Enjoy expertly crafted sushi, Japanese hotpot and wagyu steak cooked to perfection at Hakone’s best restaurants.
Hakone is a relatively remote region, with its attractions and hotels grouped together in several village-like areas. Many of Hakone’s restaurants are in its hotels or ryokans (inns), often only accessible to guests on a room and board stay. There are, however, a handful of top-notch hotel restaurants open to the public, as well as casual shokudo restaurants, cosy cafés, noodle shops and sushi spots, most of which are concentrated around the region’s popular attractions.
Whether you’re planning a day trip or an overnight stay in Hakone, make sure you pick a place to eat before you visit. Keep in mind that some smaller restaurants could close early, depending on the time of year and the whim of owners.
Walk uphill for a few minutes from Gora station and you’ll find Mami Kitchen, a homely restaurant with a simple menu of curries, noodle dishes and stews. Specialities here include the spicy Sri Lankan curry and the shrimp or vegetable tempura set meal, served with small pots of curry and matcha salt. Open from 11am to 4pm every day except Monday, Mami Kitchen is the perfect lunch stop for those exploring Hakone’s Gora region.
Tucked away in the hilly Motohakone region, Takeyabu is a quirky little restaurant specialising in soba dishes. The traditional Japanese noodles are made from buckwheat and served chilled or as part of a hot broth, with sides of fish, meat and tempura. As diners slurp up their noodles, they can take in spectacular views of the surrounding mountains or simply admire the restaurant’s mosaic displays and curious collection of figurines.
For an upscale dining experience enveloped by the lush Hakone forest, this beautiful teppanyaki (cooked on an iron plate) restaurant will not disappoint. The restaurant is in a fairly secluded location in the Gora hills, but those who embark on the steep climb to reach it are rewarded with a sumptuous, high-end feast – a rare find in Hakone outside of a ryokan’s set kaiseki dinner. Itoh Dining by NOBU is in an elegant space, with low lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the surrounding woodland. Juicy wagyu steak is cooked to perfection on open-plan teppan grills, while seafood fans will appreciate the lobster, scallops and sashimi.
Moments away from Lake Ashi, this small, cosy restaurant serves some of Hakone’s best seafood. Its large rice bowls come with fish fresh from the market next door, with highlights including unagi (freshwater eel) and ikura (salmon roe). With bottomless miso soup and a warm welcome from the restaurant’s affable owners, Daimasa Honten is well worth the visit.
For something a little offbeat, look no further than Woody, a Toy Story-themed bar and restaurant near the Hakone Open-Air Museum in Ninotaira. You have to admire the commitment to the theme here: Toy Story figurines are perched on almost every available surface, the floor is covered in gravel and seats and tables are carved from tree stumps. It’s also one of the few places in the area serving burgers, fries, pizza and pasta alongside Japanese dishes. Open until 5pm during the day and from 9pm to 12am in the evenings, Woody is a fun little spot to grab some beers and grub after a day at the Hakone Open-Air Museum.
Enjoy sake, seafood and shabu-shabu (a type of Japanese hotpot) at this sophisticated restaurant and bar surrounded by the nature of Sengokuhara. Beautifully presented dishes are served up in an equally beautiful space; floor-to-ceiling windows flood the dining area with natural light, and in addition to a spacious terrace and garden, the restaurant offers Japanese-style seating at low wooden tables. A must-visit for anyone staying in the Sengokuhara region.
Karaage is Japan’s take on fried chicken, and this lakeside restaurant has dedicated its menu to the delicacy. Juicy, spice-flecked chicken is served with house ‘beer bread’, as well as salad and home-made soup. This is an excellent lunch spot for those exploring Lake Ashi.
At Sushimiyafujit, sushi is made with fresh fish from nearby Sagami Bay and skilfully put together by the dexterous chef, who is also the artist behind the origami hanging on the walls. He runs the restaurant alongside his wife, serving delicious, carefully selected omakase (a style of dining common in Japan, where guests enlist the chef to choose each dish). A selection of sake, beer and tea is available to wash the sushi down.