For those who have visited Japan, the woes of transportation are real. But like my previous trips in Kyoto and Osaka, an excursion ticket saved my pockets again. This time in Hakone, the perfect spot to go dipping in the hot springs. A destination rich in unspoiled nature, a captivating place packaged with active volcanoes, cable cars atop mountains and a crater lake. Yes, it is possible to visit these places and go on a travel-spree in Hakone on a budget! And that is all thanks with the help of Hakone Free Pass.

A cloudy day in Gora.

By using Hakone Free Pass, we get to have unlimited rides on select transportations within Hakone. This means you can freely get on and off the road within the coverage of the pass. Ain’t that sweet? Here’s your guide on how to use Hakone Free Pass and get the most out of your Hakone adventure too!

ABOUT HAKONE FREE PASS

This is how your ticket will look like

Like Osaka Amazing Pass and Kintetsu Rail Pass, Hakone has its own discount pass too, which is the Hakone Free Pass. All of them offer unlimited rides on select transportations within their own area coverage.

Hakone Free Pass is a discount pass that lets you travel around and explore all the popular sightseeing destinations in Hakone. This excursion ticket offers unlimited rides on 8 different types of transportation in Hakone. It also covers your round-trip ticket from your select departure area up to Odawara station.

These are the 3 departure areas where you can start your trip, namely:

  1. Shinjuku station in Tokyo
  2. Machida station (located in Tokyo as well but is a little halfway from Shinjuku and Odawara station)
  3. Odawara station (the gateway station to Hakone)

The pass also provides free entrance and a number of discounted admissions to various attractions in the area. This also includes discounts on museums, hot springs, shopping, and dining establishments.

KINDS OF PASS AND HOW MUCH ARE THEY?

There are 2 kinds of Hakone Free Pass, and they are available in 2 or 3 days.

The costs of the ticket also vary depending on your departure station. The tickets for children are totally lower than that of adults.

You can see below how much they differ in prices:

For updated prices please see Odakyu Japan’s Official Website.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Totally YES! Imagine the cost of the ropeway and the cruise ship. It costs A LOT, but with Hakone Free Pass you can ride them whenever you want. Hakone Free Pass is totally worth it and I recommend that you get the 3-day pass so you can thoroughly explore Hakone.

Do check out a museum or two when you have some spare time and cash to burn. Since we were on a totally budgeted trip, we skipped a number of other sightseeing spots which were a little bummer.

WHERE TO BUY HAKONE FREE PASS

Getting the Hakone Free Pass is easy as they are available at any Odakyu line station.

» In Shinjuku: We bought our tickets at Shinjuku station since we are near Tokyo. There’s a counter in Shinjuku station where you can avail the Hakone Free Pass, which I recommend because they will give you brochures and a coupon book for Gotemba Premium Outlets.

If you want to play a game, you can take the stamp challenge in the brochure and win a limited edition prize. 
(For more information about this stamp challenge, please see topic below on “How to Use Hakone Free Pass”)

» In Machida and Odawara: These are the other two departure stations where you can buy the Free Pass if you’re not coming from Shinjuku station.

» Odakyu Line station ticket machines: It is also an option to avail them on ticket machines. On how to buy you can visit this link for a more detailed information. The Free Pass section is at the bottom of the article and I think the instructions are very straightforward for tourists to understand.

» Buy them online at Klook: Another option is to purchase online your Hakone Free Pass on Klook here. You just print your voucher and present it at the pickup location in Shinjuku station (near West Exit). Pick up is available 7 days before your selected date.

HOW TO USE THE THE HAKONE FREE PASS

Our stamp booklet. You’ll be given a booklet similar to this when you get your Hakone pass in a station counter.

  • Just show it: Using the ticket is fairly easy as you will only need to show it when riding a bus, entering some sightseeing spots for discounts or free admissions.
  • Check out the weather: Always check out the weather in Hakone and make sure you’ll be there on a clear day. Some attractions, especially the ropeway may not be operational for safety reasons. Just avoid visiting Hakone on rainy or very snowy weather.
  • Plan thoroughly: Plan your itinerary thoroughly so can explore without difficulties. Some transportation like the sightseeing cruise ship operates until 5PM. Another option is to ride buses which would take time due to it having several stops.
  • Brochures: If you buy your Free Pass in Japan or in a station counter, they will hand you out some Hakone travel brochures and a discount coupon book for Gotemba Premium Outlet. In the brochure, you can get some free items when you complete the stamp challenge in Hakone.
  • The stamp challenge: You can take the stamp challenge if you have the brochure that included when you buy your Hakone Free Pass in Japan. The challenge is to visit the selected locations on the stamp sheet and collect four or more stamp varieties. The stamp designs from each area have different characters from the world-famous animation Doraemon.

    These stamps are always in the location of the station and if you have trouble finding them you can ask the staffs in the area. The selected areas to get your brochure stamped are at:

» Hakone-Yumoto
» Gora Station
» Sounzan
» Owakudani
» Hakonemachi-ko/Motohakone-ko
» Togendai
» Gotemba Premium Outlets

 

Once you have gotten 4 or more stamps:

» Claim your prize by showing your brochure at the prize claim locations. We got our prize by exchanging them at Gotem Premium Outlets. Since I already lost my brochure I don’t know exactly where else in Hakone you can claim the prizes but it should be on stated on the brochure 🙁 

 

» As for the prize, you can get a limited edition prize which is a Doraemon notebook. You can also exchange your Hakone coupons which are also in your brochure to get some pens. All the coupons can be exchanged, it was okay with the staff when we asked and we got 2 dozen pens as a souvenir! (we went here last summer of 2017 so the prizes may be a bit different now)

 

  • Scroll down for the detailed example on how to use Hakone Free Pass.
RULES IN USING HAKONE FREE PASS
  • One round-trip only: One round-trip from your departure station to Odawara station is allowed, e.g. from Shinjuku to Hakone/Odawara (vice versa): The unlimited rides are within the vicinity of Hakone.
  • Not for Romancecar: The ticket cannot be used on the Romancecar limited express train. Riding on the Romancecar gives you the best scenic view of the countryside along the way to Hakone but requires you to pay a separate fee of ¥890 for a one-way ticket. The seats are limited so it’s better to reserve in advance especially during peak season. Get a seat on the front car, it will give you a direct experience of riding on the front seat of a train. You can learn more about the Romancecar here.
  • Other transportations aside from the above mentioned cannot be used with Hakone Free Pass. Double-check the areas you will be going to because they might not be covered by the pass. Boarding and getting off at areas outside of the designated zone of the pass requires an extra fare.
AREAS COVERED BY HAKONE FREE PASS

The Free Pass covers most of the area in Hakone where you can use your ticket for transportation, which makes Hakone a pretty accessible area to travel around! Here is the coverage of Hakone Free Pass that you can access using the said 8 transportation vehicles.

UNLIMITED RIDES ON THESE TRANSPORTATIONS

They are mostly buses, but it can still get you to where you want with the addition of seeing the majestic sceneries of Hakone along the way. The transportations worthy of mentioning are the sightseeing cruise ships, ropeway, and the cable car. You can ride back and forth on them how many times you want. Even I got so sick of riding the ropeway, the view is truly wonderful, but seeing the same view, again and again, is…. I listed down all the rides you can get on, and arranged them from the most interesting and unique to some typical bus lines:

  1. Hakone Ropeway
  2. Sightseeing Cruise Ship
  3. Hakone Tozan Train
  4. The Hakone Tozan Cable Car
  5. Hakone Tozan Bus
  6. Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus (on some designated areas only)
  7. Numazu Tozan Tokai Bus (on some designated areas only)
  8. Kanko Shisetsu Meguri Bus (tourist facilities round bus)

1. HAKONE ROPEWAY

WOAH! just look at that view!

SAVOR THE VIEW OF THE GREAT BOILING VALLEY, OWAKUDANI! 

Never miss out on this chance to ride their ropeway atop an active volcano! By riding the ropeway in Sounzan, the rope trip will transport you to Lake Ashi and Owakudani. The cabins are large enough to move around and appreciate the panoramic view of Hakone and its natural beauty from atop.

We even experienced the full force of the volcanic clouds from Owakudani because of the sudden raindrops on our day of visit. The drizzle evaporated the heat from the volcano which then forms the volcanic clouds. The view became totally white reminiscent of a horror movies.

2. HAKONE SIGHTSEEING CRUISE SHIP

Get off at Togendai where you can ride the glamorous pirate ship in Lake Ashi. The cruise ships are actually designed as samurai warships but then it looked a lot more like a pirate ship.

The sightseeing cruise links 3 areas along the lake, namely Togendai port, Moto-Hakone, and Hakone-Machi. With the Free Pass, you can hop on and off anywhere on these three locations along the lakeshore, cool right? You can just sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Or roam around the ship and have fun taking selfies too!

3. HAKONE TOZAN TRAIN

If your timing is right in summer, you can fully view the hydrangeas along the tracks of the Hakone Tozan train. What’s more interesting is, the train switches back and forth the track as it climbs the steep slope of the mountain. What’s worse? Sitting on the wrong side of the train. Like us.

4. HAKONE TOZAN CABLE CAR

View from the front

Image source: link

The Hakone Tozan Cable Car stops by at 4 stations that connect Gora Town to popular sightseeing spots like museums and onsens. From here you can access Hakone Gora Park, a French-theme park with its large turquoise fountain overlooking the mountains. Be quick so you can get a ride on the first car and capture the perfect shot of the cable car while it climb up its tracks.

5. ODAKYU BUSES

Buses are the main means of transportation in Hakone, giving you many areas of access in the place. You can conveniently access Gotemba Premium Outlet, a high-end mall located at the base of Mt. Fuji! There are various well-known brands inside and you might be lucky to encounter some shop on a sale. When it’s sale in Japan it definitely is a SALE. We were at Michael Korrs boutique here and they suddenly started having a sale where all items are 50% off! There I thought I can afford just one item and well… I still didn’t.

FREE ADMISSION IN HAKONE GORA PARK

The famous french fountain.

Pottery ahoy!

You can enter Gora Park FOR FREE by showing your Hakone Free Pass at the entrance. Located near Gora station, Gora Park is just a few hikes away on the steep slope above the station. Gora Park features a French-style garden featuring a wide variety of flora ranging from roses to tropical flowers.

The park is popular in Hakone boasting a stunning turquoise fountain and majestic mountain views. There are also some hands-on activities available in the area like pottery and glass blowing which I recommend you try.

DETAILED EXAMPLE ON HOW TO USE HAKONE FREE PASS FROM SHINJUKU OR MACHIDA STATION

As mentioned before, there are 3 departure stations that you can choose from which are Shinjuku station, Machida station and Odawara station. This is assuming that your starting point is at Shinjuku station as well where you will also buy your Hakone Free Pass.

This page will guide you on where exactly you can purchase your pass on your selected starting point.

1. Once you have bought the Hakone Free Pass at Shinjuku West, make your way to Odakyu line going to Odawara station. You can also ask at the counter where the boarding train is for faster searching. This is a direct train ride going to Odawara station so no changing of line or stations are needed.

NOTE: Odawara station is the gateway to Hakone, it takes a separate train ride going to the main area of Hakone.

Odawara Station.

2. Once at Odawara station, change lines to Hakone Tozan Railway. Please take note that this is another Odakyu line but now going to the main Hakone area. Ride and stay on the platform where it says Hakone-Yumoto. Get out once you’re at Gora station (last station).

NOTE: Don’t forget to stamp your brochure at Hakone-Yumoto if you want the prize.

3. At Gora station (the last stop), step out and transfer to the cablecar called Hakone Tozan Cablecar. People will immediately flock here so it is hard to miss out. Most tourists will want to ride at the first cabin so try it out! There’s not much to see but getting to ride up front the cable car is another experience in itself 🙂 This ride will take you to Sounzan.

4. The cable car is only a short upward ride away which will take you directly to Sounzan where you can ride the Hakone Ropeway

Hakone ropeway has 3 stops which are:
» Owakudani: The volcanic valley where you can buy black boiled eggs. Take note that black boiled eggs can be bought almost anywhere in Hakone. You can take pictures of the smoking valley outside the deck of Owakudani station. You can also step here and personally see some spring where they boil the eggs.

Take a lot of pictures in Owakudani, this is a really amazing place. From here, you can take another ropeway ride going to Togendai port where Ashi lake is.

» Ubako: Nothing to see here so skip this one.

» Togendai: Togendai is the last stop of the ropeway where you can ride the pirate ship on Lake Ashi. The sightseeing cruise ship ride is already inclusive on the Hakone Free Pass. You can just show them your ticket and you’re good to go.

Note that the boat stops at Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi:
•  Hakone-machi: There are available swan paddle boats here. We got our ride for ¥600 for 30 minutes. There are other things to see in this area but I will not be talking much about it since our main topic here is about using Hakone Free Pass 🙂

•  Moto-Hakone: There’s a tori gate that stands on the lake here similar to Itsukushima shrine. The boat will pass by here so it’s hard to miss out. Sadly, we didn’t get to go here due to the closing time and we had to go back to Odawara before late evening.

When in Togendai port, you can also choose whether to go to Gotemba Premium Outlets after. There are buses here where you can use your Free Pass.

SHORT SUMMARY ON USING THE PASS

Confused? Well, here is a shorter summary on how to use the pass assuming you are in Tokyo. It is better to buy your tickets via the counter if you want some extra prizes.

  1. From your point of destination either Shinjuku station or Machida station, make your way to Odakyu line going to Odawara station.
  2. From Odawara station: Change platforms to another Odakyu line going to Hakone-Yumoto and step out once you are in Gora station.
  3. In Gora station: Transfer to the cablecar. Drop yourself off at the very last stop which is Sounzan.
  4. Sounzan station: Ride the ropeway going to Owakudani. Then ride another ropeway from Owakudani to Togendai.
  5. Togendai station: There are 2 ways to go from here.

One, either ride the pirate cruise ship and drop by Hakone-machi and/or Moto-Hakone. You can ride back and forth at these 3 spots. Just return to Togendai if you want to go back.

Second, from Togendai ride a bus going to Sengoku or Gotemba Premium Outlets. You can also ride the bus back to Odawara if you want to end the trip. Use this guide for the bus schedule.

6. Getting back is very easy! No worries, your pass got yo’ back~

OPTION 1: You can either backtrack by riding the ropeway, cablecar, and railway again to Odawara or to any station near your accommodation. This option is for those who want to use their money’s worth.

OPTION 2: Ride a bus back to Odawara or to any station back to your accommodation. If you want a more laidback option, ride the bus back for that extra rest. Just take note of the bus schedules before you miss the last one.

THOUGHTS:

Miyukinohama Beach in Odawara

There are so many fun things to do in Hakone and a number of great museums to visit. I would really like to get a chance to visit most or all of them. But thinking about it, all the places that we have been to is enough to get to know the place thoroughly.

Hakone is abundant in nature, and it’s a perfect getaway to unwind and just feel free and alive! We even get to see the beach by riding a bicycle around Odawara city, which is one of the best parts of our travel. Purchase Hakone Free Pass and you will surely enjoy the area more, especially when you’re on a tight budget.

There are various interesting kinds of stuff that you can do in Hakone and I have created a separate blog post featuring these off-beaten activities. Are you interested in other activities you can do and visit in Hakone? Read my post: List of Fun and Cheap Things to do in Hakone.

BUDGET ON TRANSPORTATIONS

There’s a lot of discount tickets in Japan…

So far I’ve used budget tickets in Japan on my travels  and it greatly helped me lowering my costs on transportation:

  • Kintetsu Rail Pass for Nara-Kyoto-Osaka
  • Osaka Amazing Pass for Osaka
  • Seishun 18-Kippu when we traveled from Tokyo to Osaka on a budget
  • And currently this one, the Hakone Free Pass

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The name’s Fiorucci (pronounced as Fee-yohru-chi), I’m not Italian but I can eat pasta for a whole week…or a month…or more. Hop on my story as I travel the world ‘one destination at a time’ while juggling with my full-time work, freelancing and building my own business to gain freedom from this monotonous corporate society.

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