Visiting Japan - Overnight trip to Hakone

Visiting Japan - Overnight trip to Hakone

Besides eating at an amazing sushi restaurant, another must-do activity in Japan is spending a night in a traditional Japanese inn at an Onsen, or natural hot springs.

Japan has natural hot springs everywhere due to its volcanic nature, but the most famous area is Hakone. Hakone is a town about an hour and a half train ride from Tokyo, and it is famous for the many hot springs as well as its views of Mount Fuji, one of the most revered natural wonders in Japan.  Even the train ride to Hakone is filled with beautiful scenery of the mountainside.

We made plans to spend a night at Sounkaku inn, one of the many Ryokans in the area.

When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by the Japanese staff and given a tour of the premises.

There were female and male baths, and each had an indoor and outdoor hot tubs. (No photos of the hot tubs due to obvious reasons, sorry!)  Then we were led to our room, where we were given yukatas, which are traditional Japanese robes that you can wear while relaxing. Our room was spacious with traditional Japanese flooring (tatami), and the room even had Kotatsu, which is a table covered with a futon with a heater underneath. My family used to spend our evenings sitting around ours when we lived in Japan, and I hadn't seen one in years... seeing one brought back some special memories for me.

The day we went to Hakone, it was raining, so we couldn't do too much sightseeing. After we checked into our ryokan, we did manage to go to Owakudani, the volcanic valley nearby. When we got there, the first thing we noticed was the overwhelming smell of rotten eggs due to the sulfur that is emitted in the air.

Owakudani is famous for their black eggs, which has black outer shells from boiling it in the hot springs. Eating one is said to increase your lifespan by 7 years... worth stopping by and getting an egg, I'd say!

To keep with the theme, they have other food items that are black, such as black ramen noodles and even black ice cream!

When we returned, we enjoyed our evening bath in the onsen, and it was time for our nine course dinner. Ryokans typically serve a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner in a private room, and Sounkaku did not disappoint. Each course was beautiful in presentation as well as delicious to eat. The highlight was Grade A Hida beef from Hida-Takayama. Melt in your mouth delicious!

After dinner, you have the option of taking another dip in the hot springs, or just resting in your room. We did the latter, and then we enjoyed sleeping in traditional Japanese futon that was laid out for us.

Next morning, it stopped raining. From our room, we were able to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise and the tranquil beauty of Hakone mountains.

Afterwards, we went down for our Japanese breakfast, which was another feast for our eyes as well as our tastebuds.

Although we couldn't see Mount Fuji on our first day due to rain, after breakfast, we decided to give it another try since the rain had stopped. We went on the cable car that took us to Owakudani, and this time, we were not disappointed. The view of Mount Fuji was spectacular and amazing! Although I had heard about legendary Mount Fuji all my life, I had never appreciated how majestic it was until I saw it with my own eyes, and it was truly magnificent!  I could see why it was often used as an iconic image symbolizing Japan.

To remember the occasion, I picked up a little Fuji-chan at the gift store. Isn't he cute?

We also made a quick stop at Lake Ashi before heading to our next destination, Kyoto.

If you have couple of days to spare while visiting Japan, I highly recommend making an overnight trip to Hakone. It's Japanese experience at its best, with hot springs, delicious food, great hospitality, and breathtaking scenery. An experience you can't get anywhere else, it will be a visit to remember!

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