No matter how much you plan your trip, it doesn’t always go the way you want to. David’s two week vacation in Tokyo has been riddled with shoddy weather and closed attractions. Our trip to Hakone was actually a spur of the moment incident. We were originally going to Nikko but recently found out that the temple we were going to visit was under renovation. It’s a good thing there are a lot of great places in Japan that can be reached by the train in two hours or less.
My mom suggested going to Hakone for the onsen (Japanese hot spring). As I have also never been, I thought it would be a great experience for both of us! We found Hakone Yuryo and called ahead for a private onsen reservation. It was a little bit pricey but worth it for the privacy. Usually, people with tattoos are not allowed in an onsen. Not that we have any ourselves but for those who have, a private onsen may be the solution!
We took the Odakyu Limited Express Romance Car early in the morning in Shinjuku and arrived at 10. There was a free shuttle bus from the station that took us directly to the onsen. However, we decided to walk around a bit since our reservation was not until 11.
Around the train station area, we saw some souvenir shops and a few restaurants. Japan has this weird way of making an otherwise tacky store decoration to something cute like the huge seafood animals on the store below.
This shop was selling Manju which are traditional dough buns filled with red bean paste inside. Similar to my favorite, Ningyo-yaki. Yum!
David and I relaxed by the river stream and enjoyed the mountain views. The reservation time was drawing near and we needed to go. We did decide to come back to the river later in the afternoon if the weather clears up.
After a 10 minute bus ride up to the mountain, we were dropped off in front of a traditional looking gate. From where I was standing, I caught a glimpse of the garden. It looked exactly like the photo they provided in their website. I was pretty excited to go inside!
Even with my stilted Japanese, the check-in process was relatively smooth. They gave us our key and some instructional material on how to use the onsen properly (which you can read here). I opted to rent out yukatas for both of us for a more authentic experience.
Our room was second to the largest private bath. It came with a small living space, a fridge and a sink. They also provided two bottled waters, a hairdryer, some bath amenities like combs, face wash, lotion, and earbuds. I was thankful that the weather was a little cooler. I dread to think how being in 40 C water then having hot and humid weather would be like.
The water they provide for washing came from the hot springs. I followed the instructional material for washing yourself to the tee! So much work for getting in a pool but I guess I understand the need for sanitation.
Getting your foot inside the pool for the first time is the hardest. I felt really uncomfortable with the hot water. It definitely takes a toll on your breathing and your skin. It’s like being back in my hot yoga class, except this time, I’m submerged in water.
Gradually, it started to feel less constricting and more relaxing. They recommended 10-minute intervals but I actually found myself staying longer in the pool as time passed. The first time I got out of the water though, I had the worst case of dizzy spell! Turns out, you do get dehydrated so they also recommend drinking water before and in between the onsen sessions.
We stayed there for three hours, opting to read our books in the small room in between dips. At two, we checked out and went back to the station. We were starving at this point. Remembering this cute café that we passed by in the morning, I suggested going there.
The café had an English menu which I was ecstatic about. At this point, I couldn’t be bothered to spend precious time reading Japanese when we could have food in front of us. I ordered the egg and cheese waffle served with today’s soup, sausage, potato salad and greens. It was heaven! The waffle was crispy and the cheese with the egg melts in your mouth. I feel an intense craving just thinking about it. It’s definitely a place to visit when you’re in Hakone.
After lunch, we didn’t really have enough energy to visit other places. I definitely recommend staying overnight to see more of Hakone. Everyone would benefit having a trip to the onsen in their itinerary. The hot springs did wonders on my aching muscles!