Whilst we would recommend staying in Hakone, either at one of the excellent and quintessentially Japanese ryokan or the more cosmopolitan Hyatt Regency Hakone , it is perfectly possible to do this mini tour of Hakone in a day whilst staying in Tokyo. If so, we suggest obtaining a SUICA card in advance of arriving in Japan to smooth your passage, the Hakone Freepass which covers all transport in Hakone, then paying the modest upgrade to the Romance Car for the journey from Shinjuku to Hakone. It is called the romance car presumably because of the destination, but also because the seats are in pairs. Watch in wonderment as the train arrives with all the seats facing the "wrong way" then see them rotate to face forward for the return journey south.
Once at Hakone Yumoto, you will need to catch a local train up the mountain to Gora. This is another unexpected highlight as the train changes direction at almost every stop as it zig-zags it's way up the slope. From Gora you ascend in a straight line courtesy of the "cable car" (Europeans will see it as a funicular railway) before joining the Hakone Ropeway for the amazing journey over the hot volcanic vent filled valley of Owakudani with its yellow sulphur stained hillsides.
Alighting from the ropeway at Owakudani you will find a variety of gift shops and restaurants with a single theme. Black eggs! These are quite ordinary chicken's eggs until they are immersed in the hot volcanic springs and cooked in metal baskets in hot sulphuric acid. The pungent smell of sulphur is as ubiquitous as the image of blackened eggs which are the inspiration for every kind of food treat imaginable. It is said that if you eat the eggs from the hot springs at Owakudani, you will live an extra seven years. We saw hundreds of Japanese, mostly from Tokyo, queueing to test the myth. We declined. We like eggs, but not that much.
From here you can see Mount Fuji, on a clear day. Estimates of how often a clear day happens in the microclimate created by this mystical mountain vary from the optimistic 2 in 3 to a more realistic 1 in 3. As the pictures show, we did see Fuji but not all of it.
On to the ropeway again for the journey down to Lake Ashi and another unexpected event. A trip on a pirate ship. It appears that a merchant adventurer was held here by a Shogun and his boat was impounded and copied over and over. Well, some things don't need improving. In late April, the shoreline of Ashi will usually be festooned with Sakura, the cherry blossom so beloved in this this magical land. We were a few days too early.