It’s difficult to get over the excitement of this adventure. Coming to Japan, I decided to prioritise my insight into the Japanese culture (rather than simply sightseeing) and this gorgeous ryokan has given me all that experience – and more. A delightful taste of an ancient tradition!
On 21/01, we stopped at a traditional Japanese ryokan in Hakone (high in the mountains around Mount Fuji.)
During an amazing experience, we were provided with:
- Traditional Japanese rooms (washitsu) with tatami (woven mats), fusuma (decorated sliding doors), shoji light doors, chigodaina and tsukeshoin, low tables, low chairs and cushions.
- A beautiful Japanese (green) tea set provided (which we thoroughly enjoyed using to have afternoon tea in our yukatas)
- Japanese sweets (for Oscar!)
- Futon beds (mattresses laid on tatami flooring) that the staff laid out for us while we ate dinner
- Yukatas (traditional robes and belts/sashes) for use around the hotel
- Uwabaki (house slippers, no shoes past the entrance!)
- Communal onsen baths
- Hospitality second to none (as we’ve found all over japan) and everything provided from razors and toothbrushes, to green tea infused toilet paper
- Views of the mountains from our room
And then we were treated to:
- An outdoor mineral (private) onsen in a beautiful bamboo grove. (OMG!)
- Japanese-style dining experience (an event in itself, omg! Even Oscar tried everything. The staff spent a good half hour trying to reach him to use chopsticks and he loved it. Loads of tiny bowls with every kind of food I could think of, delicious tastes! Plus a pot of chicken balls, noodles and veg cooking over a flame on the table with us to serve hot!)
- A really comfortable nights sleep
- And a Japanese-style breakfast!
This adventure has been one of the richest and most impressionable ones of my year, and is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life!
There’s not a thing on the list above that I would fault. I’m a picky eater, (very picky) and my little Oscar (whos 7 now) is even pickier. I personally managed to eat just over half of the food at dinner and breakfast, and Oscar only ate a small amount but it was enough to keep him happy. We didn’t engorge ourselves on food like we would at an American-style diner, but instead we enjoyed the experience of tasting and aesthetically enjoying every detail of a menagerie of tiny Japanese dishes.
The onsen (hot spring) itself was surreal. There’s a warning present that, if you are not careful or have a health condition, you might feel faint. I didn’t expect this to effect me, but I did find myself breathing very heavily and feeling very woozy, so I followed direction and got a cold flannel to place on my forehead while bathing. Otherwise; the water felt wonderfully hot and you could feel the active sedimentary minerals in the milky waters. The peaceful surroundings of the mountainside and bamboo grove were the perfect addition to the relaxing bath and the entire experience was tranquil and exhibited the beauty of being one with nature.
The rooms were wonderfully simple and comfortable, exhibiting the traditional Japanese simplicity that is enjoyed across the world. We had everything we needed within the equivalent of one medium sized room, but we did not feel cramped even once and we slept very well, very deeply.
The only other thing to note is that my partner (Adam) is over 6 foot – and traditional rooms aren’t made for tall westerners! So if you’re tall, remember to duck!
The location of the hotel itself was easily accessed. The hakonetozan line bus stops directly outside the hotel entrance, and there was even the few icy remains of a recent snowfall in the mountains for Oscar to enjoy throwing at us (much to the local residents’ amusement). Due to the after-effects of Typhoon 19, the local hakonetozan line train between our station was closed at the time of our visit, so we actually had to catch a much longer trip on the local bus. But, although the bus was a little warm, I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience to investigate the culture of travelling like the local residents do about the winding mountain roads. The views and panoramic scenery were sublime and we caught a good number of glimpses of local life.
All in all: if you’re visiting japan, try and make some time go to a ryokan (and onsen) and experience the historic culture and long-kept traditions of the local people. It’s a rich life experience and one I’m really glad that we got to undergo.