Hakone Vs Kamakura, can’t choose? We compared the two we find out which is the better tourist destination. Check it out!
When planning a trip to Japan, it’s common to include Tokyo on the itinerary. However, just a short distance away from the bustling metropolis lie two enchanting destinations that offer a stark contrast to the urban landscape: Hakone and Kamakura.
Both towns boast rich historical and cultural significance, picturesque landscapes, and unique experiences.
In this article, we will compare Hakone and Kamakura from a traveler’s perspective, helping you decide which destination suits your interests and preferences.
Hakone Vs Kamakura
Historical and Cultural Significance
Hakone holds great historical importance due to its location along the historic Tokaido Road, which connected Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1868).
As a vital checkpoint on this route, Hakone served as a gateway to the capital and played a crucial role in regulating the movement of people and goods.
Hakone Shrine, located at the shores of Lake Ashi, is a revered Shinto shrine that dates back to the Nara period (710-794).
It has been a site of worship and pilgrimage for centuries, attracting visitors who come to seek blessings and enjoy the scenic beauty of the area.
Another significant cultural attraction in Hakone is the Hakone Open-Air Museum, which combines art with nature.
This open-air museum features a vast collection of sculptures and artworks by both Japanese and international artists, creating a harmonious blend of artistic expression and the surrounding natural environment.
Additionally, the Hakone Checkpoint Museum offers insights into the historical significance of Hakone as a checkpoint during the Edo period.
Visitors can learn about the strict regulations, security measures, and the daily life of travelers passing through the area.
Kamakura boasts a rich historical legacy as the political capital of Japan during the Kamakura Shogunate (1185-1333). This era marked a significant shift in Japanese history, as it was the first time that a military government ruled over the country.
The remnants of this period can be seen in the form of numerous temples, shrines, and historical sites throughout Kamakura.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Kamakura is the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) at Kotokuin Temple. This bronze statue stands at approximately 13 meters tall and dates back to the 13th century.
It serves as a symbol of Kamakura’s rich heritage and attracts visitors from around the world.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is another notable cultural site in Kamakura. Dedicated to the Shinto god of war, this grand shrine was established in 1063 and played a vital role in the political and religious life of Kamakura during the shogunate period.
Hasedera Temple is renowned for its beautiful gardens and the towering Kannon statue.
This Buddhist temple offers a tranquil and serene atmosphere, allowing visitors to experience the spiritual and aesthetic aspects of traditional Japanese culture.
Furthermore, Kamakura is home to traditional tea houses, where visitors can participate in tea ceremonies and gain a deeper understanding of the art of tea preparation and the philosophy behind it.
In conclusion, both Hakone and Kamakura have a wealth of historical and cultural significance.
Hakone’s connection to the Tokaido Road and its shrines, museums, and hot springs showcase its historical importance, while Kamakura’s role as the former capital during the Kamakura Shogunate is reflected in its temples, shrines, and traditional practices.
Exploring these destinations provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in Japan’s rich heritage and appreciate the traditions that have shaped the country’s identity.
Natural Beauty and Scenic Delights
Hakone is situated within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, offering breathtaking natural landscapes and a serene environment. The town is surrounded by mountains, lush forests, and pristine lakes, providing a picturesque setting for visitors to enjoy.
One of the standout features of Hakone is Lake Ashi (Ashinoko), a stunning crater lake that offers mesmerizing views of Mount Fuji on clear days.
Taking a boat ride on Lake Ashi allows visitors to soak in the tranquility of the surroundings while capturing iconic views of Japan’s most famous mountain.
For panoramic vistas of the Hakone region, the Hakone Ropeway is a must-visit attraction.
This aerial cable car system takes you on a scenic journey over the volcanic valley, providing stunning views of Mount Fuji, Owakudani’s volcanic steam vents, and the surrounding mountains.
Nature enthusiasts can also explore Hakone’s network of hiking trails, such as the Old Tokaido Road, which was a historic route connecting Tokyo and Kyoto.
Walking along these trails allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region, passing through dense forests, serene valleys, and quaint villages.
Additionally, Hakone is famous for its hot springs (onsen). These natural geothermal hot baths provide a relaxing and rejuvenating experience amidst the beautiful landscapes.
Many ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and hotels in Hakone offer their own private onsen facilities, allowing visitors to unwind while surrounded by nature.
Although Kamakura is not as mountainous as Hakone, it boasts its own unique natural beauty and scenic delights. The town is surrounded by green hills, creating a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere.
Kamakura’s coastline offers beautiful beaches and scenic views of the ocean. Yuigahama Beach and Zaimokuza Beach are popular spots for relaxing, swimming, and enjoying the coastal ambiance.
The beaches are especially inviting during the warmer months, attracting locals and tourists alike.
One natural gem in Kamakura is the Kamakura Bamboo Forest. This enchanting forest provides a serene and magical environment, with towering bamboo stalks swaying in the breeze.
Walking through the bamboo grove offers a sense of tranquility and a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Moreover, Kamakura’s coastal location provides breathtaking opportunities to witness stunning sunsets.
Finding a spot along the shoreline during the golden hour allows visitors to witness the sky painted in vibrant hues, creating a truly captivating and romantic ambiance.
Both Hakone and Kamakura offer unique natural beauty and scenic experiences. While Hakone showcases mountains, lakes, and hot springs with views of Mount Fuji, Kamakura offers a more coastal and serene setting, with beaches, bamboo forests, and captivating sunsets.
Whether you seek mountainous landscapes or coastal charm, both destinations provide ample opportunities to immerse yourself in Japan’s natural beauty and find moments of serenity and awe.
Experiences and Activities
- Onsen Experience
Hakone is renowned for its hot springs (onsen). Engage in the time-honored tradition of soaking in the therapeutic waters of these natural geothermal baths. Whether you choose a public bath or opt for a private onsen at a ryokan, the experience is incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating.
- Hakone Ropeway and Cable Cars
Take a scenic ride on the Hakone Ropeway, a cable car system that offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, lakes, and volcanic landscapes.
The journey provides breathtaking vistas of Mount Fuji, Owakudani’s steaming volcanic vents, and the lush valleys below.
- Hakone Shrine
Pay a visit to the Hakone Shrine, a serene and picturesque Shinto shrine nestled along the shores of Lake Ashi.
Explore the torii gates, traditional architecture, and serene gardens while enjoying the tranquil atmosphere and stunning views of the lake and Mount Fuji.
- Hakone Open-Air Museum
Immerse yourself in art and nature at the Hakone Open-Air Museum. This expansive outdoor museum showcases a remarkable collection of sculptures and installations by renowned artists from Japan and around the world.
Stroll through the scenic grounds, interact with the art, and appreciate the harmonious fusion of art and nature.
- Hakone Pirate Ship
Embark on a pirate ship adventure across Lake Ashi. These uniquely designed ships provide a fun and memorable way to explore the lake while enjoying the surrounding natural beauty.
- Temple and Shrine Exploration
Kamakura is known for its wealth of temples and shrines. Visit the iconic Great Buddha (Daibutsu) at Kotokuin Temple, a colossal bronze statue that stands as a symbol of Kamakura’s rich history.
Explore Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, a significant Shinto shrine with impressive structures and beautiful gardens. Discover the serene atmosphere and ancient artifacts at Hasedera Temple, known for its stunning Kannon statue and scenic views.
- Zen Meditation and Tea Ceremonies
Engage in traditional practices such as Zen meditation and tea ceremonies. Several Zen temples in Kamakura offer meditation sessions where you can experience the art of mindfulness and introspection.
Participate in a traditional tea ceremony at one of the tea houses in Kamakura and gain insight into the intricate rituals and cultural significance of this ancient practice.
- Kamakura Beaches
Enjoy the coastal charm of Kamakura’s beaches. Yuigahama Beach and Zaimokuza Beach offer opportunities for relaxation, sunbathing, and swimming.
Join locals and tourists alike in embracing the laid-back beach culture and soak up the refreshing ocean breeze.
- Kamakura Walking Trails
Discover Kamakura’s hidden gems by exploring its scenic walking trails.
The Daibutsu Hiking Course takes you through lush forests and offers stunning views of the Great Buddha, while the Tenen Hiking Course leads you along serene paths, temples, and bamboo groves.
- Kamakura Cuisine
Sample the local culinary delights of Kamakura. Indulge in delicious street food such as sweet potato chips, grilled squid, and freshly made matcha-flavored desserts.
Kamakura is known for its vibrant food scene, and exploring the local flavors is an essential part of the experience.
Both Hakone and Kamakura offer a range of unique experiences and activities, allowing you to immerse yourself in Japan’s rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and traditional practices.
Whether it’s relaxing in hot springs, exploring temples and shrines, or indulging in local cuisine, these destinations offer a diverse array
Accessibility and Location
Hakone is conveniently located approximately 80 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, making it easily accessible for travelers. The most common route from Tokyo is to take the train to Hakone-Yumoto Station.
From Tokyo, you can catch a direct train on the Odakyu Romancecar, a special limited express train, which offers a comfortable and scenic journey to Hakone-Yumoto Station. The train ride takes around 90 minutes from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.
Once you arrive at Hakone-Yumoto Station, you can navigate the area using various modes of transportation.
Hakone has a well-developed transportation network that includes buses, cable cars, ropeways, and even pirate ships on Lake Ashi.
These modes of transportation allow you to easily explore the different attractions and scenic spots within Hakone.
Kamakura is situated about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo, making it another easily accessible destination from the capital. The most convenient way to reach Kamakura is by train.
From Tokyo, you can take a direct train to Kamakura Station, which is served by the JR Yokosuka Line. The journey takes approximately one hour, depending on the train type.
Once you arrive at Kamakura Station, the town’s major attractions are within walking distance or a short bus ride away.
Kamakura’s compact size and well-connected transportation system make it easy to navigate and explore the town’s various temples, shrines, and cultural sites.
Both Hakone and Kamakura are popular day trip destinations from Tokyo, but they can also be enjoyed as longer stays.
Hakone’s proximity to Tokyo makes it suitable for a short getaway or even a day trip, while Kamakura’s accessibility allows for a more immersive experience, with the option to spend a night or two to fully explore the town and its surroundings.
In conclusion, both Hakone and Kamakura are easily accessible from Tokyo, with well-connected transportation options.
Whether you choose Hakone’s scenic train journey and use of local transportation within the town or Kamakura’s direct train access and walkability, reaching and exploring these destinations is convenient and hassle-free.
Crowd Levels and Atmosphere
Hakone is a popular tourist destination, known for its stunning natural landscapes, hot springs, and cultural attractions. As such, the crowd levels in Hakone can vary depending on the time of year and day of the week.
During weekends, public holidays, and peak travel seasons like spring and autumn, Hakone tends to attract larger crowds.
Popular attractions, such as Lake Ashi, the Hakone Ropeway, and the Hakone Open-Air Museum, may experience higher visitor numbers during these times.
However, despite its popularity, Hakone offers a range of attractions and activities that allow visitors to find quieter and more peaceful spots.
Exploring Hakone during weekdays or in the shoulder seasons (late winter or early spring, and late autumn) can help you avoid larger crowds and enjoy a more tranquil atmosphere.
Additionally, venturing off the beaten path and exploring lesser-known areas or hidden trails can provide a more secluded experience.
The atmosphere in Hakone is generally relaxed and serene, thanks to its natural beauty and the calming effect of its hot springs.
The town is surrounded by mountains and forests, providing a peaceful ambiance that allows visitors to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Compared to Hakone or other major cities like Tokyo or Kyoto, Kamakura generally has a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. While it attracts a significant number of visitors, it tends to be less crowded in comparison.
The crowd levels in Kamakura can also vary depending on the time of year and day of the week. Weekends and holidays tend to be busier, particularly around major attractions like the Great Buddha and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.
However, Kamakura’s overall atmosphere remains relatively calm and peaceful, allowing visitors to explore at a comfortable pace.
One advantage of Kamakura is that it offers a range of attractions spread throughout the town, allowing visitors to disperse and find quieter areas.
While popular sites may have some crowds, there are numerous temples, shrines, and hidden gems that provide a more intimate and peaceful experience.
The coastal location of Kamakura also adds to its unique atmosphere. The proximity to the ocean and the presence of beautiful beaches create a serene and refreshing ambiance, further enhancing the overall atmosphere of the town.
In conclusion, while Hakone can experience larger crowds during peak seasons and weekends, it still offers opportunities to find quieter spots. Kamakura, on the other hand, generally maintains a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, with the chance to explore lesser-known areas.
Both destinations provide a respite from the bustling city life and allow visitors to immerse themselves in a tranquil and serene environment.
The recommended duration for visiting Hakone can vary depending on your interests and the activities you wish to undertake. However, a typical visit to Hakone can range from a day trip to a few days.
For a day trip, you can experience some of the highlights of Hakone, such as taking a boat ride on Lake Ashi, riding the Hakone Ropeway for panoramic views, and visiting the Hakone Shrine or the Hakone Open-Air Museum.
This allows you to get a taste of Hakone’s natural beauty and cultural attractions.
If you have more time to spare, spending two to three days in Hakone provides a more comprehensive experience.
This allows you to fully explore the area, visit additional attractions, and indulge in the relaxing hot springs. You can take your time to hike the trails, soak in different hot spring baths, and immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere of the town.
Moreover, staying overnight in a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) adds to the experience, allowing you to savor a traditional Japanese-style meal and enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings.
This also gives you the opportunity to experience the peacefulness of Hakone during the evening and early morning, away from the day-trip crowds.
The recommended duration for visiting Kamakura is typically a day trip, although spending a bit more time can allow for a more immersive experience.
With a day trip, you can explore Kamakura’s major attractions, including the Great Buddha, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and Hasedera Temple.
You can also take a stroll through the charming streets, visit local shops, and enjoy the coastal scenery. This provides a good overview of Kamakura’s cultural and natural beauty.
If you have extra time, extending your visit to two days allows you to delve deeper into Kamakura’s offerings. You can explore lesser-known temples and shrines, such as Zeniarai Benten Shrine or Engakuji Temple.
You can also take leisurely walks along the coastal trails, relax on the beaches, or participate in traditional practices like tea ceremonies or Zen meditation.
By spending an additional day in Kamakura, you can enjoy a more relaxed pace and soak in the town’s atmosphere at a leisurely rhythm, appreciating the historical and cultural significance of its various sites.
In conclusion, for Hakone, a day trip can give you a taste of its beauty, but staying for two to three days allows for a more immersive experience.
Kamakura, on the other hand, is often visited as a day trip, but extending your stay to two days can provide a deeper exploration of its attractions.
Ultimately, the recommended duration depends on your interests, available time, and the level of immersion you desire in these captivating destinations.
Whether you choose Hakone or Kamakura, both destinations have their own unique charm and attractions that cater to different interests.
Hakone showcases natural beauty, hot springs, and a blend of history and stunning landscapes, while Kamakura offers a glimpse into Japan’s medieval past, with its temples, shrines, and coastal allure.
Consider your preferences for nature, history, and cultural experiences, as well as the duration of your visit and accessibility from Tokyo.
Whichever destination you decide on, both Hakone and Kamakura will provide you with unforgettable experiences and a deeper understanding of Japan’s diverse cultural heritage.