While planning my trip to Japan I knew that staying at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and experiencing kaiseki (traditional Japanese fine dining) was something I had to do. I also knew that if I was going to a Ryokan, it might as well have an onsen (hot spring). Most people I spoke to before I left asked me if I was going to stay in a capsule hotel, but perhaps I’m old. All I wanted to do was experience luxury Japanese hospitality and the incredible food the internet was going wild for. We ended up staying at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone, a ryokan in the popular hot spring resort town of Hakone.
A Ryokan is a Japanese Inn which, unlike Western hotels, don’t usually have western rooms, but rather tatami rooms with futons for sleeping. Because Japan has a fantastic countryside where hot springs are in abundance, these ryokan are often have hot springs as part of the facilities. I was immediately a fan of Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone because the rooms looked out across a stream (no buildings in sight!) and the hot spring had amazing views too.
The feeling of calm that envelopes you when you arrive at the Ryokan is amazing. After spending a few days in Tokyo, you don’t quite know how to deal with the nature and slowness of it all. The staff at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone speak English and are incredibly polite. Japanese hospitality is incredible. I cannot begin to describe how important we were made to feel. Expect tons of graceful bowing and waiters who are friendly. The Ryokan is very well maintained and all the areas we were exposed to were clean and luxurious.
Our room was large by Japanese standards and we had a small balcony overlooking the stream. Our bathroom was very well stocked with amenities and we were given yukata to use during the stay. A very common practice at Ryokan is that guests wear yukata around the ryokan. It’s a summer kimono, that I imagine is 95% easier to tie than a regular one. If you get the chance to have this experience I recommend going all the way and wearing your yukata!
I think I’ll speak more about my experience at the hot spring itself in a separate post because my first time was hilarious, but for now I’ll tell you that I really enjoyed it. Imagine being in a hot bath the size of a pool with the cool spring air on your face and a stream bubbling below. The memory of being in that hot spring is one of my most vivid of the trip.
Finally, we were treated to the Ryokan’s kaiseki dinner served in a private dining room. Kaiseki is an art. This Japanese multi-course dinner focuses on preparing the best locally-sourced food in a manner that is appealing and honours the flavours of the food. The specialty at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone is their pork shabu shabu with soybean milk soup which they serve as one of the main courses. We ate a lot of incredibly fresh, Japanese fish and I particularly enjoyed the soups and dessert courses. If you haven’t had enough, breakfast is traditional too.
I have to say, staying at a Ryokan is a splurge but it is worth every cent. Hoshino Resports KAI Hakone is a great option, it’s a great stop between Tokyo and Kyoto and is easily accessible from the Shinkansen. Don’t skip this experience, it was everything I expected and more.
You can book a stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone directly from their website: hoshinoresorts.com