[2018 Edition] 30 Things to Do in Hakone (Part 4 of 6)

Hakone is one of the most visited places in Japan, and its close proximity to Tokyo makes it an ideal destination for a day trip from the capital. It is known for its rich nature, as well as shrines and museums. This article is part of a series introducing 30 things to include in your Hakone travel itineraries, and this time we will introduce some historical attractions and family-friendly places!


Things to Do

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1. Improve Your Luck at Hakone and Kuzuryu Shrines

While the entire area of Hakone is considered a "power spot", or a location believed to hold strong positive energy, Hakone Shrine (Hakone-jinja) has long been believed to be especially full of energy. Situated on the shore of Lake Ashino at the base of Mt. Hakone, the shrine welcomes endless visitors who seek blessings for traffic safety and good fortune. 


Within the precinct and just off to the side of the main shrine is the Kuzuryu Shrine (Kuzuryu Jinja Shingu). The original and less accessible Kuzuryu Shrine (Shrine of the Nine-Headed Dragon) was established on the shores of Lake Ashino to enshrine the dragon deity of water, who is said to bring good luck in money, business, and marriage. The new shrine is much better situated, contributing to its increasing popularity.

Do make sure to pay a visit to the Ryujin-sui (Dragon God Water) fountain. Its sacred spring water is believed to cleanse all impurities with one sip, and offering the water to the shrine at home is said to purify the household and bring good fortune. 


2. Delve into History at Hakone Sekisho

Care for some educational insight into the history of Hakone? Hakone Sekisho, or Hakone Checkpoint, is an important historical attraction that replicates a checkpoint from the Edo Period (1603 - 1868) whose function was to regulate the traffic on the Tokaido, one of the major highways in Japan. Fully restored and opened to the public in 2007, Hakone Sekisho will transport you back in time to provide visual and written presentations of what it was like back then.

You'll notice the checkpoint was equipped with various facilities including a lookout post, a shooting range, and a guardhouse. Also on the grounds is the Hakone Sekisho Exhibition Hall where you can get in-depth information from historical documents and actual artifacts that were discovered during the excavation of the property. 


3. Hang out with the Seals at Hakone-en Aquarium

Did you know that Hakone has an aquarium? On the shore of Lake Ashino, at 723m above sea level, is Hakone-en Aquarium (Hakone-en Suizoku-kan), a sea water aquarium with the highest elevation in Japan. In addition to the Seawater Pavilion, there is also a Freshwater Pavilion where native species of Lake Ashino and other rare Japanese fish are on display. Do take the time to check out the vast collection of creatures from all over the world. 


Another popular attraction is the Baikal Seal Plaza where you can observe the cute seals swimming casually in the pool and lounging comfortably by the water. Make sure to check the timetable for their showtimes, too.


4. Take a Walk on the Wild Side at Forest Adventure Hakone

Are you a lover of the great outdoors and thrilling adventures? Then this place is just for you! Forest Adventure Hakone is located within the native forest of Hakone Yumoto. You will be fully clad in harnesses and head protection before climbing high up into the trees to walk across beams from one tree to another, swing Tarzan-style, or zip-line through the forest at high speed. This would be an exciting outing for both children and adults alike. Let's get that adrenaline pumping!


5. Nature and Art Come Together at Hakone Open-Air Museum

When the Hakone Open-Air Museum (Hakone Chokoku no Mori Bijutsu-kan) opened in 1969, it became the first museum in Japan to showcase works of art in the open, and they did so in harmony with the surrounding natural environment. The verdant 70,000 square meter garden is dotted with permanent displays of roughly 120 works created by legendary sculptors of the modern and contemporary eras.


There are also five indoor pavilions, and the one dedicated to Picasso presents a rotating exhibition of a collection of over 300 pieces of his works. If you're traveling with children, they're sure to love the child-friendly play areas where they can explore, climb, and play among the actual sculptures and installations. 


Don't these places sound like fun? There are so many things to do in Hakone, and this was just a tiny selection of them. Next time, we will introduce more museums of art in the area, so make sure to check back soon!

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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