Japan's iconic volcano is just a short trip from Tokyo writes Sarah Pollok.
It's hard to imagine Japan without the bold shape of Mt Fuji coming to mind. So if you're ready to take a break from the neon chaos of Tokyo, escape to the mountains and tick this iconic attraction off your bucket list, Hakone is the place to go.
Hakone is within Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Travellers can take a bus or car, but for the proper Japanese experience, you simply can't go past the train. Take the express via Shinjuku for a two-hour trip with a transfer at Odawara Station, or spend extra to take the 90-minute route in the "Romance Car".
Stretch your legs after the ride and take a stroll around Lake Ashi or Lake Ashinoko. Created by a volcanic eruption in 1170, the crater lake now provides a perfect loop walk where you can take in one of the most famous mountains in the world; the majestic Mt Fuji. Want a little extra luck for the rest of your travels? Be sure to stop at the Hakone Shrine, where people have prayed for luck in battle, money and love for 1200 years.
If you thought Hakone was just serene lakes and stunning mountain ranges, think again. Opened in 1969, The Hakone Open Air Museum has a collection of fine art that would make the Louvre green with envy. There are five indoor galleries dedicated to works by Picasso and Henry Moore and more than 120 outdoor sculpture displays, some of which it is permissible for children (and the odd daring adult) to climb.
Feeling weary after the big, busy smoke of Tokyo? Then visiting the city with Japan's best onsen, hot springs, isn't a bad call. Immerse yourself culturally, and literally, as the healing waters wash away your cares. Many onsens are reserved for club members or hotel guests, so we recommend Yu no Sato Okada, a large onsen park open to the public.
When it comes to shopping, the prospects in rural Japan aren't exactly extensive. But for those who simply love a shop, no matter what kind, Hakone-Yumoto Station Arcade fits the bill. Ideal for collectors of souvenirs and lovers of kitsch trinkets, the arcade sells everything from hot spring minerals and ornamental boxes to Japanese sweets and paintings. Just remember cash if that innocent browse turns into purchase.
At first, you'll think you're dreaming, but the Toy Story -themed bar in the heart of Hakone couldn't be more real. Just a few blocks from the open-air museum and decked out with Disney memorabilia, it's a bar you certainly won't forget. Take one of their 15 cosy barstools and enjoy a vividly coloured cocktail as you try to spot Woody, Jessie, and of course, Mr Potato Head.
They say the early bird gets the worm, but at Hakone's best-kept secret, they get the soba noodle. If you're willing to trade silver service for quirky clay decor to get the best meal in the city, soba noodle eatery Takeyabu is a must-visit. Just make sure you get in before the lunch crowd or risk their hand-cut buckwheat noodles being sold out.