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Hakone Lake Ashi Guide

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    There are many activities to do near Lake Ashi in Hakone for visitors to the area. You can ride on Hakone Pirate Ship, check out whimsical Hakone-en Aquarium, ride on the Komagatake Ropeway, pray at peaceful Hakone Shrine, or stop by the historic Hakone Checkpoint Museum.

    Hakone Shrine Torii Gate - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Hakone Shrine Torii Gate

    You might have heard of Lake Ashi in Hakone. However, it’s one of the primary areas in Hakone for recreational activities as well as plenty of things to do and see. We’ll take you from the north shore of Lake Ashi where we got off Hakone Ropeway at Togendai Station and down the eastern shore to Hakone-en. Make a stop at Hakone Shrine and end our trip at Hakone Tokaido Checkpoint in the south shore. Ready to travel along Lake Ashi? Let’s go!

    Lake Ashi North Shore

    There are three routes at Lake Ashi to get to south shore from the north shore. Two of the routes are covered by Hakone Freepass. The first route involves pirate ships and sailing across Lake Ashi. Alternatively, you can take the Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus and it’ll take you from Togendai Station to Hakone-en along the eastern shore.

    Hakone Pirate ships and Togendai Station - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    Lake Ashi is a large recreational area in Hakone and visitors can fish or take boat trips on it. If you want to spend a bit of time on the lake, just head slightly south from Togendai Station towards Hakone Kojiri Terminal. You can find plenty of boat rental options by the lake including pedal boat, rowboat, or motorboat.

    Hakone Kojiri Terminal - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Hakone Kojiri Terminal

    Alternative, you can get the tickets at the terminal for boat rides around the lake (not covered by Hakone Freepass).

    Kojiri Terminal ticket booth - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Lake Ashi boat ride ticket booth
    Lake Ashi boat ride price list - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Lake Ashi boat ride price list for motorboat, pedal boat, and rowboat

    pedal boat and rowboat in Lake Ashi - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    There are several restaurants near the boat rental and our family’s favorite is a beef stew and curry specialty restaurant called Kotei (湖亭). We’ve been there a few times and the homemade curry and beef stew are always excellent.

    Kotei curry and beef stew restaurant - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Kotei curry and beef stew restaurant Kotei 湖亭
    chicken curry at Kotei - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Chicken curry from Kotei

    Hakone-en by Lake Ashi 箱根園

    Hop on the Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus from Togendai Station and your first stop is Hakone-en. Hakone-en right along the shores of Lake Ashi and it is a great place for families with younger children. There’s an aquarium, petting zoo, restaurants, hot springs, hotels, and Komagatake Ropeway (駒ヶ岳ロープウェイ).

    Hakone-en map - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    The Hakone-en Aquarium is not large but it’s fun for younger children. It’s divided into freshwater and saltwater exhibits and younger audiences will have a fun time.

    Hakone-en aquarium - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    Hakone-en aquarium - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    penguins at Hakone-en Aquarium - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Penguins at Hakone-en Aquarium
    woman and girl at Hakone-en Aquarium - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Nami and our daughter in 2009

    In addition to the aquarium, there’s a small petting zoo nearby also good for small children.

    petting zoo - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    Lastly, take the gondola to the top of Komagatake Ropeway offers a panoramic view of Lake Ashi. If you are planning to ride the Hakone Ropeway during your trip to Hakone, you can skip Komagatake Ropeway.

    Komagatake Ropeway - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Komagatake Ropeway Hakone-en Station

    advertising sign for Komagatake Ropeway - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    When you are around the Hakone-en area and see a grand palace-looking building right next to the lake, you may wonder what it is. It’s actually a Japanese ryokan called Ryuguden (Dragon Palace) 龍宮殿.

    Ryuguden Hotel - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Ryuguden Hotel

    Hakone Shrine

    Hop back on the Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus and head to Odakyu Hotel de Yama which is the last stop. Since not every Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus stops there, alternatively, you can walk 20 min from Hakone-en to Hakone Shrine.

    Hakone Shrine dates back to 757 and the original shrine is actually located at the top of Komagatake Ropeway. However, the more popular one is the “new shrine” near the southeastern part of Lake Ashi. You might have seen pictures of the torii gate with Mt. Fuji in the background.

    visitors lined up at the torii gate at Hakone Shrine - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Visitors waiting their turn to take pictures at the torii gate

    torii gate in front of Hakone Shrine - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    The shrine is well hidden in the forest and surrounded by tall trees. Throughout its history, many samurai, lords, and travelers have come to pray at the shrine.

    steps leading to Hakone Shrine lined by tall trees - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    entrance to Hakone Shrine - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    Besides the main Hakone Shrine, there’s a secondary shrine dedicated to the nine-headed dragon (Kuzuryu).

    Kuzuryu Shrine (9 headed dragon) in Hakone - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Kuzuryu Shrine
    dragon head fountains - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Dragon shaped fountain

    Hakone Checkpoint Museum at Lake Ashi

    From Hakone Shrine, continue heading southwest to Hakone Checkpoint Museum along Lake Ashi.

    When Tokugawa Shogunate was in power, they created 53 checkpoints throughout Japan to inspect for arms and to prevent women and children from fleeing their domain. Hakone Sekisho was put in place in 1619 and operated for 249 years before the Meiji government started ruling Japan in 1868.

    Hakone Checkpoint Museum - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Hakone Checkpoint Museum Exhibition Hall

    There are two parts to Hakone Checkpoint Museum, the exhibition hall with its history and artifacts and the restored checkpoint. There are no photos allowed in the exhibition hall.

    children behind cartoon cardboard cutout - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    Hakone Tokaido Checkpoint

    Continue to walk along Lake Ashi and you’ll shortly see the restored Hakone Tokaido Checkpoint. How did this project come about? In 1983, a full detailed dismantlement report of the Hakone Checkpoint was found and lead to the eventual restoration. The restoration project started in 1999 and fully completed in 2007.

    main entrance to Hakone Tokaido Checkpoint - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    There are 13 structures restored at the checkpoint. They include the large office, side gate, shooting range, horse stall, and lookout on top of the hill. In addition to the buildings, there are characters and recreated scenes depicting life at the checkpoint during that time.

    kids inside prison bars at Hakone Checkpoint - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    Restored office at Hakone Checkpoint - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Resting Area
    restored kitchen at Hakone Checkpoint - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    The Kitchen
    children at Hakone Checkpoint lookout - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Kids at the lookout
    pirate ship on Lake Ashi from Hakone Checkpoint lookout - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |
    Pirate ships passing the Hakone Checkpoint

    Sekisho Karakuri Museum

    As you exit the south gate at Hakone Tokaido Checkpoint, you’ll arrive at a small shopping street with souvenir shops and restaurants. One of the shops is called Sekisho Karakuri Museum and they have a fascinating collection of Hakone woodcraft.

    Sekisho Karakuri Museum - Hakone Lake Ashi Guide |

    Hakone is known for its unique Yosegi Marquetry (wood mosaic) products. It’s very difficult to create and requires meticulous craftsmanship. Watch the YouTube video below to see how they are created.

    Sekisho Karakuri Museum is a souvenir shop in the front part of the store, but there’s a small private museum collection in the back showcasing treasured and unique antique wood art.

    Japanese wooden puzzle boxes

    I mentioned about the Hakone puzzle boxes in the Gora post and besides wood mosaic products, it’s another interesting souvenir you can bring home for friends and family. The puzzle boxes are trick wood boxes that require specific movement of hiddle pieces in order for the box to open.

    Japanese wooden puzzle boxes

    At the Sekisho Karakuri Museum, the door to the small museum in the back is a puzzle so if you’re there see if you can figure out how it can open.

    A wooden door

    puzzle boxes on display in a store

    Japanese wooden puzzle boxes on a shelf

    Japanese wood puzzle boxes

    If the boxes are too pricey, there are coasters and smaller souvenirs with the wood mosaic pattern available in the store as well.

    souvenir made from wood on store shelves

    Thank you for reading our travel guides and following us on adventures around Japan. If you have any questions about Hakone or Lake Ashi, just let us know in the comments below. We’ll see you next in the last Hakone guide, Hakone museums.

    Just One Cookbook Hakone Travel Guide

    1. Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum
    2. Odawara Castle Guide
    3. Hakone Yumoto and Hakone Freepass
    4. Hakone Gora
    5. Riding Hakone Ropeway and Owakudani
    6. What to do around Lake Ashi in Hakone
    7. Museums of Hakone
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