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Hakone ryokan Japan

A Ryokan Experience in Hakone

Our first experience of an onsen was at a traditional ryokan. Situated in the village of Hakone, a small town a few hours’ drive from Tokyo. The day was grey, rainy and quite cold.

We went with my cousin and his Japanese wife so our experience was enhanced by her guidance and knowledge. It made this occasion very special.  

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On the way we stopped at a service area - Ebina City. Many of these service centres have a food that is only available at that venue. At this one their unique speciality is melon buns. We were told that on weekends, people travel from service centre to service centre. Sampling the food speciality of different service areas.

On the drive to Hakone we took the mountain drive and stopped at a view site. Which on a clear day has a wonderful view of Mt Fuji. But all we got was a fleeting glimpse of the top (or nearly top) through swirling clouds, a chilling wind and drizzle. It was there for a few seconds ... then it was gone.

Situated in a valley nearby a lake Hakone is beautiful on a clear day but the day we were there it was shrouded in cloud and mist. So I imagined how beautiful it could be.

Hakone is a delightful village. But at all times flooded with tourists.

We stayed at a very traditional ryokan called Bansuirou Fukuzumi. The records showed that It started in 1625 it had burned down and been rebuilt many times over the decades. Many famous people have enjoyed the onsen baths at this resort.

We learned that the Japanese have a very strong footwear etiquette. On arrival shoes are left at the entrance and replaced by brown slippers. At the bathroom door these are changed to white bathroom slippers. These are never worn outside the bathroom as they are considered “unclean”. If you transgress, you will be visually admonished by any Japanese person who sees you.

On arrival at the we were treated to a traditional tea served with a delicately wrapped snack … a great start.

The ryokan meals were out of this world. After our evening onsen we went to a private dining room. Dinner was nine courses. Each one preceded by the chef coming out to explain the contents of each dish and its accompanying sauces. Every one was beautifully presented and delicious. Accompanied by glasses of local beer and the odd glass of saki. It was a feast.

After our late-night onsen we retired to our room. It was one large room which had been partitioned into three separate sections for sleeping. Laid out on the tatami mats were downy futons. Unbelievably comfortable and warm.

After our morning onsen it was time to eat again. Another feast. A seven course breakfast with each course as delicious as the other. But after the dinner the night before it was a challenge to get through this meal.

With great relief from our budget but with a lot of personal regret we checked out. Our ryokan experience was over ... short but unforgettable.   

About the Author Patrick Millerd

On a mission to help others expand their horizons. Who knows where they can end? Passionate about learning and embracing the changing world. Adventurous and skeptical but optimistic!

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