Self-Drive Holiday to Hakone / Mount Fuji region (Kawaguchiko, Fuji Five Lakes) – Autumn Foliage season

We visited the Hakone and Mount Fuji region in end November 2008.  It was a beautiful time to visit the region because autumn colours were at its peak!

Day 1

We took the romance car from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto station.  We dropped off our luggage at our accommodation, Kappa Tengoku, which was right next to Hakone-Yumoto station (but required a climb up a long flight of stairs with our luggage).

The first place we visited was Gora Park.  Check out the gorgeous autumn colours!

Next, we visited the Little Prince Museum. It was a place for die-hard Little Prince fans.  If you are not a fan, it would probably be a bit boring for you.

The sun set really early in Winter (4+pm), so by the time we were done visiting the Little Prince Museum, it was getting dark and we went back to our accommodation to rest.

Day 2

We drove to Togendai, which was the station that served both Lake Ashi cruise and Hakone ropeway.

We started with a round trip cruise on the pirate ship.  The weather was not good when we were there and we couldn’t see Mount Fuji at all, but the autumn colours along the way was breath-taking!

After we returned to Togendai, we went on the Hakone Ropeway.

We got off at Owakudani which was a sulphur mountain.

At Owakudani, we had to try their black eggs and black ramen.  Legend says that each black egg will lengthen your life by 7 years. But don’t eat more than 2, you will probably die of high cholesterol first

The black ramen was kind of a marketing gimmick, nothing special taste-wise.  But oh well, I am a sucker for marketing gimmicks, especially in Japan.

Black ramen.. Marketing gimmick, nothing special taste-wise.

After eating, we took the ropeway back to Togendai and went for a walk around the station to admire the beautiful autumn leaves.

From there, we drove to Lake Yamanaka, and hopped off the car when we came across a scenic viewpoint.

And we arrived at Lake Yamanaka!

The autumn foliage around Lake Yamanaka was amazing!

Next, we drove to Lake Kawaguchiko and visited UKAI Kawaguchiko Music Forest.

Don’t forget to catch the music fountain show at UKAI Kawaguchiko Music Forest.

And wait till dusk when the lights come on.

Day 3

The first place we drove to was the Otodome Waterfall.

Next, we drove to Narusawa Ice Cave and Fugaku Wind Cave which were.. boring.  But oh well, it was along the way to Shiraito Falls so no harm popping by if you have time.

And we finally reached the highlight of the drive: Shiraito Falls!

Look at all those amazing autumn colours!

From there, we drove to Fuji Safari Park for a Jurassic Park-style safari tour.

It was super cool driving through Fuji Safari Park where animals like giraffes and lions (yes, lions) could brush past our car.

After we were done touring the safari park, we drove to Oshino Hakkai – Home to one of Japan’s famous spring water.

While we were there, we spotted a VERY faint glimpse of Mount Fuji!


Day 4

Our last day here and the sky was finally clear and we caught our first clear view of Mount Fuji! Since the weather was good, we decided to go up the Mount Kachi Kachi Ropeway at Kawaguchiko.

After we descended, we drove to Oishi Park on the North shore of Kawaguchiko.  The view of Mount Fuji from the inconspicuous park was AMAZING!!

And after waiting around long enough, that annoying piece of cloud at the top of Mount Fuji finally cleared!

Next, we drove to Gotemba Premium Outlet for lunch and shopping.  Can’t say I’m big on shopping – I was there more for the view!

We dined at the food court with a view of Mount Fuji.

We drove back to Hakone and still had some time before we needed to return the rental car, so we visited the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum.

Visiting Hakone & Mount Fuji with Kids?

Read about our self-drive holiday to Hakone and Mount Fuji with kids in November 2013!


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  • Kas says:

    Your trip reports are great! Thanks for sharing!:-)

  • Rachael says:

    I LOVED Hakone. I was lucky to visit for a few days about 9 years ago. I got great views and photos of mount Fuji. I really should try and find those photos again…

  • Cat says:


    Help!!!! My initial plan was on 5 Dec to pick up car from Gotemba to go to Fuji Safari Park then drive up to Fuji Premium resort. 6 Dec to Fujiten Skiing Resort. 7 Dec (yet to plan anything) but to drive back to Gotemba.

    Now, though Fujiten Skiing Resort tentatively will open on 5 Dec, they responded to me by stating that “if it is a warm winter, opening may be later”. So, besides going to Fuji Q Highland which we are not very keen. Would appreciate if you could advise some itineraries for us to cover on 6 Dec and also anywhere we could stop by when travelling back to Gotemba on 7 Dec.

    Thanks in advance!!!!

  • Jenny says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum

    I am grateful for the wealth of information you have blogged on these areas in 2008 and 2013, but perhaps I have drowned myself in so much information and lost the thinking power to plan.

    Alternative 1: My original intent was just to get the Hakone 2 day pass and do Day 1: Hakone, rest over in Hakone for the night. Day 2: Hop over to Gotemba outlet in the morning, shop the day and return to Tokyo in the evening. I am having troubles grasping the logistics details to understand if this 2 day plan would be feasible. Whether the train or bus schedules can accommodate this itinerary.

    Alternative 2: Then I got greedy and wanted to include Kawaguchiko. Would it be possible to do Day 1: Gotemba, rest the night at Kawaguchiko. And enjoy, if I am lucky, Fuji’s scenery from the room. And on Day 2 head to Hakone and return to Tokyo. Yet to work out the logistics and feasibility on this. Would you be able to advice?

    I was trying to model your itinerary for Hakone and the vicinity, but we are not driving so I came down with the 2 options.The 2 day plans are intended on Dec 7 – 8. I will be arriving into Tokyo with my gal friend on Dec 5, and planning to get the tickets or passes whichever needed on Dec 6. After which, we would head for the Gingkos (wrt your later post) and hopefully autumn foliage at Rikugien Garden or Koishikawa Korakuen.

    With much appreciation on your feedback and looking forward to your enlightenment wand.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Personally, I feel the Hakone Freepass is best value when you use it for the Hakone Round Course (with the ropeway and Lake Ashi cruise). It is possible to complete the round-course on Day 1 if you set off early. In winter, due to shorter daylight hours, I suggest you leave Shinjuku by 7am and arrive in Odawara by 8.30am. Then on Day 2, you can visit Gotemba and return to Shinjuku from Gotemba via the Odakyu Highway Bus. So your first plan is actually feasible.

      If you want to visit Kawaguchiko, I suggest you stretch it to 3 days and get the Fuji Hakone Pass instead:

      So what you do is:
      Day 1 – Shinjuku – Hakone (Hakone round course)
      Day 2 – Hakone – Gotemba (shopping) – Kawaguchiko
      Day 3 – Kawaguchiko – Shinjuku

      • Jenny says:

        Hi Bumble Bee Mum

        Thanks much! That’s crystal clear and removes much clouds from the mind.

        Will drop Kawaguchiko as you suggest and just focus on Hakone this trip. Will it be too late to get the tickets at Shinjuku’s Okakyu Sightseeing Service Center on Dec 6, a day prior to our excursion to Hakone? At the same time, would I be possible to have them help me put through a special request for the Kaiseiki dinner (as I don’t take raw) + booking for private onsen at our lodging? Because I have yet to find the number/email for our lodging which I have booked through Agoda.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Neh, it’s not too late. I remembered I bought my tickets at the station just before I hopped onto the train. Because I didn’t want to be restricted by the timing of tickets that I pre-bought.

          Hmm? I don’t understand your second question. Do you mean that you already booked your lodging through Agoda and would like to put in special request now? If that’s the case, go to Agoda, under ‘My Booking’, and click on ‘Manage Booking’ and see if there’s a section for you to fill in special request and modify your booking? I don’t have any upcoming bookings on my account now so I can’t check where exactly the special request is, but I kind of remember submitting a special request before.

          Alternatively, what is the name of your lodging? I can try to google in Japanese to see if I can find their number, but most of the time hotels in Japan don’t have an email address. They use the phone more than email.

          • Jenny says:

            Oh I see re the Hakone tix and timing. And re lodging at Hakone, yes, I have already booked to stay a night with half board options (breakfast and dinner) in Hakone via Agoda. I went ahead to reserve one without reading much because time was getting too near to our travel dates. After placing the booking and as I read on, I realized I am not entirely suited for kaiseiki dinner as it has raw stuff. As you suggest, I just made the special request through Agoda’s manage booking section. I also found from a Taiwanese website this would be the number and email for the lodging: +81-460-86-1333 | hakone-rc@dormy-hotels.com but number appears to be invalid when I called and no one has replied to my email yet. Oh, the lodging is Tokinoyu Setsugetsuka, Gora (箱根強羅温泉 季の湯 雪月花). I think the website might be http://www.hotespa.net/hotels/setsugetsuka/room/ and through the translation at FAQ page, I gathered if I read right, I can do the meal request on the same day before 2 p.m.? And there is no private reservation on the onsen? Thanks again for your invaluable input and time.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Based on the reviews I read on Agoda, it seems that you get to choose your meal when you’re there. One of the reviews said they could choose between seafood, beef or sushi set.

              For the onsen, they do have private onsen but they don’t take prior reservation for them. It says on the website that you can use them when they are empty. So I guess you just need to wait until they are available to use them.

              • Jenny says:

                Ohhh you got that from Agoda’s review? How did I miss it! Thanks again!! That’s great help and I can wrap up my homework on Tokyo. Wishing you all the best this holiday season wherever you are!

  • Gerlynn says:

    hi bumblebeemum,
    Thanks for your generous sharing and trip planning help offered here. Like mini Tripadvisor!

    wld like to ask a few questions here regarding my planning to hakone and lake kawaguchiko.

    will be going over weekend on 18&19 march 2D1N. Saw u covered a vast area of kawaguchiko, i may not be able given 2D1N.

    here’s the questions i hope u can help:

    1. Leave tokyo early and arrive hakone with daypass. should i do the usual route or reverse it in view of crowd?
    2. should i stay at hakone or kawaguuchiko or any where else between the 2?
    3. do i return the car in hakone or kawaguchiko with factors like one way surcharge, toll fees, reverse 1.5hr journey etc
    4. which scenic route to take or avoid for jam
    5. will it be challenging to drive at night? We have driven in Australia countryside w no street lamps just reflector. will it be similar condition?

    Thank u!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. Are you getting the Hakone free pass? Or are you planning to train to Hakone and drive all the way from there? If you’re driving, you don’t need to follow the classic route at all.
      2. It really depends on your itinerary. Do you have more places you want to visit in Hakone or more places you want to visit around Kawaguchiko? If you can’t decide, somewhere in between would be Gotemba.
      3. I would return the car back to Hakone then train back to Tokyo from there.
      4. You can’t really avoid the jam because the roads are one lane. But I have found the jams around Hakone manageable. Except the road going up to Owakudani which was terribly jammed when I was there. But you can avoid driving up to Owakudani by taking the ropeway instead.
      5. Yup, it’s pretty similar to driving in Australia countryside with no street lamps.

  • Lynn says:

    Thanks for the reply!

    20/3 is Japan PH. Jam Jam I think!

    Well, if I prefer more scenic places, will Lake Kawaguchi (LK) be favoured over Hakone? I’m thinking maybe I should do LK and overnight in LK, if have time then drive over to Hakone. This time no kids so can focus on scenic places:)

    Are there toll charges between LK and Hakone? or ETC or something? I’m still unfamiliar with ETC.

  • Lynn says:

    Hi bumblebeemum

    Kind of decided to spend more time at LK. May I know how’s the area like at night? Restaurants near lake? Able to see nice night lights ard the lake? Or what can we do at night beside onsen?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      In the rural areas, it’s generally pretty dark at night with not much activity going on. Unless you run into a festival / illumination event. I recommend you stay in an onsen ryokan with half-board (dinner + breakfast provided). Usually in the evenings, we just stay in the ryokan to enjoy dinner and soak in the onsen.

  • Peter says:

    Hi bumblebeemum, just wondering if it’s possible to visit the safari and drive around Mt Fuji area in late December? Not sure if it will be snowing around that area, if yes I don’t we can manage the self driving bit.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You can’t drive to Mount Fuji in December – the roads will be closed. But you can get great views of Mount Fuji by just driving around Mount Fuji on clear days. The region doesn’t get super heavy snowfall like in Hokkaido, it’s not something I would worry about. But of course when it comes to weather, anything can happen. So just know what to do in case you really do encounter snow (e.g. drive slowly, drive in daylight, double Google map’s driving time estimate, target to reach your accommodation by 4pm).

  • Mary says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, Thanks for sharing. I will use your itinerary as a guide. My husband and I and our two children will be going to Hakone and Kawaguchiko first week December this year. We plan to take the train from Tokyo to Odawara and rent a car from there. Is it difficult to drive from Hakone to Kawaguchi? Do we need to use highways/expressways to get there? Are road signs in English? Is the drive less than 1 and 1/2 hours?

    Did you enjoy Hakone more than Kawaguchi?

    Appreciate your advice. Thanks

  • Mary says:

    Sorry I just saw your google map going by route 138. Thanks. Looks quite easy.

    • Queen Bee says:

      Lol… No worries. Anyway I enjoy the region as a whole, not just Hakone and Kawaguchiko but also Gotemba and the rest of Fuji Five Lakes.. Can’t say that I prefer one specific area to another.

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