Sometimes I find myself needing a vacation while I’m on vacation. Uhh… Bear with me on that thought before you brush me off as insane. Japan is such an amazing country, and there’s honestly never a dull moment. You are literally always on the go because there is so much to do and see. So what better way to unwind, then to stay at a ryokan and relax in some hot springs.
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn and can be found all over Japan. They’re not as common in the city, but there are tons of ryokans just a short train ride away. Japan also has an amazing public transportation system, so most places are very accessible.
Here’s a quick shout out to the shinkansen (bullet train) for getting me from one place to another so quickly. The shinkansen travels at about 160 mph (257 km/h) so I got to Hakone from Kyoto in under 3 hours. (It would have taken 6 hours by car!)
Nonetheless, a 3 hour train ride is still quite a bit of time so it’s important to stock up on some food/snacks for the trip. My choice for the day? This amazing bento box that I purchased in Kyoto Station. There’s actually a ton of different bentos you can choose from. I’m super indecisive so I spent at least half hour trying to decide.
Dozed off on the train and woke up at my destination. Hello Hakone, you were everything I imagined and more! The area does feel extremely rural in comparison to Kyoto and Tokyo. But fear not, because Hakone is a very popular tourist destination. They are quite famous for their onsens (hot springs) so you will see visitors from all over the world.
There seems to be an ice cream stand around every corner in Japan. Every day is a cheat day when you’re on vacation right? So I absolutely must eat ice cream every chance I get! Okay fine… I didn’t eat ice cream every day, but I definitely ate my weights worth in mentaiko onigiri (rice ball).
There’s actually a bus that will take you to your designated ryokan. The buses are located right outside of Hakone Station, so no need to worry about transportation. Finally arrived at Kijitei Hoeiso after a series of never-ending winding roads. I am also happy to report that I did not throw up on anyone due to motion sickness.
The view from the ryokan was truly something else! Most ryokans in Hakone have onsens for guest use. It’s actually customary in Japan to enter an onsen fully nude (there are separate hot springs for men and women). The water is supposed to cleanse you, so you don’t want to contaminate it by bringing “foreign” objects in. The lush backdrop may be aesthetically pleasing, but it also serves as a form of privacy since onsens are outdoors.
Still not comfortable getting naked with strangers? Well fear not, because Kijitei Hoeiso lets you book their onsens for private use. I definitely took advantage of this and spent an amazing 30 minutes just relaxing in the hot spring.
Ryokans take pride in tradition, so I was immediately served some matcha (green tea) with azuki (red bean) snacks upon arrival. Let me start by saying the rooms at Kijitei Hoeiso are huge! The room in the photo houses your dining table and is later partitioned off to create the bedroom. Keeping true to Japanese tradition, the beds are actually kakebutons (floor futon) which are surprisingly comfortable.
Next to the main room was a small living room with couches, a coffee table and a mini fridge. There was also a very nice balcony, a private entryway, and a huge bathroom with a giant tub.
In the evening, a traditional kaiseki (multi-course) dinner is served in your room. To say I was spoiled during my stay is an understatement. Each of the dishes were super detail oriented and delicate. This surprisingly turned out to be my favorite meal of the trip!
The meal is compromised of small courses that included sashimi, seafood, mozuku (seaweed), pork, vegetables, eggs and so much more…You definitely get your moneys worth when staying at a ryokan since breakfast and dinner are usually included.
Dinner even came with this cute little bowl of udon that had a little flame under it to keep it warm. This particular dish is quite simple, and yet I can safely say that this is probably my favorite udon. Can someone please teach me how to make the noodles and broth?
The meal also includes yakiniku (grilled meat) for those of you who can’t live without meat. Your server will bring out a small personal stone grill for you to cook on. They’ve pretty much thought of everything to put it simply.
There’s always room for dessert right? Answer is definitely yes since this is probably the sweetest cantaloupe I have ever had. Oh and next to it is another little surprise wrapped up in a bamboo leaf.
Low and behold the mysterious looking surprise! Turned out to be clear mochi filled with a sweet paste (possibly vanilla). I’ve had tons of mochi in my life, but clear mochi was definitely a first for me. The overall meal was spectacular and included foods not commonly served in modern restaurants.
I would definitely recommend Kijitei Hoeiso or any ryokan if you are looking to time travel. Photos of breakfast at Kijitei and Hakone to come soon!
Thanks for reliving Japan with me!