Hakone, Japan is a beautiful mountain forest region dotted with quaint villages, waterfalls, and onsens. Hakone is also well-known for its ryokans, a traditional Japanese inn. After a week of running around Tokyo and Kyoto, my feet were scuffed and battered from all of the power-walking (Brian walks fast, I do not).
When we were planning our Japan itinerary, we knew we wanted to stop by to experience a ryokan. We decided to stay one night in Hakone to relax and recharge on our way back to Tokyo from Kyoto. I’m so glad we did, but I have to forewarn; this experience wasn’t cheap. It was the most we spent on accommodations but it was worth the splurge. We booked our trip through Booking.com, one of my favorite sites to book travel accommodations through.
Checking In & Exploring Hakone
The entire experience checking in at Hakone Suimeisou was seamless. Brian and I hopped off the Hakone-Yumoto train station and then located the ryokan within minutes. We were a couple of hours early to our check-in time and the front desk let us leave our luggages with them while we walked around to grab lunch. The ryokan is centrally located in the main town where there are udon shops, Japanese curry, and small jewelry stores. Brian and I had lunch and then proceeded to shop around and explore.
Our Room in Hakone Suimeisou
I had a “Welcome to my Crib” moment upon entering our ryokan. There are two things that I’ve always wanted in life and that is a really cool bathtub and a personal attendant. At Hakone Suimeisou, every room receives a personal attendant who brings your luggage up for you, takes you up to your room, and lets you know when it’s time to eat. We were introduced to this lovely woman who didn’t speak a lot of English, but we knew our basic Japanese to get by.
Upon entering the room, you must take your shoes off and change into slippers. I accidentally stepped over the barrier with my shoes on and our personal attendant frantically waved at me. After apologizing profusely and changing into slippers, we entered into the most amazing room I have ever seen in my entire life.
The tatami room was large and spacious and there was a large balcony that overlooked the lush forest. We booked the Japanese-Western room with an open-air bath. Naturally, I booked it to the bathroom that connected to the outdoor onsen. As I opened the door to the onsen, I could hear the river and an overwhelming feeling of peace.
Japanese Kaiseki Dining
Our reservation included breakfast and dinner, but there is an option to book without the kaiseki dining or just breakfast for a cheaper room rate. Brian and I wanted to experience it all – and I have to say it was worth it if you are okay with eating mostly seafood.
You can choose to dine in your own room or a private banquet room. We chose to dine outside of our room. It was mandatory for us to change into traditional Japanese kimonos called Yukata to dine in a private room. Upon entering, we were greeted with a colorful display of our dinner. I thought the quality of food was fantastic and a worthwhile 13-course experience. Breakfast was also primarily seafood and all of the prepared food was based on Hakone’s seasonality.
The Onsen Experience
Now for the fun part. We had an outdoor onsen in our own room but there were also other onsens on upper levels of the Japanese inn. There were a couple communal onsens (based on genders) for guest to enjoy. A couple of downsides to a public onsen are seeing a lot of other naked bodies, as well as some onsens disapproving of tattoos. Both Brian and I have tattoos; my tattoos are dainty, but Brian has a giant tattoo on his chest. There were 3-4 private onsens that had even more amazing views of Hakone. We decided to rent a private onsen the next morning before we had to check out. It cost us $20 USD to rent for 2 hours.
Since this private onsen sits on the highest floor, the view was absolutely breathtaking. Upon walking in, there are instructions for you to utilize the separate shower before getting into the bath. Make sure to drink plenty of water after your bath!
When to Visit Hakone, Japan
We visited Japan in early October and thought it was the perfect season. We missed the summer humidity. The weather was cool so it made it easy to enjoy the onsen. The leaves were just starting to change so if you’re looking for Fall colors, I would wait until late October or early November to visit Hakone.
Let me know if you have any questions!
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