Hakone Yusen Sorakaze: A Floating Green Park over Lake Ashi

A Unique Experience While Exploring Lake Ashi's Natural Beauty

Hakone Yusen Sorakaze

Hakone, a favored retreat near Tokyo, is renowned for its scenic beauty and therapeutic hot springs.

At its heart, Lake Ashi stands as a must-visit attraction, offering majestic views of Mount Fuji and a tranquil escape from urban life. It’s a place where culture, history, and nature intertwine, presenting foreign visitors with a serene and enriching experience.

Elevating this experience is the introduction of the “Hakone Yusen Sorakaze”, a novel ship that transforms the journey across Lake Ashi into an extraordinary adventure. This innovative vessel, described as a floating green park, provides a unique opportunity to explore the lake’s splendor in comfort and style, making it an unmissable experience for anyone traveling to Hakone.

In this article, I will introduce to you about the Hakone Yusen Sorakaze as well as share my experience riding this fascinating new ship.

What is Hakone Yusen Sorakaze?

SORAKAZE and Mt Fuji

The Hakone Yusen Sorakaze is a novel addition to Lake Ashi in Hakone, launched by Hakone Yusen Co., Ltd in February 2024. Born out of a vision to create a “floating green park” on Lake Ashi, the Sorakaze is designed to merge the experience of sailing with the elements of air and wind amidst the breathtaking natural beauty of Mount Fuji, the surrounding mountains, and the lake itself.

Named to embody the joy of exploring Hakone by Ship, the Sorakaze allows passengers to appreciate Lake Ashi’s ever-changing seasonal landscapes in a unique and immersive way.

The exterior design, created by Yasuyuki Kawanishi, harmonizes with the natural surroundings by featuring an outdoor deck carpeted with natural grass and the stern covered with natural ivy, offering passengers the sensation of sailing through a green park.

The ship also incorporates traditional Japanese motifs, such as cranes and knot patterns, which blend seamlessly with the views of Mount Fuji, Lake Ashi, and the serene torii gate of Hakone Shrine visible from aboard.

The Sorakaze’s creation was guided by three principles: pursuing the joy of fun and play, seeking unique and moving experiences, and respecting the natural beauty of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi.

About Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi (芦ノ湖) stands out as an essential destination for any visitor to the Hakone area. Known for its expansive views that beautifully showcase Hakone’s natural landscapes, Lake Ashi also bears historical significance, featuring landmarks like the ancient Hakone Checkpoint.

This area, contrasting with Hakone’s typically elegant and stylish ambiance, offers a mystical and historical charm, marking it as a powerful spiritual site. Situated close to Hakone, the lake is surrounded by rich nature and historical sites, including the famous Hakone Shrine, making it a captivating point of interest with its blend of history and natural beauty.

It is also one of the best places where you can have an amazing view of Mt Fuji.

My Experience on the Hakone Yusen Sorakaze

SORAKAZE and Torii gate

As I previously mentioned, I had the opportunity to take the round trip on the Hakone Yusen Sorakaze.

1. Arriving at the port


The port where we boarded was the Hakonesekisho Ato (箱根関所跡港) on the south side of Lake Ashi. This port is conveniently connected to a large gift shop called the Hakone Sekisho Tabimonogatarikan (箱根関所 旅物語館).

Here, you can find pretty much any kind of souvenir from Hakone and Lake Ashi, making this port the perfect place to start and finish your ship journey. It is also convenient because you can look at the souvenirs while waiting for the ship to arrive.

The place also includes a Soba restaurant.

2. Riding on the Sorakaze

Sorakaze (outer side)

Once the Ship has arrived, we are guided to board. You can immediately tell this ship apart from the rest. It is stylish and you can see glimpses of yellow that accentuate the predominantly white exterior.

The interior

The Ship underwent a significant interior renovation in 2023, transforming its space to enhance the passenger experience on Lake Ashi.

From spacious cabins, guests can enjoy changing lakeside views through the large windows. The ship offers free seating, allowing passengers to choose their spots and enjoy varying experiences.

A kid-friendly area where shoes can be taken off is available, and from certain seats at the front on the first floor, passengers can observe the captain navigating the ship.

Additionally, a shop on the first floor features original food and drink menus, as well as a selection of souvenirs.

On the second floor, passengers are treated to a visually stunning experience. The seats at the front of the second floor offer a 180-degree panoramic view of the breathtaking scenery, all visible through the ship’s large windows.

Like the first floor, the second floor boasts a variety of seating options, including raised areas, hanging chairs, sofas inspired by the iconic red Mount Fuji, and counter-seats for leisurely enjoying the lake views.

The ship’s interior is designed in such way that passengers will want to take pictures and post them on their social media. One thing in particular that is fun is the several ‘hidden Mount Fujis’ throughout the ship, providing a modern twist on the traditional hidden Mickey (in Tokyo Disneyland), creating a unique and picturesque experience for all aboard.

The exterior

The Hakone Yusen Sorakaze also offers a unique outdoor experience with its 360-degree observation deck on Lake Ashi.

If you find yourself yearning for more than the view from the large windows of the cabin seats, stepping out onto the deck allows you to immerse yourself in unobstructed vistas while feeling the breeze.

The outdoor deck, akin to a “floating green park,” features a grass-covered area, swing-like benches, and Mount Fuji-shaped bench, enabling passengers to bask in sunlight and fresh air.

It’s an ideal spot for enjoying the journey and capturing memorable photos.

From the third floor on the exterior deck, passengers can see notable sights such as the torii gates of the Kuzuryu Shrine and Hakone Shrine, the majestic Mt Fuji, and the movement of other boats on the lake, including the iconic pirate ship, often captured in photos with Mount Fuji in the background.

Additionally, the Sorakaze is pet-friendly on its third and fourth decks, allowing passengers to walk their dogs on a leash, making it a unique experience for pet owners traveling through the area.

3. The ports where the ship stops

The Hakone Yusen Sorakaze sails a scenic route on Lake Ashi connecting Hakone Sekisho Ato Port, Motohakone Port, and Hakone-en Port before returning to Hakone Sekisho Ato Port.

This circular route takes approximately 40 minutes to complete. Passengers have the flexibility to board and disembark at any of the three ports, making it convenient to explore different areas of Hakone.

Additionally, Hakone Yusen offers both regular service between these ports and a tour route that returns to the starting point, with an option for a one-day pass allowing unlimited rides, perfect for sightseeing at your own pace.

Hakonesekisho Ato (箱根関所跡港)

Hakonesekisho Ato Port

Tourist spots you can visit from Hakonesekisho Ato port include: the Hakone Checkpoint (箱根関所資料館), the Hakone Ekiden Museum (箱根駅伝ミュージアム), and the Hakone Sekisho Tabimonogatarikan (箱根関所 旅物語館).

Motohakone (元箱根港)

Motohakone Port

Tourist spots you can visit from Motohakone port include: Hakone Shrine (箱根神社), Onshi Hakone Park (恩賜箱根公園), and Narukawa Art Museum (成川美術館).

Hakone-en (箱根園港)

Hakone-en Port

Tourist spots you can visit from Hakone-en port include: Hakone Komagatake Ropeway (駒ヶ岳ロープウェー), Hakone-en Resort Complex (箱根園), and Mototsumiya Shrine (箱根元宮).

<<Book Online: Hakone Yusen Sorakaze>>

My Thoughts

I had the opportunity to ride on this ship just a week after it launched, and it was a lot of fun! Although this day happened to be cloudy, the breeze was refreshing, and the view of the lake and the mountains was spectacular.

Knowing that the scenery changes drastically depending on the season you choose to come, makes it tempting to want to come again at a different time of year.

And if you have enough time, it would also be nice to get off at each of the ports to walk around and visit the different tourist spots this great area has to offer.

Nearby tourist location: Panorama Terrace 1059

Panorama Terrace 1059

I also wanted to take this opportunity to also introduce you to this other fascinating tourist spot near Lake Ashi.

Panorama Terrace 1059, also known as Jukkokutoge (十国峠), is a breathtaking viewpoint near Lake Ashi in Hakone, accessible within 20 minutes by car.

Its name, meaning “Ten Countries Pass,” is derived from its unique vantage point where one could historically see ten ancient provinces of Japan.

This spot offers unparalleled 360-degree views, showcasing both the Izu and Boso Peninsulas, Suruga Bay, and a clear view of Mount Fuji. On clear nights, the area transforms into a picturesque scene with beautiful nightscapes, and on exceptionally clear days, even Tokyo Skytree and Izu Oshima are visible.

Recently renovated in 2022, Panorama Terrace 1059 now includes a glamping site, making it a highly recommended destination for both international and domestic tourists.

The on-site Tengoku Cafe, known for its local farm-to-table ingredients, especially milk, offers a delightful culinary experience with specialties like the “Mt Fuji Latte.”

Additionally, a well-stocked gift shop provides a range of souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

I hope this article is helpful to you. As I mentioned in this article, Hakone is a highly popular destination for both locals and international travelers, especially for those staying in Tokyo. Because of this, Hakone offers many different things to do. Now, with this new ship experience, you can navigate through the grand Lake Ashi while having a spectacular view and also getting to visit the different ports around the lake!

I hope this makes it into your bucket list when visiting the Hakone area!

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Written by

Born and raised in Costa Rica, I started living in Tokyo from college. I love traveling within Japan & around the world. Since I wasn’t born in Japan, I know the cultural impact that you can get when visiting Japan for the first time and what you might be worried about before your trip. And I’ve lived long enough to somewhat understand the nuances of the Japanese culture that make this country such an attractive place to visit. Hopefully I can provide to you both the information you’re looking for and the information you didn’t know you needed to know.