I’m writing this waiting for my flight back to Singapore at Haneda Airport, reflecting on this wonderful holiday. I loved Kyoto, I enjoyed discovering Tokyo (more to come!), but my absolute highlight was staying at a traditional, Japanese guesthouse. I’ve shared the highlight of my stay with you:
A traditional, Japanese accommodation is called ryokan and offers you the full Nippon experience: sleeping on a tatami floor, beautifully arranged kaiseki style dishes (also served in your tatami room) and often an onsen. An onsen is a hot spa area which relaxes your body, mind and soul. The Japanese obviously invented spa before it became a thing in the Western world – and they did a perfect job! And the coolest thing: you get to wear a yukata (light cotton kimono) all day!
Our ryokan of choice was called Suimeisou which is located in walking distance from the railway station Hakone-Yumoto. I think that the price of roughly 15,000-20,000 Yen is absolutely decent for the high quality dishes you’ll be served and the level of the service and facilities. I’d totally recommend it.
So, when we arrived, the onsen lady showed us our rooms, explained us how to wear the yukata, when our meals will be served in our rooms and when our beds will be made. She poured freshly brewed o-cha for us and offered us an azuki bean sweet. In a ryokan like this, absolutely everything is being taken care of; you just have to move your body to the onsen and back to your room again. After days of crazy sightseeing behind and a few more ahead of us, one day of doing absolutely nothing was pure bliss. (Also my foodie heart exploded when I saw the Japanese traditional dinner).
Hakone & the Fuji-yama
On the next day, we headed to Lake Ashi to see Mount Fuji . Unfortunately, the weather was a bit cloudy so we could not get a glimpse of this iconic mountain. But actually, the area around Fuji-san is so incredibly picturesque, I did not miss it (which is a lie I’m telling to myself because who would not want to see it 😄). Anyways, we rented a swan boat and fought the waves of this windy day, went to see a shinto temple and wandered around the lake (Hakone-machi and Moto-Hakone). When you’re there, you could also visit Hakone-Sekisho, a rebuilt checkpoint from Edo-period. Hakone has much to offer for travellers who appreciate nature and picturesque views. And let’s be honest: who does not want to ride a swan boat.
Overall, the stay at hakone will always have a special place in my heart – it’s my new happy place. Also, I already came to the conclusion that I definitely have to return to Japan one day and when doing that, I will most likely plan 2-3 days in a ryokan and exploring beautiful hakone, preferably in autumn when the leaves are red and golden.