One of the most iconic sites in Japan lies just beyond the glittering lights of Tokyo, and represents the other extreme of this island country: its natural harmony. Mt. Fuji and her majestic profile looms above the placid landscape. However, like much of Japan, the serene exterior belies an active heart. The country’s tallest mountain is also an active volcano, and the geothermal activity just beneath the surface gives the land a far more dynamic and attractive character, with hot springs, rivers, and lakes abounding.

Hakone is one of the most popular places to experience not only the hot springs themselves, but the fascinating onsen (hot spring) culture that has grown up around them. A short day trip from Tokyo, Hakone offers a stunning change of scenery with its mountains, lakes, and hot springs. It’s a beautiful part of Northern Japan, best symbolized by its chain of Hakone peaks and the distant snow-capped Mt. Fuji as seen from the Lake Ashi caldera. With its countryside mountain glory and its easy accessibility, Hakone remains an essential stop on any journey to Japan and an ideal gateway to the wonders of the legendary Mt. Fuji.

Of course, those wanting to get up close and personal with the peak can arrange for day hikes, expeditions, and other ways to get out into this rare piece of nature. The mountain itself can only be climbed in July and August, and Ker & Downey is ready to outfit you with the ideal guides to help you reach your high altitude goals.

Fuji Five Lakes is another great spot for nature lovers, and an ideal location to start your climb. For families and multi-generational groups, it offers an array of activity levels so that not everyone has to take on the mountain. Others can relax in hot springs, or take a leisurely excursion onto the lake for fishing or paddling. In the winter, this area is a popular location for snow sports.