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Photo Blog Hakone: Ryokan, Onsen, Mt Fuji and Lake Ashi

Hakone is a picturesque village surrounded by undulating hills just an hour away from Tokyo. After an exhilarating 5 days in Tokyo it made for a perfect stop en route to visiting temples and shrine in Kyoto. Known for it’s hot spring ryokans (traditional Japanese inn) and onsens (hot spring baths), it was an unquestionable stop for us. We were here for a night and left with one of the most memorable experiences in Japan. Hakone has a lot to offer besides the ryokans, however, we did not have time to explore them all. We were able to take a day trip to lake Ashi, which was delightful.

Highlights:

A zen experience at Ryokan Senkei (Beets Score: *****)

Staying in a ryokan and relaxing in one of the onsens is an excellent way of experiencing the traditional Japanese culture and lifestyle. It’s no wonder that it made it to our top 10 reasons for visiting Japan.

Tatami mats and minimal furnishings are a trademark of ryokans, and evoke a sense of peace and serenity. We felt relaxed as soon as we entered our room in Ryokan Senkei. And if this wasn’t enough, taking a bath in an onsen here took our “zen” experience to the next level.

There are two different onsens that are rotated between men and women. The one on the ground floor is a typical indoor bath. The one on the rooftop is outdoors, and you can view the scenery while soaking in the hot spring water. This was a one-of-a-kind experience.

The dinner is a key part of a ryokan stay and is generally non-vegetarian. We were fortunate that our ryokan was also able to arrange an entirely (well almost!) vegetarian meal without compromising on taste or experience. 

Welcome to our Ryokan. Please slip into one of the getas!
Follow me through the hallway, as I show you around
Here we have the multi-purpose room. TV, living, dining, and recreation room all rolled in to one.
And this is the bedroom. Where are the beds you ask? Read on.
Looks like Tanuj is already comfortable in the sun room
And this would be the place to take in the beautiful views – the balcony
Now that you have see the place, it’s time to get comfortable in a yukata!
Beena – check!
Tanuj – Check!
Time for dinner – Our special traditional vegetarian meal being prepared for us in the room by our host.
Now that’s a spread. “Itadakimasu” – “I gratefully receive” is a phrase said in Japan before eating a meal.
And those are the beds. After a lovely meal and a relaxing bath in the onsen, we were ready to hit the beds laid on the tatami mats.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the onsen! Here is one from the hotel website.

Outdoor Onsen

Strolling around Hakone town (Beets Score: ***)

Hakone is a charming town and a pleasure to walk around during the day. (If there was a lot going on at night, we were completely unaware, since we were relishing every bit of the ryokan-onsen experience). Surrounded by lush green hills and with a river flowing through it, I am sure I had been unknowingly drawing this town when I was a kid. We were disappointed to find no restaurants serving vegetarian options.

The cute train station in Hakone
The view of the river from the bus on our way to check into our Ryokan
Mama Vora and Tanuj enjoying the walk into town
View from the bridge up the hills and river
So much to explore from Hakone! Unfortunately, we only had one day.
Strike a pose.
We couldn’t get enough of this view – the babbling brook and the color of the green landscapes were stunning.
Impossible to find any vegetarian food in Hakone. We were happy to finally find a cafe where the owner was willing to adapt the menu and make us something. Thanks to Google translate and her patience level we got AWESOME shakes with waffles and a salad.
Mama Vora is also thrilled!
Grateful for lunch! This was so much better than having coffee and a croissant.
Pictures don’t do justice to this quaint town!

First glimpse of Mt Fuji from Lake Ashi (Beets Score: *****)

After checking out of our hotel, we decided on a day trip to Lake Ashi before heading to Kyoto. We took a day pass for the bus (which included the train ride back to Odawara) and got off at the Hakonemachi stop. As we ambled along the lake, we got to see the Onshihakone park and the ancient Cedar Avenue. The park is gorgeous and provides beautiful views of Mt. Fuji. We were lucky to see the volcano mountain in spite of it being cloudy and grey.

First sighting of Mt Fujisan
Cute Japanese Couple
Walk along Onshihakone Park
The one and only sakura tree. We were in Japan at the lag end of the cherry blossom season hence were lucky to see sakura flowers.
Gorgeous path to Lake Ashi in the park
Another shot of Fujisan
Wisterias waiting to bloom
Around 400 Cedar trees on Cedar Ave.
We enjoyed strolling this pass ( historic site of Tokaido Road built in 1619) and enjoying the grandeur of these trees
Can’t get enough of Mt Fuji. It was cloudy and wet and were feeling so lucky to see Mt Fuji from here.
Another shot, with a striking red torii gate!
Say Cheez!
Sweet Plantains and…
… a veggie crepe for a snack
The street was lined with these cute buildings
Samurai on guard!
Torii Gate – WOW!

Hakone is the perfect getaway from the larger cities. We were sad to be leaving, but the temple and shrine rich Kyoto was waiting to be explored.

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