I took a day trip to Hakone and Lake Ashi for the first time in June 2015, and I’ve been back several times since. Hakone is a stunningly beautiful mountain region in Japan that provides lovely views of Fuji-san, endless hiking adventures, and many onsen & ryokan options. Lake Ashi, also known as Ashinoko Lake, is a crater lake that lies next to Mt. Hakone- which is an active volcano. I was lucky enough to visit the summit of Mt. Hakone the week before it was closed due to too much volcanic activity being detected. The crater was smoking when I visited, but it was pretty exciting to see up close. The summit has since been reopened, and visitors can now take the cable car and/or ropeway again. Lake Ashi offers transportation across the lake on a pirate ship…yes, a pirate ship. I highly recommend taking the pirate ship across the lake, and then getting on the ropeway to go to the summit. You can then take the cable car back down the mountain, which gives you a chance to experience all types of transportation in this area.
The best way to get to Hakone is to take the train to Hakone-Yumoto train station, and then take a bus about 30-45 minutes to the town of Hakone. There is a travel office right outside of Hakone-Yumoto station (they do speak English), and they are very helpful with maps and bus information. You can pay for the bus using Japanese Yen or your PASMO/Suica card.
There are many cafes, ryokans, and onsen spas located in Hakone if you plan to make a weekend trip to this area. For lunch I chose the Bakery & Table Cafe since it is located on the second floor, and offered such great views of the lake and Mt. Fuji. The fruit tea was amazing – a definite must try for tea lovers!