Hakone Getaway

by - October 06, 2016

One month after I arrived in Japan, my family came over to make sure I was still alive and well (of course), and so our first holiday in Japan began. We decided to go to Hakone one weekend, and Kyoto on another. It felt like Inception, a holiday within a holiday since I wasn’t settled yet in Japan!

We took Odakyu Romance Car train straight to Hakone Yumoto, and  couldn’t resist buying cute things with train-shaped packaging. The bigger train was the Romance Car bento which was not really good value for money food-wise; but it was really for the cute train-shaped container, which reincarnates as a planter and now sits in my room. The smaller paper train contained two dainty, delicious cakes.


Hakone-yumoto was a quaint little place with bustling main street, many tourists, and beautiful mountainous backdrop. It instantly set our holiday mood. We spent a little time strolling around this town leisurely, dropping by for souvenirs, lunch, and snacks.

A delicious mushroom dish, it was very refreshing, tasty yet clean!

It looked intriguing, so I decided to try this Yamakake soba dish, topped with a strange white-ish foam. Google search later revealed that it was grated yam. Wasn’t a big fan of the taste nor texture, but apparently it was very nutritious.

Lake Ashi cruise

It was seriously beautiful like a painting, with blue sky and the fresh spring air around us.

Mount Fuji was supposed to be visible at this spot, proudly standing between that faraway hill and the lush tree-covered land, as a backdrop to this picturesque torii gate. Sadly, it was covered by clouds. Indeed we have to be double lucky to see Fuji-san from Lake Ashi as the sky has to be clear both around Lake Ashi and around Fuji-san itself.

Our unnecessarily gallant looking cruise ferry :)

Ryokan Stay

The highlight of this Hakone visit was of course, our first time ever stay in ryokan (Japanese traditional hotel). We stayed at Shinanoki Ichinoyu. Once we entered the room, we regretted not coming there right after check in time.

The tatami floor, the mattresses and futons… the Japan-ness of the whole experience continued to overwhelm. There was a private open-air onsen in the room, overlooking a small garden. The water was so inviting and the afternoon air so chilly… I wanted to get in right away but needed time to adjust to the hot water temperature, resulting in a few seconds of awkward half-squat pose. Afterwards, the feeling of soaking in hot spring and melting the day’s tiredness away, surrounded by wispy steam and breathing in crisp cold air… it was pure bliss. 

Inelegantly worn yukata by us foreigners. I belatedly realised it should be left over right! Sipping tea and eating sweet snacks, sitting down on the tatami floor. Overwhelmed with gratitude because life is beautiful. 

Dinner was pork shabu-shabu, which was served in the dining room, plus many little dishes I couldn’t name. It didn’t look much but we were so stuffed by the end! We had a bit of fun with people watching the other guests: mostly Japanese people who acted completely nonchalant and at ease. Most were couples, there were also a big family with an austere looking grandpa, and everyone clad in yukata.

Breakfast was this delightful rice and fish set. Again, we were completely stuffed. It was my first time tasting natto, which I completely dislike.

After enjoying private onsen for the last time, sadly it was time to check out.

The Little Prince Museum

The weather was drizzling so we decided to opt out of the Hakone Open Air Museum and went to the Little Prince Museum instead.

We went with no expectation but it was quite a pleasant experience. A serene and beautiful place, with many gardens, and European looking facades (indeed some of the buildings were facade only). I use to have the book as a kid but had forgotten the story, little did I know that Little Prince was big in Japan.

Then it was time to go back to Tokyo. Overall it was a low-key, pleasant trip with the highlight being our ryokan stay.

I didn’t do too many research on this trip because I was still figuring out “how to Japan”. But:

Some tips

  • We used the Odawara Free Pass which was an easy, non-fuss way to travel from Shinjuku. We took the Hakone Tozan bus quite a bit so having the pass was convenient.
  • I would go to Hakone Open Air museum the next time
  • I’m also curious to check out the Yunessun Spa Resort! We actually passed by this place without having any idea what it was. Then, a few months later I found out about the amusing flavoured spa baths (green tea, wine, etc) there. Next time!
Do stay tuned for the Kyoto report.

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