Heaven in Hakone

Many people think of Tokyo when they think of Japan.  But if you prefer a little less madness and a bit more quiet, I would highly recommend a weekend in Hakone.  It is sure to be a delight for the senses.  On top of having some of the best views of Mt. Fuji, Hakone offers delicious local food, beautiful traditional woodcrafts, and my favourite relaxing onsen (hot spring baths), which is not something most of us get to experience on a daily basis. We were spoiled rotten by the hotel staff at Yamanochaya (山の茶屋) and could barely bring ourselves to leave.

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The rooms at Yamanochaya are all Japanese style, which means you sleep in a proper futon and dine in the same room that you sleep (average is 10-12 mats per room).

How I've missed sleeping in a proper Japanese futon and the sweet natural smell of tatami mats.

How I’ve missed sleeping in a proper Japanese futon and the sweet natural smell of tatami mats.

We were lucky to get our own in-room open air bath, which was big enough to comfortably fit two, in addition to a separate sitting area and a “moon-watching” balcony (月見台).

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Private Onsen

Our in-room outdoor bath — such a luxury, which we made great use of!

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Shower area next to onsen — it is important to wash carefully and rinse completely before entering the bath, especially when you’re using a public onsen.

We were also offered private use of one of the larger outdoor baths, which is normally shared with other guests (there are separate women only / men only bath times).  So if you’re shy about soaking in your birthday suit with complete strangers, try to get a room with its own bath — it is worth splashing out a bit (so to speak) for a one-of-a-kind experience. We took about 3 baths a day — after all, it’s what you do when you’re in Hakone.  Soak, eat, soak, kip, eat, soak, and repeat! Monkey certainly enjoyed the “R&R”.

Monks making full use of our onsen.

Monks making full use of our outdoor bath.

Another wonderful part of our stay was the meticulously prepared breakfast and dinner that was served in our room.

Photo 15-03-2014 00 07 53The breakfast menu is not as extravagant as the dinner menu, but it certainly is a feast compared to our usual morning cuppa and some toast!

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Japanese-style breakfast for three.

A tiny taste of everything starts to fill you up quite quickly!

Breakfast on the second morning. A tiny taste of everything starts to fill you up quite quickly!

Breakfast on the second morning.

Japanese kaiseki cuisine (懐石料理) is a true feast for the eyes, as well as your tastebuds.  The flavour profiles feature generally more subtle flavours and the menu changes to suit the season. I guarantee you will enjoy the wide variety of tastiness this multi-course meal has to offer.

First night's kaiseki dinner at Yamanochaya.

First night’s kaiseki dinner at Yamanochaya.

There’s even local Hakone beer with a special Mt. Fuji theme (purchased at a nearby Family Mart).

Hakone Beer

More beautiful food from our second night's stay.

More beautiful food from our second night’s stay.

And as if the staff anticipated that we’d be in a food coma, upon the completion of our meal each night, a designated futon maker (opposed to bed maker?) would come in quietly and lay out our futons and bid us goodnight.

Photo 14-03-2014 21 33 48Needless to say, we loved every bit of our stay at Yamanochaya and would be keen to return if we’re ever in Hakone again. Have you visited Hakone before? Let us know if you have a favourite place to stay!

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5 thoughts on “Heaven in Hakone

  1. Pingback: Finding “Zen-Time” In Tokyo | Catastrophic Findings

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