In-the-know sightseers travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto make sure to carve out time for a stop in Hakone. Nestled on the shores of Lake Ashinoko in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, this mountainous escape offers a nature-filled mix of trails, hot springs and well-placed art museums in which to pass the time.
A chunk of Hakone sits along the shores of Lake Ashinoko, also referred to as Lake Ashi. Boat tours take in the lake's picture-worthy views of Mount Fuji as well as the eighth-century Shinto shrine marked by a red torii gate rising from the water. The area is also home to Ōwakudani, a geothermal valley that feeds Hakone's onsen. From the Hakone Ropeway – one of many gondola systems that make the hilly town more accessible – you'll be able to take in the volcanic crater's sulphurous steam and bubbling water from above.
Hakone features a tiny village of art museums from which to take in views and masterpieces. If you visit only one, make it the Hakone Open-Air Museum. The outdoor sculpture park uses Hakone's natural beauty as a backdrop for installations by the likes of Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and others. There's also an entire pavilion dedicated to Pablo Picasso and a hot spring foot bath. For something a little more traditional, check out the Pola Museum of Art – full of works by French Impressionists including Cézanne, Matisse, Renoir and Van Gogh – or the Narukawa Art Museum, which specialises in Nihonga-style paintings.