Staying in a ryoukan (a traditional Japanese inn with an outdoor hotspring) has been at the top of my bucket list for a while, especially since I endeavored in a lot of anime and manga as a child.
Last November, I made my second trip to Japan and made sure to include this experience. Before the trip, I scoured the internet for hours before carefully selecting a ryoukan in Hakone.
Hakone is widely known for is its variety of traditional onsen, Lake Ashi, and vicinity to Mount Fuji.
On the day of our check in to the ryoukan, we took a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakone to explore Lake Ashi. We were sure to purchase the Hakone Free Pass, which cost 4,000 yen (approx 40$) from Odawara Station, and also had our luggage delivered directly to the ryoukan. While the delivery can be a little expensive, it was so worth it to not have to worry about retrieving our luggage from a locker in the train station after a long day of riding the rails and ropeways.
The Hakone Tozan Railway brought us to the ropeway, which passed through cloudy mountain tops and leisurely deposited us at Togendai on the shore of Lake Ashi. While it was raining when we caught the boat, we held our breaths at the possibility of spotting any views of Mount Fuji. Nonetheless, the ride on Lake Ashi was memorable.
We went took the pirate boat to one of the few ports, Motohakone, to visit the Hakone Shrine.
The shrine dates back to the Nara period, and the cedar trees on the main path are at least 800 years old. The walk is easily accessible from the docks, and takes about 15 to 20 minutes to reach.
That evening, we took the ropeway and train back to our ryoukan at the Naka-Gora Station.
At check-in we were able to choose a time slot for when we wanted to dip in a private outdoor onsen. We were also given yukata, socks, and sandals for walking about the resort and the traditional dinner.
- Side note, many ryoukan offer a complimentary dinner and breakfast. While I don’t eat shellfish and I’m a borderline vegetarian, I struggled to enjoy the several course dinner. Bring snacks if you’re unsure whether you will enjoy the meal.
During our hour long time slot in the evening, my boyfriend and I relaxed in a private onsen that was hidden within bamboo thickets. The private bath was especially relaxing after a day of traveling from Tokyo and touring the countryside.
Our hotel room was spacious with tatami flooring, a king-sized bed, and we were greeted by Japanese sweets. There was also an intimate outdoor bath on our room’s porch with a view of the autumnal countryside. Although this additional feature was a costly upgrade, the next morning I enjoyed listening to the rain fall against the leaves in the hot bath.
While it was more expensive than would have been ideal, I’m glad that my boyfriend and I were able to do this together.
There are cheaper options available to have the Lake Ashi and/or onsen experience.
- Catch an all day tour from Tokyo.
- Take the Shinkansen/Romance Car to Hakone, and if you’re planning on staying in the area either store your luggage in a locker or have it delivered to your next destination.
- There are many ryoukans in this region with various onsen options, such as gender segregated hot springs, a private bath at the ryoukan that can be ‘rented’ for you and your family/partner, or a private bath attached to your room.