volcanic valleys of Owakudani
Owakudani formed around 3,000 years ago at the last eruption of Mount Hakone. Today, it remains an active volcano zone straight out of a Jurassic Park movie and famous for its black, sulfur-cooked eggs.
Check out Owakudani-eki Shokudo in the ropeway station; your Freepass will give you a discount on its famous katsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) curry, which can be enjoyed while watching the smoke rise and fall over Owakudani (and comes with a black egg too).
8. Go shopping at Gotemba Premium Outlets
With a beautiful view of Mt Fuji on clear days, Gotemba Premium Outlets — Japan’s most popular outlet mall — is the perfect place to kick back and enjoy some retail therapy.
With more than 200 stores and a wide range of restaurants, there’s no shortage of places to drop cash. The good news is that your Freepass entitles you to a range of varying discounts depending on which companies are participating — check with information at the mall on the day.
9. Wander around the Hakone Art Museum
Use your Freepass to get discounted entry into this charming museum and garden.
Not to be confused with the Hakone Open Air Museum, the Hakone Bijutsukan contains objects dating all the way back to prehistoric times.
The moss garden is an especially stunning place to see the leaves in the fall, though when I went during rainy season was also very atmospheric — all deep green moss and mistiness.
10. Pick up some souvenirs at Hakone No Ichi
If you’re looking for last-minute gifts, ekiben (station lunch boxes), traditional toys, or delectable treats, you can’t miss Hakone no Ichi inside Hakone Yumoto Station.
Just show the staff your Hakone Freepass to get your discount, but not before getting your fill of all the free samples.
11. Make use of the convenient Hakone Baggage Service
Explore Hakone from early morning without having to drag your bags with you. Show your Hakone Freepass to the service staff, and they will send your bags on to your hotel and give you a discount on the per-bag fee as well.
12. Relax and unwind at Hakone Lake Hotel
After a long day of adventuring in the mountains, kick back at the Hakone Lake Hotel. Here, your Freepass will give you another discount.
The hotel has an incredible onsen called Yuno-Mayu no Mori. Relax in the outdoor baths and enjoy the autumn foliage above. Afterward, have a traditional dinner at the hotel restaurant, overlooking the pristine gardens and mountains beyond. I stayed just one night, but it was so relaxing I felt like a new person!
Exact discounts may vary, please check with the relevant company. For more information about Hakone, including itinerary ideas and travel information, check out Tokyo Day Trip — the official tourism website for Kanagawa Prefecture.