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Travel Trade & Media

Let’s Travel Sustainably in Hakone!

by Veronica Carnevale

Located along Kanagawa Prefecture’s southwestern border, Hakone has long served as a treasured retreat among Japanese and international tourists alike. This nature-blessed region is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and is renowned for its hot spring resorts, seasonal landscapes, and captivating views of Mount Fuji—making it an ideal destination for self-care and relaxation. Here, preserved traditional culture, fresh cuisine, and Japanese hospitality sit in harmony with the nourishing environment.

This bountiful scenery, coupled with the area’s committed locals, makes Hakone a wonderful place to practice sustainable travel. Simply put, sustainable travel refers to ways that tourists can travel today to maintain and enhance the vitality of tourist destinations for the future. This type of travel not only encompasses ecotourism, but also cultural preservation.

If you are interested in traveling more sustainably and are not sure where to start, please check out our two-day, sustainable Hakone model course below.

Summary of Itinerary

  • Deep Forest Cruising Tour with Hakone Mountain Ripper
  • Lodging at Hakone Yunohana Prince Hotel, which has implemented a renewable energy initiative
  • Shopping at Chimoto, a 70-year old traditional Japanese sweets shop
  • Lunch at Youraku, a restaurant that serves dishes with locally-sourced ingredients

Day 1

Deep Forest Cruising Tour with Hakone Mountain Ripper

Since ecotourism is an integral part of sustainable travel, let’s start our trip in Hakone’s forests! Hakone Mountain Ripper (HMR) is an outdoor tour company that offers numerous hiking and biking experiences and aims to introduce visitors to Hakone’s natural beauty with minimal environmental impact.

For this course, we recommend HMR’s Deep Forest Cruising Tour, in which a local guide leads you through a variety of Hakone’s hidden gems via bike! Biking is one of the most eco-friendly forms of transportation and thus, is a perfect way to respectfully explore the area. The experience is relatively easy with no major inclines, so it is perfect for children and mountain biking beginners. The tour includes a mountain bike rental set, snacks, a 500 ml water bottle, and accident insurance. For an additional ¥850, you can even soak in a hot spring after your excursion!

The aforementioned local guide, Norihito Suzuki, completed the LEAVE NO TRACE Trainer course, which provides education about environmental issues related to outdoor activities, and is a member of Hakone United—an organization that seeks to promote and conserve Hakone’s nature.

Confidently enjoy Hakone’s beauty in a fun and sustainable manner!

Details:

Travel to the next spot:

  • Car: 20 minutes (Hakone Visitor Center to Hakone Yunohana Prince Hotel)
  • Bus: 40-60 minutes (Hakone Visitor Center to Ashinoyu Bus Stop). The hotel has a free pickup service from the bus stop (5-minute drive from hotel). Call +81 460-83-5112 once you arrive at the bus stop.

Hakone Yunohana Prince Hotel

After your outdoorsy adventure, embrace Japanese hospitality at Hakone Yunohana Prince Hotel. Located at an elevation of 935 meters, this luxury hotel sits encircled by nature and is home to Western- and Japanese-style rooms, traditional cuisine crafted with seasonal ingredients, rejuvenating hot spring baths, and even a golf course. We highly recommend treating yourself to the facility’s outdoor bath, which is the highest altitude hot spring in Hakone! At night, you can enjoy the star-filled sky as you relax in the healing waters.

Interestingly, the hot spring is more than just a means for relaxation and actually serves as a source of renewable energy for the hotel! Hot spring steam is used for binary power generation, heating and cooling systems, and hot water heating systems. This method of harnessing thermal energy emits no CO2. The generated energy supplies about 20 percent of the hotel’s electricity and has the potential to lower its annual CO2 emissions by 187t-CO2 and shrink its carbon footprint by 63 percent.

As you unwind in the hotel’s peaceful setting, you can have peace of mind that its actions support a better future.

Details:

Day 2

Travel to the next spot:

  • Car: 30 minutes (Hakone Yunohana Prince Hotel to Chimoto)
  • Bus: 35-45 minutes (Hakone Yunohana Prince Hotel to Chimoto)

Chimoto

After waking up refreshed at Hakone Yunohana Prince Hotel, head over to Chimoto—a 70-year old traditional Japanese sweets shop—for a quick morning treat. This locally-loved establishment sells a wide range of sweets, some of which are recognized as designated confectioneries of Kanagawa Prefecture!

Here, you can find cute hachiri (bell-shaped treats), warabi mochi (mochi dusted with soybean flour), chimoto manju (soft pastry filled with brown sugar), seasonal specialities, and so much more. The store is an excellent place to pick up some tasty souvenirs for home.

After purchasing some boxed treats, stop by the shop’s adjacent cafe, Cha no Chimoto, for a delicious pairing of green tea or matcha with a sweet of your choice!

Despite modern advancements, Chimoto continues to produce its sweets following traditional methods and prioritizes the use of natural ingredients over artificial ones. This commitment to preserving traditional methods supports cultural sustainability and makes the shop a great option for sustainable travel. By purchasing the shop’s products you not only support the continuation of these traditional methods but also the local economy. Of course, you also get to enjoy a tasty, handcrafted treat!

Details:

  • Website: https://www.yumochi.com
  • Cafe website: http://chanochimoto.com
  • Address: 690 Yumoto, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0311 (Google Map)
  • Business hours:
    • Chimoto Ekimae-dori store: 9am–5pm
    • Cha no Chimoto:
      • Weekdays: 10am–4:30pm (L.O. 4pm)
      • Weekends and holidays: 10am–5:30pm (L.O. 5pm)
  • Closed: New Year's Day, and about five days a year

Travel to the next spot: 8-minute walk (Chimoto to Youraku)

Youraku

Now, it is time for lunch. Youraku, located along the Haya River, is a restaurant that serves traditional Japanese cuisine, called kaiseki in Japanese. The owner and chef trained at a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Kyoto and uses his expertise to craft delicious and beautifully-plated dishes. Youraku’s most popular offering is its sea bream rice course, which includes monthly seasonal dishes, stewed sea bream, sea bream-flavored rice, tofu, and desserts. The sea bream rice is definitely the star at Youraku.

Youraku prioritizes the use of local, seasonal ingredients. For example, it sources its sea bream from the nearby Odawara Fishing Port and offers locally-produced beverages, such as Hakoneyama sake from Kanagawa’s Inoue Sake Brewery, Odawara Plum Cider, and Kataura lemon cider. Using local ingredients has numerous sustainable benefits, including reduced CO2 emissions from less travel, reduced food waste, higher quality produce with more nutrition, the betterment of local economies and communities, and more. By eating at Youraku, you can support a local business and all of its positive endeavors, while enjoying an exquisite meal.

Given the restaurant’s popularity, short opening hours, and relatively small establishment, reservations are essential! The restaurant offers English reservations.

Details:

Website: https://www.youraku.co.jp
Address: 84 Tonosawa, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0315 (Google Map)
Business hours: 11:30am–3:30pm
Closed: every Wednesday

Travel that Supports Tomorrow

Sustainable travel is essential for preserving the integrity of tourist destinations for years to come. In Hakone, you can travel for both the present and future by responsibly enjoying nature, lodging at a sustainably-aware accommodation, supporting traditional techniques, and dining at a restaurant that uses local resources.

Travel smart, and have fun! We hope to see you in Hakone soon.

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