An easy trip by car or train from Tokyo, Hakone plays the same role for Tokyoites that the East End of Long Island does for New Yorkers. A refreshing and stylish weekend getaway, it offers fresh air and beautiful scenery, including, on clear days, a view of Mount Fuji on the horizon. A car is unnecessary, since the various villages of the Hakone area are linked together by frequent boat, bus and train services.
The Hakone Open-Air Museum was the first sculpture garden in Japan when it opened in 1969. Some 120 works of contemporary art are displayed on the grounds, including works by Honoré de Balzac, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger and Henry Moore. There’s also an art gallery devoted to works by Pablo Picasso. Next to the museum café is a free open-air hot-spring footbath (where towels are available for 100 yen).
Afterwards, head for lunch at the Gyoza Center restaurant, which is a 10-minute walk from the museum. This cozy restaurant serves more than a dozen different varieties of homemade gyoza, or light Japanese dumplings, served steamed or in broth. 1300 Gora, Ashigarashimo-gun, Hakone-machi, Tel. (81) 460-82-3457.
After lunch, take the Togendai cable car, a five-minute walk from the restaurant, to Sounzan, where you can enjoy spectacular views over Lake Ashi and occasionally catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji. Then, catch the bus to Togendai at the north end of the lake. A pirate-style galleon that plies the waters of this pretty lake takes 25 minutes to reach Moto-Hakone Port. From the bus station adjacent to the dock there is a regular service to Miyanoshita station.
Arriving at Miyanoshita, head for the Fujiya Hotel, a charming time capsule of a hotel that originally opened in 1878. The wood-paneled Victoria Bar has tremendous atmosphere and is the perfect place for an apéritif, maybe a Japonais, which is made with Grey Goose vodka, quince liqueur, matcha tea syrup and egg white.