It was absolutely one of the best Japanese experience I have made so far.
An onsen (温泉?) is a term for hot springs in the Japanese language, though the term is often used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen scattered along its length and breadth. Onsen were traditionally used as public bathing places and today play a central role in directing Japanese domestic tourism.Hakone is a very popular place in Japan. It's placed 100km from Tokyo and it has a long history in Japan in the old days. Hakone used to be the checkpoint on the Tōkaidō highway which linked Tokyo with Kyoto during the feudal Edo Period. During that time people would walk from Kyoto to Tokyo (what was called Edo at that time) and they would stop at Hakone to rest. The city is known for its amazing and stunning view of the nature e.g. mountains and it's also very popular for its hot springs.
This post is image-heavy so I am making a post-jump!
We took the train at 1PM at Shinjuku and we took a train called ROMANCE CAR which is an express train on the Odakyu's line that takes 1h20m.
I usually take Maya-chan to her mother in the afternoon, but on that day we just headed straight to Shinjuku station and met with the host mom and she even brought lunch! I got my usual pork-don.
From Shinjuku we got to Hakone and I saw so many things. Slowly I stopped seeing these tall cramped buildings and I stopped seeing big billboard signs and lights and then I saw a different side of Japan. The more country-side of Japan. I saw big fields, big houses with gardens and just lots of wild green nature. I am not talking about the fancy parks you see in Tokyo, just wild grass and plants growing everywhere. It was interesting and fascinating for sure.
When we arrived to Hakone, we took another train called Hakone Tozan Railway which leads us up the mountains where the hotel is.
The Hakone Tozan Railway is really interesting actually because the railway is in the middle of the woods and you see mountains, trees, rivers and basically you have a great view from the train. I think this train is unique because it goes up the mountains, but also because it changes directions by doing switchbacks by stopping at stations. So basically we go up the mountains and when we near a station we can see another train which came from the opposite direction also heading towards the station. The trains then switch direction and we go up the rail which the other train was on and vice versa.
The moment we arrive to the station we're supposed to be at, we pay the train man a sum of money for riding the train and then we are welcomed by a taxa which drives us further up the mountains to the Onsen place. We are greeted happily by valey-men and feminine kimono-wearing women. The first thing we do it take off our shoes which we didn't see till we left the place. The whole building including the elevator had tatami floor so this onsen place is a very traditional Japanese place. Everything just screams Japanese which was just so awesome. The first thing after entering the place, is we go into a room discussing how everything is going to be done: when do we want dinner, what times are our private reserved baths and any special requests e.g. spa and so. We were greeted very formally with like tea.
After that they show us the floors with the baths and our room.
Every room has a name and our happens to be hourai.
The room is just gorgeous, I don't know how to explain it better. It's full of details and even the paintings go by seasons. We have the dinner table, the kotatsu (= wooden table covered with a heavy blanket with built-in heater underneath the table. Ours had a whole underneath the table), the moon viewing place and everything is just good.
In the room some Japanese sweets, Japanese green tea and a towel to wash our hands was given when we arrived to the room. The sweet was so sweet and inside was a bean paste I believe.
They had also placed our yukata which we will wear when we go to the onsen baths. Men wear underwear underneath the yukata and the women wear a tanktop and their underwear. Be sure when you wear your yukata that the LEFT side of the yukata covers the RIGHT side - because the reverse is how you dress deceased people. I made that mistake, but the family fixed it for me.
We had the best room because of the amazing view. My host mom is awesome for knowing this stuff.
Now on to the bathing part. In an Onsen, there are many unwritten rules. Maybe in onsens where they have many foreign people they will write the rules for you to see, but this rather traditional place did not have any code of etiquette written since it's very Japanese. Onsen rules are just something all Japanese people KNOWS and have grown up with.
When you go to onsen, the first thing you need to do is TAKE OFF your clothes. In the changing room small baskets are placed so you can put your clothes and items and then you enter the bathing area.
You go into one of the cubicles and you wash yourself thoroughly to make sure wash yourself clean. Everyone is going to be in the same bath as you BUTT-NAKED, so you better be clean when you enter the onsen. Depending on where, you might get a small towel which you can use to cover up your private parts if you are feeling shy, but these are not supposed to be in the water. Also your head should never be in the water!
To sum up: go BUTT-NAKED, WASH YOURSELF BEFORE, NO HEAD IN THE WATER.
Quite simple right? If I could, I would stay there forever, but unfortunately I can't :( Another thing I like about this particular onsen place is that it's quite fancy in that sense you don't have to bring much. Everything a girl needs, is provided and it's brands like Shiseido they give for you to use. You basically just need to bring yourself and nothing else. Nothing can go wrong.
It's just amazing this onsen place.
Talk about amazing: THE FOOD. We had dinner and it consists of 20 dishes: main one being a lobster.
|I'm just relaxing with my yukata and weird Japanese socks. Having two toes is actually nice!|
|I love yukata|
I can say that this experience was just the best.
I highly recommend it for you to go here because it's close to Tokyo and it's just that good. Or basically just any onsen place, the one I went to just happen to be so good. There are probably cheaper onsen too, but as good as this one I am not sure about that ;) I went bathing so many times that day and the following day. I am serious when I say I would stay there forever if I could ;-)
|My host family and I posing in the entrance of the onsen place|
We went around the station and saw a Flower Park of a sort. I don't remember the name, I am sorry about that, but it's super close to the station and the fee is 500yen which is pretty cheap for this place.
I saw many full-bloom cherries blossoms here because it's generally cooler in the mountains so the cherries were probably out very late. I who thought I wouldn't be able to see them was SO HAPPY~ IMAGINE THIS PLACE WHEN IT'S NOT CLOUDY WITH SAKURA! OMG SUPER AMAZING!!!! And also they have a crafts shop too and Hakone is known for their wood crafts I heard.
After that, we took the Hakone Railway again and we were one step closer to home.
This must be my favorite shot of the cutest boy I have seen in Japan.
The Romance train leaves from Hakone station and outside the station flows a river! So nice. I love the combination of nature and buildings.
It's was a bit sad leaving Hakone in the train. Good thing I slept through the ride.
btw. Golden Week is coming up and I am going to KYOTO and I have a surprise for you!!!!!!!
ALSO HERE'S A BONUS PICTURE!! ME IN OUTDOORS ONSEN LOL kind of risky taking my dslr in the bathing area hehe
I look kind of funny, but I am so glad that I got a picture <3 see you all.!
I am so excited about my Kyoto trip!