Self-drive holiday with kids to Japan (Hakone and Mount Fuji region)

Okay… So one month after I came back from my self-drive holiday to Hokkaido, I was on yet another self-drive holiday in Japan.  This time to Hakone and Mount Fuji!

The previous trip was kind of boring for the kids, so this time round, I went about planning a trip that would be absolutely AWESOME for the kids!

The trip was a pretty impromptu decision, and I completed the planning, booking of air tickets, accommodations and car rental in less than 2 weeks!

I didn’t have a very fixed itinerary for this trip, what I did prior to the trip was to find a list of places that are kids-friendly, noted down their phone numbers (since Japan’s GPS system uses phone numbers) and only decided where to go based on the weather and our mood during the trip itself.

But this was not the first time I drove in the Hakone / Mount Fuji region, so I was pretty familiar with the places and roads and approximate traveling times, hence not much planning was needed beforehand.

Eventually, this was how the road trip went, starting and ending at Odawara Station, which is the nearest shinkansen stop from Hakone.

Day 1: Odawara -> Hakone Open Air Museum -> Yunessun -> Fujiya Hotel

We left Tokyo in the morning and opted to take a local train to Odawara (rather than the popular Romance Car because hubby and I had done it before).  We could also have opted for the faster shinkansen, but it would cost double.

Just outside the West exit of Odawara station, you can find Nissan Rent-A-Car and Nippon Rent-A-Car. We opted for Nippon because I wanted to get a Toyota Fielder. We had booked the car earlier via Tocoo website. I loved the fielder for its huge boot which could fit our bulky Peg Perego stroller and one large luggage case in easily.

The drive from Odawara to Hakone took us past the Odawara Castle before arriving at Hakone.  Although the distance was pretty short, the drive took much longer than expected because the road from Odawara to Hakone was a one-land road dotted with numerous traffic lights. Plus it was koyo (autumn-foliage) season in Hakone and hence many people were visiting the region.

Once we passed Hakone-Yumoto station, the traffic eased and the scenery became really beautiful with autumn colours at its peak. Our first destination was the Hakone Open Air Museum.

You may wonder why an art museum was considered a kids-friendly place. The museum encouraged interaction with the art, so there were sculptures that doubled-up as playgrounds. There were 3 play areas there for kids, all of which were awesome fun!

The first play area, the Art Hall, we came across was indoors and great for toddlers.

The second play area we came across was a huge open-air play sculpture called ‘Curved Space + Diamond Sculpture’.  It required more advanced climbing skills.  I felt it was not so suitable for toddlers and more for older children.

The third play area was the Wood of Nets.

As the name suggested, it was a colourful woven net sculpture inside a wooden frame.

Kids could climb around the net sculpture and MF absolutely loved playing here!

Update: When my sister visited Hakone Open Air Museum in December 2016, she said that the Wood of Nets was closed due to corrosion of the wooden sculpture.  If you are there and the Wood of Nets has since reopened, do drop us a comment to let us know!

Another area that MF loved, although I don’t think was meant to be a playground, was the Symphony Sculpture.  It was a tall tower with a spiral staircase, which MF thought was fun to climb up, surrounded by shimmering stained glass.

We spent more time than expected at Hakone Open Air Museum because MF was having so much fun! And there were also some autumn foliage around the open air museum to be enjoyed.  I highly recommend visiting Hakone Open Air Museum if you’re in Hakone with kids, especially during autumn.

We decided to go Yunessun next since it closed later than most other attractions in Hakone. Plus, they had a super discounted ‘Sunset Pass‘ for entry after 3pm.

The kids had fun in the kids pool, which was indoors and heated.

There was also a seasonal miso soup bath, which I found extremely amusing.

There was a section called ‘Yutopia’ where there were many types of spa: Coffee, red wine, green tea, sake etc just to name a few. It was outdoors, which meant I had to brave the cold (it was about 0 degrees outside) to try them out. But having came all the way here, it would be a waste not to try them out!

We were there until they closed at 6pm, after which we had dinner at the restaurant in the Yunessun complex before returning to our hotel.

Day 2: Fujiya hotel -> Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise -> Hakone Ropeway -> Fuji Safari Park -> Hotel Fuyokaku (Fujisan Station)

In the morning, we went for a stroll around our hotel, Fujiya Hotel, which was a pretty historic hotel and a destination in itself.

The hotel, founded in 1878, felt more like an attraction than a hotel.  As we explored the hotel grounds, we felt like we were transported back in time.

And the autumn colours in the garden and around the hotel grounds were simply gorgeous!

For this day, we were trying to decide whether to visit Grinpa Amusement Park, or go for the Hakone sightseeing cruise and ropeway.

The weather made the decision for us. Hubby and I had done the latter before, but we did not manage to see Mount Fuji from the cruise and ropeway the last time due to bad weather.

The sky was very clear and blue this time round, so we decided we should try it again. Anyway MF super loves taking cable cars.

After our morning stroll and breakfast, we drove to Togendai, which was the station that served both cruise and ropeway. We started with a round trip cruise on the pirate ship. MF was super excited to board a pirate ship!

We made the correct decision to take the cruise, as we were rewarded with postcard views of Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi!

Next, we went on the Hakone Ropeway.

The ride between Togendai and Owakudani provided a spectacular view of Mount Fuji.

And the view of Mount Fuji from Owakudani was just amazing.

If you are thinking of saving the money on the ropeway and driving up to Owakudani for its view of Mount Fuji instead, my advice is DON’T. Everyone was thinking the same way and the one-lane road up to Owakudani and small carpark at the top simply couldn’t handle the traffic on this clear day. The traffic jam along the road up to Owakudani was just insane. Anyway there was a lot of construction going on up on Owakudani. Not sure what they were building, but I sure hope they build a bigger carpark.

We did not continue the rest of the ropeway ride to Sounzan, although it was included in our one-day cruise + ropeway ticket, because we wanted to spend more time at our next destination, Fuji Safari Park.  So from Owakudani, we took the ropeway back to Togendai.

Here’s a parting shot of Hakone at Togendai, which was surrounded by beautiful autumn colours:

After about an hour’s drive, we arrived at Fuji Safari Park.

First, we went to the Safari Restaurant for lunch, which was a very child-friendly restaurant with cute kids meals and many high chairs and children’s utensils at your disposal.


After we had filled our stomachs, we started our Jurassic Park-style safari tour with our own rental car.

You can choose to drive in with your own vehicle, or take the park’s animal-shaped buses (at additional cost).  I prefer driving: own-time-own-target.

The animals could come up really close to your vehicle (it’s not called a safari for nothing). A lion brushed right past our car – and MF totally freaked out.

Only after we entered the herbivorous animals section did MF start to calm down and enjoy the safari tour.

And since it’s FUJI Safari Park, you can see Mount Fuji from the park on clear days.

After we completed one round, we decided to go for a second round. MF was more warmed up and enjoyed the second round more.

Besides the safari zoo drive, there was also a walking section at Fuji Safari Park where visitors could get up close to kangaroos.

After we completed our visit of the safari park, there was still time, so we decided to drive up to Snowtown Yeti to see some snow. It was kind of lame, considering that we had no intention to ski or snowboard, but we are Singaporeans and suckers for any opportunity to see snow.

The visit was a total waste of time and money (yes, you need to pay to enter even if you are not skiing) as the family play area was not open yet! And the kids playroom was so pathetic we did not bother letting the kids play there.  If you really want to see snow during the year end holidays, I suggest heading to Hokkaido instead.

On our drive back to the hotel, we saw signs to the Mount Fuji 5th station and decided to try driving there. However, the road was closed in winter.   So it was back to the hotel.

Our hotel, Hotel Fuyokaku, was located right next to Fujisan station which houses a department store and supermarket. So we did a little shopping and had our dinner there before calling it a day.

Day 3: Hotel Fuyokaku -> Fuji Q Highland -> Sagamiko -> Lake Shoji

In the morning, we woke up bright and early and went to Fuji Q Highland. With 2 kids in tow, it was difficult to go for all the thrill-rides at Fuji Q, so we only bought admission tickets without the free pass. The main aim of coming to Fuji Q was for its Thomas Land, as MF was a big fan of Thomas!

Thomas Land was kind of at the end of the park, so we walked around the park a bit to see if there were any rides MF and MY could ride.

The carousel allowed MY on it and we bought individual ride tickets for it.

The Hamtaro rides looked awfully cute and fun for kids, but sadly MF did not meet the minimum height requirements. 🙁

We just walked around taking photos until we finally reached Thomas Land!

Thomas Land was an awesome place for toddlers and even babies! MF could ride on everything except Rock n Roll Duncan (which was under maintenance when we were there anyway) because he was not 3 years old yet. Even 10-month old MY (who was able to sit without support) could ride everything except Rock n Roll Duncan and Go! Go! Bulstrode.

MF went for all the rides, except Rock n Roll Duncan. Me and my hubby took turns to go with him, and we only had to buy one ticket for the adult as all the rides were free for MF who was under 3!

Other than rides, there were also giant models of Thomas and Percy for kids to take photos with.

There were also self-drive vehicles that cost only 100 yen per ride! MF didn’t know how to drive one initially and hubby accompanied him. After one round, he was able to manage and went for another 2 rounds on his own.

The self-drive vehicles dispensed a souvenir card at the start of each ride. Can you believe it? 100 yen for a ride and you still get a souvenir card! It kind of entices you to ride more so that you can collect all the different cards.

There was a Thomas-themed restaurant called ‘K’s Thomas Cafe’ which was really cool. The seats were made to resemble train cabins and they incorporated train designs into their food and everything was served in Thomas cups and plates.

There was also a snack kiosk called ‘Lady Hyatt’s Afternoon Tea’ selling Thomas-shaped mini pancakes.

The real trap here was the Thomas Station Shop which sold everything Thomas – confectionery, toys, stationary etc.. you name it, they have it. Even Thomas toilet paper.

They even set up tables with train sets to keep the kids occupied while the parents did their shopping – how considerate. Now you have absolutely no excuse to leave the shop empty-handed. You simply can’t.

With that, we ended our visit of Thomas Land. The kids absolutely LOVED it and we had such a good time!

On our way out, we decided to ride the Giant Ferris Wheel. On a clear day, you can get a nice view of Mount Fuji from it.

Next, we took a one-hour drive to Sagamiko. This part of the tour was totally unplanned for and way off our route.

Our original plan was to visit Kawaguchiko next, as they were having their autumn festival. But we saw posters of the Sagamiko Illumillion and were told it was very beautiful, so we decided to check it out.

I think the kids had enough of autumn foliage during the Hokkaido trip anyway. And it’s all in the spirit of free and easy travel – to check out something you did not plan for in advance!

The drive via the Chuo expressway was expensive (we paid about 3000 yen for toll), but the illumination was really beautiful.

Some of the rides were operating and complemented the illumination.

Sagamiko Illumillion surpassed the Kobe Luminarie as my favourite illumination in Japan.  I was really glad we made the trip.  It was a long 1.5 hour drive back to our hotel at Lake Shoji, but we thoroughly enjoyed the side-track.

Day 4: Lake Shoji -> Asagiri Highland -> Odawara

Our last morning in the Mount Fuji region was greeted by a beautiful sunrise, viewed from the comfort of our hotel room.

There were many people gathered on the shores of Lake Shoji armed with cameras and tripods, capturing the beautiful sunrise against Mount Fuji. I felt so lucky to be able to do so from the comfort of my room.

Lake Shoji was much less touristy and quiet compared to Kawaguchiko, and our room with view of Mount Fuji at Hotel Yamadaya was much cheaper compared to rooms with similar view at the more touristy areas.

Hotel Yamadaya also had private open air baths, with view of Mount Fuji, which guests could book at no additional charge. Great for those who want to try a Japanese onsen but are shy to strip naked in front of strangers.

After our morning soak in the private bath, we started our drive along the Western side of Mount Fuji.  First stop was the Asagiri Kogen (or Asagiri Plateau) for a beautiful view of Mount Fuji.

We continued our drive towards Fuji Milk Land, passing by Asagiri Food Park.  We decided not to stop at the food park and go straight to Fuji Milk Land for breakfast.

Bad decision. Because the restaurant at Fuji Milk Land was only open from lunch time onwards. So we bought a big cheesecake and milk from the souvenir shop for breakfast.

Not that MF minded having cheesecake for breakfast.  He was stuffed and happy!

After eating, we went to check out the animal park where one could experience milking a cow, riding a tractor, horse-riding etc.

We went for horse-riding, which costs 700yen for an individual or 1000yen for a parent and child going together.

On weekends and public holidays, when the weather was good, there was a mini old-school carnival at the open field with games for kids.

We let MF have some fun on the trampoline before we left.

After this, we began our long 2 hour drive back to Odawara to return our rental car.  Self-drive holidays are great fun when travelling with kids, and the Hakone and Mount Fuji region was filled with so much fun stuff for kids! I would definitely recommend visiting this area for a vacation with the kids.

Further Reading

> Tokyo with Kids (November 2013)

> Self-drive to Hakone and Mount Fuji region (November 2008) – the more scenic version, recommended if you are visiting without kids!

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  • Winnie says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, i love your self drive tour and i am planning to self drive to Hakone as well, can i check the yamadaya hotel that you stay is located at Gora ( address: Gora 1320 -907) Hakone or 401-0336 Yamanashi Fujikawaguchiko Town, Minamitsuru-gunShoji

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, I apologize for only replying now. I just shifted my blog out of wordpress.com to my personal domain and this comment only appeared after I did that!

      The Yamadaya Hotel we stayed at was the one at Shoji (second one).

  • Cath says:

    Oh wow! I wish I found your blog before I booked the hotel. Then again, I think it’s hard for us cos we probably won’t want to drive.

  • Lian says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    We are traveling with our 2 children (2 and 10 years old) to Japan in June. We’re actually thinking of going to Hakone for two nights. Main purpose is to see Mt Fuji and try out an onsen. But because of the volcanic activity, we are having reservations now. Would Atami be a good alternative? And would renting a car make sense?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, if you want to see Mount Fuji, Fuji Five Lakes region would be your best alternative. There are many onsens, with the most popular ones being those at Kawaguchiko. There are many interesting attractions around Kawaguchiko that the kids would enjoy, such as Fuji Q Highland (where Thomas Land is), Mt Kachi Kachi Ropeway and Kawaguchiko Music Forest. When the weather is good, the view from Oishi Park along the Northern shore of Kawaguchiko is very beautiful. It is also possible to drive to Fuji Safari Park from Kawaguchiko without going near Hakone.

      You can read more on the following posts:

      > Thomas Land Japan
      > My visit in 2008 (which included the music forest, Mt Kachi Kachi Ropeway, Oishi Park and some other scenic points around Fuji Five Lakes region)

      A rental car is good for visiting the Fuji Five Lakes region.

  • Hi! Chanced upon your blog while searching for Yamadaya Hotel. May I ask if there is private bathroom in every room? Is it only convenient to stay in this hotel if self-drive? Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Nope, the private bathroom is not in the room. Ermm.. imo anywhere is convenient if you self-drive. In fact, I think you need to self-drive to get to Yamadaya. However if you are talking about things to do around the hotel, there is really nothing much around the hotel. It is like the lake in the front of the hotel which is like a camping ground for photographers. If you like to be in a more ‘happening’ area, you will have to stay at one of the hotels at Kawaguchiko.

  • Annisa says:

    Hi mom,
    Your blog would be one of the best travel blog because you still answering the comments 😍
    A question about yamadaya hotel, i know that they dont have private bathroom in each room, but they have private toilet and washlet in the room right?

  • catherine says:

    Hi, i would like to go to Nagoya from Hakone.
    What will be the fastest way? Drive to Hakone Odawara to drop off the rental car and take on a bullet train?

  • catherine says:

    alternatively, if my last stop is milk land co. how to get to nagoya fastest? which will be the nearest train/bullet train station to drop the rental car and take train.

  • mao says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum,
    we are planning a self drive at Hakone and Mt Fuji region, hopefully to 5th station if weather allows.
    May i know if it is safe to drive around Mt Fuji ?
    People telling me that there are sharp bends and turns (and very near to side cliff) .

    is it true ?

    thank you

    • Cath says:

      Ya really sharp bends.. we were there 2 days ago
      The road we took.. the mountain was so dark .. no street light.. n no idea what route is that ..
      We were freaking out when driving.. if u missed any turns.. u can’t uturn cos is too narrow.. we drove at Melbourne and Brisbane n Sydney road trip to mountains too but Hakano is pretty scary..
      But nevertheless is a good experience for us..

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It is a rural region so definitely the roads are windy. But there are usually barriers at the side of the roads to prevent you from going off the roads in Japan. And yes, roads are pitch dark with no street lamps at night. The good thing is that it doesn’t really snow around the region, so that’s one less challenge to deal with. If it concerns you, I suggest you keep your itinerary loose to avoid driving in the dark. Meaning you should get to your accommodation by 4pm each day if it’s winter because the sun sets pretty early in winter.

      Travelling with young and old, the more I would opt to drive because public transport can be a real hassle with young and old.

      • Debbie says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,

        Just wondering. If I were to do the Hakone Round Course with the Hakone Tozan Railway, Cablecar, then cruise, what do I do with my rental car? Did you just park it at the hotel, and take public transport the whole way?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you plan to spend a day doing the round course, you can rent a car only after that. So for e.g. if you do the round course on your first day in Hakone, you can start your car rental on the second day onwards to the rest of the region.

          • Cath says:

            Don’t mean to scare u off on the hakone driving..
            I agreed with bumblebee mum who say drive back before 4pm as it get dark around 5pm..

            Driving depends on the driver confidence level.
            I have a Friend who is a sales man and he drives Everyday with a saloon car.
            When we went to Aussie to drive up a mountain, diving a hyundai IMAX car, he drives very slow.
            So I Guess is ok to drive at hakone, jus drive slower and go back earlier before sky get dark.
            With you having young and old Travelling together, car is a better choice. We were in Disney for 3 days and walk until legs are breaking. The last 2 days when we were in Tokyo city is another torture when kids don’t wish to walk.. everywhere in Tokyo is waking..
            It was such a luxury to have car when we were in Hakone.. jus tat we got very tense up and is pitch dark on the mountain area.
            Asking direction in Hakone is pretty useless cos the locals don’t really speak English..
            Only the tourist information or hotel reception can speak a bit better English..
            Jus be prepare to use lots of sign language or get Google translate to help

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I felt the exact same way as you! Tokyo can be really tiring to visit with kids. All the endless walking and trying to keep up to speed with everyone else and trying to make sure our kids don’t get in the way of all those people rushing for time. The second time I was in Tokyo, I decided to just drive. It was much less tiring but OMG, the parking and toll fees were a nightmare! Up to now I still can’t decide which is the lesser of two evils: The walking and crowded metro, or their exorbitant parking and toll fees.

              In comparison, driving around Hakone & Mount Fuji felt like such a reprieve!

              I tried using public transport at Hakone once and spent so much time waiting for the buses, I gave up. Rented a car on the second day and never looked back.

              • cath says:

                thanks to you – bumblebee mum for sharing all these itinerary..
                my kids love the slow house villa.. bear theme..

                we didn’t go to sagamiko in the end because is another 1.5 hr driving from gotemba..therefore we just stay around the slow house villa area where they also have some illumination festival with the 70m tall water fountain..

      • Mao says:

        Hi Bumblebee Mum
        thanks for your advice!

  • Mike Sim says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    I am planning to bring my family for a Tokyo trip (16th to 26th dEcember)- and planned Mt Fuji Trip excursion from touch down to 16th to 19th using rental car from airport to kawaguchiko, gotemba and Snow Town Yeti.

    Based on your experience of self-driving in that region, do i need the snow tyres options?

    Thanks in advance for your recommendations and tips.



    • Mike Sim says:

      Hi Bumblebee Mum,

      My more precise itinerary and questions are as follow:

      We will touch down Haneda on early 17th morning, which is Saturday and will proceed to Kawaguchiko area for 3 days including having some skiing at Snow Town before coming back on 19th to Shinjuku area for the rest of the holiday. I have seen your self-driving posting and took your advice on car rental websites and now almost confirming my reservation for a suv car with snow tyres.

      But now i am hearing things from all over the internet about like expressway could be very expensive and driving out from tokyo and then back into it when returning the car is stressful affair for non-Japanese driver.

      Hence, would like to seek your advice:

      1) how long is the drive from Haneda airport to Kawaguchiko on Saturday morning? how much is the expressway toll charges? If i minimise toll by taking non-toll roads, would it be much longer to travel in the car?

      2) If alternatively i do not drive and take the bus/public transport to go to kawaguchiko, do you think it will be easy to move around? Or will it be easy to rent a car there to move around Kawaguchiko for 2days 1 night and return it before taking the train back to Shinjuku for a stress free travel?

      I haven’t been there at all so all i have known so far are hearsay. I dont mind paying a little bit of premium for convenience as we have 3 adults and 2 kids with 4 luggages to lug around. But do hope to save as much as possible if alternatives such as public transport into Mt Fuji area and then renting there for the outskirt moving around actually make sense too.

      Look forward to your advice and recommendation.

      Thanks and regards,


    • bumblebeemum says:

      I usually request for snow tyres when I drive at the end of the year to be safe. Not that I’ve actually had a use for them because I’ve never actually encountered snow in the region before. But the snow tyres didn’t cost much and it’s more for a peace of mind than anything.

      • Mike Sim says:

        Hi Bumblebee Mum,

        Thanks for the tip. I think driving makes sense…..especially considering i may need to wait for the coach at 10am to depart vs taking the car and departing by 830am and take a slow drive with convenience to stop at the rest stops along the way to enjoy the offerings.



        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yeah, that’s the thing about buses. You need to stick to their (usually not very frequent) timings. Just that you get to sleep on the bus but you can’t sleep when you’re driving.. lol!

  • Yvonne says:

    Hotel Yamadaya is in Japanese only. How do I make a reservation with them?
    I am also travelling to Tokyo and the places you visited with a 1 year old boy. Any suggestions on the places to visit for a 3 days drive in these area?
    Should we rent a car from Narita airport and drive straight to this area on the first day?
    Do drop me an email. Thank you in advance.

  • Jolene Ong says:

    Hi bumblebeemum!
    I am going to Japan in Feb 2017 with my Husband, 2 young kids and parents and itinerary will be as follows: Osaka(3nights)–>Kyoto(2N)–>Gotemba(1N)–>Tokyo(3N). I would like to seek your advice and expertise on the following:
    1. We are planning to stop at Gotemba for outlet shopping and intend to take a train down from Kyoto. Would you be able to advise which station to alight as I plan to rent a car to go Gotemba.
    2. Do you think it’s feasible to drive from Gotemba to Laje Shoji and stay for the night or it’s too far?
    3. For the ryokan at Lame Shoji, Hotel Yamadaya can I just confirm if the rooms comes with ensuite bathroom or it’s communal?
    4. From Gotemba back to Tokyo would it be feastible to drive or would you advise we drop the car at the JR station and train into Tokyo.

    Many thanks in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. For shinkansen from Kyoto, you can drop off at Odawara and rent a car from there, taking a scenic drive through Hakone to get to Gotemba:

      2. It is feasible. It depends on how early you set off and how much time you are going to be spending on shopping. If you arrive at Gotemba at say noon and plan to go shopping all day and just want to find a place to sleep at night, then I don’t advise you to drive all the way to Lake Shoji for the night. But let’s say you just spend like 2 hours shopping. After that you can continue driving around Mount Fuji, popping by Lakes Yamanakako and Kawaguchiko for some sightseeing along the way. Then you won’t feel the drive to Lake Shoji is very long. Though it may be getting dark by the time you arrive a Lake Shoji and the road there is pitch dark after sunset – you need to prepared for that. If driving in the dark worries you, I suggest you settle at Kawaguchiko.

      3. I THINK the bathroom at Hotel Yamadaya is communal. I really can’t remember coz it was a long time back. Anyway when I stay in onsen ryokan, I seldom use my room’s bathroom. I always go to the onsen and use the bathroom there. :p

      4. I suggest you drop the car off at Odawara and train back.

  • Ivan says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Many thanks for your amazing blog. I am planning to travel to Japan with my wife and 1 kid(3.5 years) for 14 days in April and would like to budget 7 days for self driving in Hakone/Mount Fuji area.

    I understand your itinerary above is for ~3 days. Given 7 days, could you propose where I can go in Hakone/Mount Fuji area?

  • Vivien says:

    Hi Bumblebee,

    We will reach Haneda airport at 10pm on Sat 17 Jun and will be in Tokyo till Sat 24 Jun evening. We wish to visit Disneyland, Hakone, Mount Fuji and Motherfarm. Thinking of self-drive in Hakone since we have 2 young kids with luggage. Can we have your help on planning with the itinerary? Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Since you are arriving late, I suggest you spend the first night at the airport hotel, Royal Park Hotel The Haneda:

      Then rent a car for Mother Farm / Hakone / Mount Fuji, and return the car before going to Disneyland.

      So example:

      17 June: Haneda Airport (stay airpot)
      18 June: Pick up rental car. Haneda Airport – Mother Farm (stay Kisarazu)
      19 June: Kisarazu – Hakone (stay Hakone)
      20 June: Hakone / Mount Fuji (Stay Hakone)
      21 June: Hakone / Mount Fuji (Stay Hakone or change another ryokan around Fuji Five Lakes area)
      22 June: Hakone / Mount Fuji – Tokyo. Return car. Shuttle to disneyland area. (Stay Maihama)
      23 June: Full day at Disneyland (Stay Maihama)
      24 June: Do a bit of sightseeing before heading back to the airport.

      • Vivien says:

        Thanks for the itinerary.

        From Kiasarzu – hakone, will it be a long drive?

        And on 21 Jun, I likely will return to Tokyo as want to do a bit of shopping. If i rent the car from Haneda airport, can I return the car at odawara station? Thought of letting children try romance car from odawara to Tokyo (will the view be nice on way back?)

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Uhmmm… Different people have different definition of long drives. Kisarazu to Hakone is about 100km (1.5 – 2 hours) drive, which to me is okay.

          We did use Zoorasia as a stop to take a break from the drive:

          It is possible to pick up the car at one location and drop off at another, but there will be a drop-off fee. And usually I find the drop-off fee is not very worth doing so. If you want to experience the romance car, I suggest you just use train for the return trip between Tokyo and Odawara, and rent a car from Odawara.

  • Vivien says:

    Hi Bumblebee,

    We decided to drive from five Fuji lake back to Tokyo and made some changes as avoiding Disneyland on Fri. Will like your comments on the following itinerary, thanks!

    17 June: Haneda Airport (stay airpot)
    18 June: Pick up rental car. Haneda Airport – Mother Farm (stay Kisarazu)
    19 June: Kisarazu – Mitsui Outlet-> Hakone Open Air Musuem -> Yunnessan -> Hakone (stay Hakone)
    20 June: Hakone sight seeing cruise/ Gotemba outlet or Fuji Safari Parl/ Mount Fuji (Stay Konansou)
    21 June: Konnansou -> Drive to Disnyeland.Return car.
    22 Jun: Disneyland (Stay Maihama)
    23 June: Maihama -> SHinjuku (Stay Shinjuku)
    24 June: Do a bit of sightseeing before heading back to the airport.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you want to visit the outlet at Kisarazu, I recommend you visit it on 18 June after Mother Farm. On 19 June, set off earlier for Hakone to give yourself more time at Open Air Musum and Yunessun.

      Other than that I think your itinerary works.

  • Kimberly Low says:

    Hi Bumblebee,

    First of all thanks for sharing your experience. So helpful! We will be in Tokyo next week and plan to rent a car to drive Fuji/Hakone area. I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind helping out 🙂

    1. Did you reserve the car online or just walk in to the shop to get a car straightaway? Our experience in Europe is that despite booking online earlier, the price is always different and we had to top up while picking the car. So if Japan is the same, can we just walk in? We’re hoping to explore Tokyo on foot and hopefully find a car rental nearby our accomodation…too risky?

    2. We’re planning to drive from Tokyo to Fuji area (Yamanaka) and then Fuji to Hakone on another day. Should we get an ETC card?

    Sorry for the barrage of questions. Thank you for your help!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. I always reserve my car online beforehand. It is more about the language barrier than the price, because I have never compared walk-in price with online price honestly. Though I suspect booking online should be cheaper than walking in. By booking using English websites online, I can tick all the items I need like GPS, car seats, insurance etc and they would prepare everything for me beforehand. More often than not if you walk into a car rental office in Japan, the staff there won’t speak a lot of English, even in the most touristy areas. If you speak Japanese, then I don’t think it’s a problem to just walk in. If not, I would suggest you book the car beforehand on an English website.

      2. You don’t really need an ETC card for the Mount Fuji region. You may use the tollways once or twice, but you can just pay cash as I don’t think the toll fee for driving around the region will be a lot.

  • Lee says:

    Hi mummy,

    was wondering if you can advise me as ill be doing the Osaka–>Kyoto–>Tokyo route via bullet train. Am thinking of going to Hakone for the safari & mt fuji from Kyoto sometime in October. Which is the station i should be stopping at? Is there car rental services there? So headache yet super excited to plan especially tolling 1 kid and 1 toddler ard. Thanks for your help inadvance.

  • Melissa Lee says:


    We, family of 4 with 2 daughters age 13 & 15, will be traveling to Japan on Dec 1-9. This is my daughters 1st trip to Osaka & tokyo.

    We are planning to visit USJ,Osaka Aquarium,Osaka castle..any other place to recommend?

    Then, I thought to have a self drive trip on Day 4 from Osaka to Kyoto, then Mount Fuji and arrive Tokyo.
    Which route should I use & any recommendation for overnight stay.

    Day 1 to 3- OSAKA (public transport)
    Day 4 – Osaka to Kyoto 9 (self drive)
    Day 5 – Mount Fuji/Hakone (self drive)
    Day 6 – Hakone to Tokyo (self drive)
    Day 7-9 – Tokyo (public transport)

    Thank you in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      From Osaka, you can also visit Kobe or Himeji.

      Kyoto can be done as a day trip from Osaka. By doing it as a day trip, you can save the trouble of changing hotel.

      The self-drive part looks quite rushed. I would suggest you use the shinkansen to get from Osaka to Odawara, then rent a car from Odawara to explore the Hakone & Mount Fuji region. I also suggest you spend at least 2 days in the region. So you may want to reduce one day in Osaka or Tokyo.


      Day 1 to 4: Osaka (one of the days, visit Kyoto)
      Day 5: Osaka – Odawara, rent car, explore Hakone / Mount Fuji.
      Day 6: Explore Hakone / Mount Fuji.
      Day 7: Return car, take shinkansen to Tokyo.
      Day 8 – 9: Tokyo

  • Kirsten Barrett says:

    I LOVE YOUR BLOG! It has honestly been such a life saver for our upcoming trip to Japan in August/September with our two kids (2 and 5) from Australia.
    Our current itinerary is as follows
    22-25th August – Disneyland for my sons 5th birthday
    25-28th August – (NOTHING BOOKED)
    28-2nd September – OSAKA
    2nd – 7th September – NOTHING BOOKED
    7th – 12th September – Tokyo

    My question to you is, we want to visit ALL of the places you have listed in the above article. Can you please tell me the most logical way to do this obviously within our itinerary where I have nothing booked. We have a car so will be driving back from Osaka on the 2nd, what do you think would be a good itinerary for the following 5 days? We are staying in air bnbs. We are also hoping to find somewhere nice to stop over for the time between Tokyo and Osaka from 25-28th August. I tried to contact the slow house vilas as mentioned in your previous blog but they were fully booked.

    Thanks so much

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you’re driving, you can also take reference from this other trip we did:

      For example, on 25th you can stay at Kakegawa for a night to break up the drive. Then on 26th-28th you can stay at Nagoya. There’s a new Legoland and a rail museum among other stuff at Nagoya.

      On the way back, you can spend a night on 2nd Sept at Hamamatsu to break up the drive. You can check out Hamamatsu Fruit Park or Hamamtsu Palpal. Then drive on to Hakone / Mount Fuji region for 3 – 7 Sept, that should give you plenty time to cover all the places we covered in this post.

  • CuriousTraveller Mummy says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum!

    Thank you for sharing all your wonderful experiences and tips on Japan travel. Your blog has so much information that I constantly refer to it to read your comments on people queries 🙂

    And now, I pluck some courage to ask some of my own questions as I planned our first family trip to Japan. We have an elderly and 2 kids (below 6yrs), so I reckon paying the premium to do self driving should be the most convenient way for us.

    As we only have 1 driver, so I’m concerned for my hubby, so would like a little advice on the driving distance for my planned itinery for early November.

    Wed – Reach 6am @ Haneda. 2hrs+ Drive to Kawaguchiko (2 nights stay). In between, maybe break and stop over at Misaka farm Grape House (Fruits picking). Depending on weather and tiredness, do Mt Kachi Kachi ropeway in afternoon. Will the drive be difficult, as I read that the traffic is bad?

    Thurs – FujiQ / Kawaguchiko area

    Fri – Drive to Shiraito Falls then to Fuji Safari Park / Slow House Villa (2 nights stay)

    Sat – Drive to Hakone Ropeway / Lake Ashi Cruise / then maybe Hakone Open Air Museum. Return to Slow House

    Sun – Transit to Chiba Farm for 2 nights stay (supposedly 2hrs 15mins drive via Tomei Expressway to reach by 1pm). Would this drive be too long, I can’t seem to find a good in between stop over area for 1-2hrs kind – any suggestion?

    Mon – Chiba Farm (my kids like farmstay, so I guess we will sacrifice a little of time @ Disney)

    Tues – Transit to DisneySea (reach hopefully by 10am). Still deciding but probably staying in Disney area, their hotels are EX 🙁 so do you suggest we transit to Disney the night before?

    Wed – DisneyLand

    Thurs – 10.30am flight home

    Thank you in advance for your comments, and hopefully my itinery make sense?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      On the whole, I think your itinerary makes sense.

      The drive from Haneda to Kawaguchiko is indeed quite long, especially if done right after a flight. There will probably be some traffic jams along the way. If the driver is tired, just take breaks at the rest stops along the expressway.

      For the drive from Gotemba to Chiba, we took a break at Zoorasia at Yokohama. Your kids will love it, though it is more like a 3-4 hours stop than a 1-2 hours stop. You can read more here:

      The Disney hotels are expensive. My friend recently stayed at Hotel Mystays Maihama to visit Disney, she said it was walking distance to the park and much cheaper than the Disney hotels, maybe you can check it out?

      If your kids are super into theme parks and you want to spend the whole day at Disneysea, then you move to Maihama on Monday night after you finish your farm visit. But if they are not so into all the rides, and you just want to go Disneysea more to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere, and you don’t mind reaching a bit later, then it’s okay to stay at Chiba on Monday and make your way to the park on Tuesday.

      By the way, if you are planning to go Disney, I really recommend you get your Disney tickets from Klook while their Summer sale is still on. The sale ends on 30 June 2017. I’ve explained how their summer sale works here:

  • CuriousTraveller Mummy says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    Thank you for your information on Maihama Hotels and Zoorasia. Though I think I prefer to go straight to Mother’s Farm and spend more time there now.

    Also thanks for sharing on Klook! I keep a lookout for future deals as the current summer70 sale only valid for tickets until Sept. But at least now I have re-assurance that Klook is valid 🙂

    Thank you so much for your information again!

  • Hazel says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Your blog is awesome and very useful for my coming Hakone & Fuji trip. But I have some question, hope you could help to advise from your previous experience.

    We plan to have a 4days3nights trip to Hakone (2 nights) & Mt Fuji (1 night)

    Option 1:
    Purchase Hakone 3days pass travel from Shijuku station. Use the pass for all local transport at Hakone, cruise & ropeway and so on.
    Day 3, check out to Gotemba station and rent a car for 2days 1night at Mt Fuji, Fuji Safari. Overnight near by Lake Shoji and check out rent car to Gotemba. Then take train back to Tokyo.

    Option 2: Train from Shinjuku to Odawara. Rent car from Odawara, travel around Hakone & Mt Fuji. Then return car at Odawara.
    **Does parking fee will be expense for Hakone & Mt Fuji area
    **Traffic will be bad? I’ve been driving at Hokkaido trip. If the condition is same will be great. I’m slow driver. 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      When are you visiting? If you are visiting during peak periods (e.g. autumn foliage season), there will be some bottle necks in traffic. But nothing as bad as city traffic, so it should be pretty manageable.

      I have tried using Hakone free pass and driving and personally I prefer to drive. Parking fees are nothing like within the city. Each attraction will charge their own parking fee, something like 500 to 1000yen per visit. So how much you chalk up in terms of parking will depend on the number of attractions you park at, rather than how many hours you park. If you are pretty chill and just visiting like 2 attractions a day, you won’t feel the pinch of parking.

  • Syenny says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, your blog is my lifesaver!! Thanks so much.

    We are family of 4 adults + 2 children (3yo and 5yo) + 2 elderly (60yo) planning to go Japan from 21 Dec to 6 Jan. my route roughly is Tokyo-Hakone-Takayama-Shirakawago-Kyoto-Osaka. I am thinking to do part self drive as it seems more convenient with kids and elderly. 3 out of 4 adults can drive so can take turn.

    21 Dec – night flight to Haneda. arrive next morning
    22 Dec – stay at Shinjuku area. Tokyo sightseeing
    23 Dec – Disneyland, Disneysea
    24 Dec – Asakusa, Harajuku, Shibuya, Roponggi
    25 Dec – collect car, drive from Tokyo to Lake Ashi (cruise or ropeway if weather permits), Hakone open air museum. stay the night in Hakone
    26 Dec – drive to Fuji Safari Park. then drive to Takayama and stay in Ryokan.
    27 Dec – Takayama sightseeing
    28 Dec – check out Ryokan, drive to Shirakawago. spend 2 hrs there and then drive to Kyoto. return car.
    29 Dec – Kyoto sightseeing (Kiyomizu-dera, Yasaka, Fushimi-inari Taisha, Nijo, Kyoto Railway Museum)
    30 Dec – Kyoto sightseeing (Tenryuji, Bamboo Forest, Arashiyama, kinkaku-ji
    31 Dec – Kyoto to Osaka. Osaka half day sightseeing
    1 Jan – Osaka sightseeing (Osaka Bay Area, Kaiyukan, Osaka Castle, Dotombori)
    2 Jan – Day trip to Nara and Himeji
    3 Jan – USS
    4 Jan – Osaka free and easy
    5 Jan – Osaka free and easy
    6 Jan – fly from Kansai back to Singapore

    I have some questions:
    1. is my itinerary too pack?
    2. Based on my rough itinerary above, is it advisable to take Shinkansen with elderly and kids?
    3. is it easy to drive from Shinjuku direct to Lake Ashi? will the toll be expensive or should I take train to Odawara and rent from there?
    4. is it better to stay in Tokyo and do day trip to Hakone, Takayama, Shirakawago or drive and spend 1 night at each places like my itinerary?
    5. is it better to stay in Osaka and day trip to Kyoto or stay in Kyoto then do Osaka?
    6. I don’t really have plan for the last 2 days (4-5jan) any suggestions? I guess all will be drained by then. =p

    Thanks so much in advance.

    • Queen Bee says:

      1. It looks too packed in front and rather relaxing at the back.
      2. It’s a bit tricky for you all to drive because your travel group is too big to fit into one car with all your luggage. I would use the train for long distance, drop luggage off at accommodation then rent a car when needed.
      3. It’s not difficult to drive. The tolls won’t be that expensive if compared to the train fares for your whole group. :p
      4. Takayama and Shirakawago are a bit too far to be done as a day trip. But Hakone can be done as a day trip.
      5. I would stay in Osaka and day trips to Kyoto if I’m planning to spend more days in Osaka than Kyoto. Or vice versa.
      6. You may want to use the time to spread your itinerary out a little.

      This is what I would suggest:

      21 Dec – night flight to Haneda. arrive next morning
      22 Dec – Tokyo
      23 Dec – Tokyo
      24 Dec – Tokyo
      25 Dec – Tokyo (day trip to Hakone by car)
      26 Dec – Tokyo (day trip to Fuji Safari Park by car)
      27 Dec – Tokyo – Kanazawa (shinkansen)
      28 Dec – Kanazawa: Rent car, day trip to Shirakawago & Takayama
      29 Dec – Kanazawa: day trip to Noto Peninsular & Toyama Bay by car
      30 Dec – Kanazawa – Osaka (train), explore Osaka
      31 Dec – Osaka
      1 Jan – Osaka
      2 Jan – Osaka (day trip to Himeji & Nara – please check if they are open because some shrines / castles may close during New Year)
      3 Jan – Osaka (day trip to Kyoto)
      4 Jan – Osaka (day trip to Kyoto)
      5 Jan – Osaka (USJ)
      6 Jan – fly from Kansai back to Singapore

  • Ivy says:

    I am planning a trip to Japan covering the following places end nov:
    24th -tokyo haneda morning
    Drive to hakone and self drive (fujiya hotel)
    25th -safari park and grinpa (fujiya hotel)
    26th – 28th – tokyo (disneyland)- keizo plaza hotel
    28th – nagoya
    29th -5th dec-osaka covering hiroshima and universal studio

    I really appreciate your advice whether the sequence is ok and do you know of any cat island near to osaka?

    Thank you(^o^)

    • Queen Bee says:

      25th: Doing both safari park and Grinpa seems like a bit of a stretch. I would only choose one.

      The sequence doesn’t make sense in terms of travelling times, since Hakone is actually in between Tokyo and Nagoya. So ideally you should go Tokyo – Hakone – Nagoya – Osaka in that sequence. BUT it makes sense for your case if you want to avoid going to Disneyland during Christmas.

      Hmmm, never heard of the cat island. :p

      Btw, we recommend getting your theme park tickets from our affiliate partner Klook. We always use them for our trips. Do check them out! 🙂
      Tokyo Disney one-day pass
      Tokyo Disney two-day pass
      Universal Studios Japan and Express Pass

      • ivy says:

        Hi Queen Bee,

        Really appreciate it that you took time to reply 🙂

        If based on your sequence, how would you place from one place to next and where would you likely stayed in?

        Thanks *+*

        • Queen Bee says:

          Oh! I realised you are travelling end Nov and not end Dec? I misread, thought you were travelling over Christmas – New Year period. Okok, in that case this is what I would do:

          24th: Arrive Tokyo Haneda. Explore Tokyo. (Stay Tokyo)
          25th: Tokyo (visit Disney)
          26th: Tokyo (visit Disney)
          27th: Tokyo – Odawara by train. Rent a car, explore Hakone.
          28th: Fuji Safari Park & Gotemba / Hakone (Stay Hakone)
          29th: Odawara – Nagayo by shinkansen. Explore Nagoya. Visit Nabana no Sato illumination in the evening. (Stay Nagoya.)
          30th: Day trip to Legoland Japan (Stay Nagoya)
          31st: Nagoya – Osaka. Explore Osaka. (Stay Osaka)
          1st: Osaka
          2nd: Osaka (day trip to Himeji & Kobe)
          3rd: Osaka (day trip to Kyoto)
          4th: Osaka (day trip to Hiroshima)
          5th: Osaka (I assuming you’re flying back from Osaka?)

  • Apricot says:

    Am planning to visit Mt Fuji, can i check with you what is the name of the hotel/hostel you stayed with the entire view of Mt Fuji right in front of you ?


  • Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    from Hotel Yamadaya, can we take the retro bus? I would love to stay there but would like to explore Kawaguchiko. I can’t drive.

    Look forward to your advice.


    Hv a great weekend!

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