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.
- A zen experience at Ryokan Senkei
- Strolling around Hakone town
- First glimpse of Mt Fuji from Lake Ashi
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.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the onsen! Here is one from the hotel website.
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.
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.
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.