I booked a little treat for us three quarters of the way through our Japan trip – a night’s stay in an onsen hotel in Hakone, which is a mountainous resort town south west of Tokyo. An ‘onsen’ is a Japanese hot spring bath, and Hakone is known for its hot spring resorts and possible views of the elusive Mt. Fuji, so this seemed like an excellent place to come to unwind for a bit.
We were looking forward to having some serious relaxing times for a day before travelling back to Tokyo for the last leg of our trip, and I was fully committed to doing absolutely nothing but soaking in hot baths until I was forced to get out.
So, after a little bit of a trek from Kyoto which included a bullet train, a local train and a cute little switchback train which took us up the mountain towards Hakone, we arrived at the Manatei Hakone hotel and went to check into our room.
Our hotel room
The whole hotel is ‘Western style’, which means that the guests have beds instead of futons, and I chose a room that had a hot spring bath attached, for ultimate relaxation.
The room we had was pretty big – it had a lot more floorspace than we’d had staying in Tokyo for sure! The vibe of the room was very ’70s’ – both in decor and furnishings, and that’s not a bad thing at all; I found it endearing and very ‘away from the world’, which is exactly what I wanted.
We had the most amazing bed to sleep in – pretty much two double beds combined.
And the view outside the window to trees and mountains was stunning; again very different to Tokyo!
Looking out the window directly below the hotel was a gushing stream, which was soothing to listen to, especially at night.
When we arrived at the hotel, we pretty much immediately got changed into the hotel pyjamas provided and went to go roam around the hotel in search of onsen baths we could try.
This was the small private bath in our room, and it was heavenly.
There were larger private baths for use elsewhere in the hotel, which we took full advantage of. They have controls where you can adjust the temperature, and then soak for as long as you want.
There were also public baths where any hotel guests can go, and are split into ‘male’ and ‘female’ separate baths.
When I went into the female bath, I had the whole place to myself and was able to take a photo. To use an onsen bath, you first take off all your clothes (no swimwear allowed) and wash yourself using the sit-down showers. Once you are clean and have no soap suds on you, then you get into the bath. The bath is used for relaxing, not for washing.
Here is the bath etiquette poster from the hotel. I love the illustrations, and it tickles me to know that all of the ‘don’t do’ things on the poster have been done by people at some point!
After the bathing, we were so relaxed. It was all we could do to chill out in the hotel’s TV area with complimentary snacks in front of some crazy Japanese TV programmes. We loved these reclining floor seats by the way – if anyone knows what they are called so we can find some, please let me know!
8-course Japanese style dinner
After all of that relaxing, we went for our 8 course Japanese dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was included with our room. We were both excited and a bit dubious about it, as we knew the food provided would most definitely not be what we were used to!
First up was the ‘seasonal appetizer platter’, which included what looked like a peeled tomato, but it was actually more of a ‘mochi’ like texture. I can’t remember what everything was, but it was really good.
The next course was ‘cooked organic vegetables with miso’ served on a giant leaf atop a very interesting raised plate.
A course or two later was the ‘mixed sashimi platter with tuna, amberjack and grouper’ – now I must admit I am not *the best* with raw fish, but I did my best with eating as much as I could, as it was presented so beautifully and was obviously of high quality.
The next course was ‘Japanese hotpot with snapper’, which consisted of a dish of raw fish and vegetables which you needed cook yourself in the flaming bowl, before eating it with the soy sauce.
‘Roasted Japanese Kuroge beef’ was the next course, served with a bowl of rice and vegetables on the side, and it was divine.
The last course was a small dessert of ‘Custard with fruits’ which included the most delicious, flavourful grape I’ve ever had (I know that sounds weird!) and a cup of green tea.
The dishes were small but there were so many flavours and so many courses, so we were pretty satisfied after all of that. We went back to our room to use our in-room bath and collapse into bed.
Japanese style breakfast
The next morning before leaving the hotel, we went down to the restaurant again for our included Japanese breakfast which consisted of tuna, rice, omelette, miso and salad, among other things, and was presented beautifully.
There were a lot of strong flavours in there which I would never usually have for breakfast, but it was excellent, and a wonderful experience.
We left the Manatei Hakone hotel very happy and relaxed, and went on to go explore Hakone for the day, before travelling back to Tokyo that evening for the last few days of our trip.
The hotel staff were so helpful and lovely, and they provided a shuttle service to the nearest train station at any time that we needed it – all we had to do was ask.
Our stay was expensive – at the equivalent of £400 for a night in a room such as ours, it isn’t cheap. However, it gave us an experience that we definitely couldn’t have at home, and we also had our dinner and breakfast provided for which were made with excellent quality ingredients that would have cost us a fortune elsewhere.