Friday, 29 April 2016

Private onsen experience at the Gora Hanaouchi and Mount Fuji up close | Hakone | JAPAN | November 2015


Hakone is well known for hot springs, onsens, beautiful mountain landscape and of course, the
magnificent Mount Fujisan scenery.
In 2014, during our last trip, we had our hearts set on seeing Mount Fuji in person. We didn't and we were very disappointed especially as we had traveled over 3 hours from Tokyo in hope to see MF. The weather was crap (well, overcast but warm) and certainly not perfect weather conditions to see MF clearly.

So during our 2015 trip, we decided to stay over in Hakone not only to see MF, but also to experience our own private open air onsen set in the mountains - something we always said we would try at least once. I found us a wonderful gem, Gora Hanaougi, set within the mountains. Hanaougi is a luxury ryokan-style hotel in Gora. It offers peaceful and relaxing rooms with views of natural landscape. As you enter the ryokan, you are hit with an impressive lobby with chandeliers made out of wood and the corridor is decorated in Tatami mats. Staying here has been one of the our most elegant Japanese experiences.

Hakone is located along Tokaido, where Edo (modern-day Tokyo) is connected to Kyoto, and was developed as “shukubamachi”, a town offering food and accommodation to travellers. Not to mention the spectacular view of nearby Mt. Fuji, there are numerous tourist spots in this area, such as Owakudani volcanic valley and the beautiful Ashinoko lake.

As we checked in,  we were warmly greeted with a cup of hot green tea and Japanese sweets. We had a dedicated host for our entire stay who attended to our every need.

Our terrace room faced the Gairin mountain and forest. We were able to relax in comfort in our own private open-air hot spring bath overlooking the magnificent mountains and beautiful sky. The room is a perfect blend of traditional and modern without loosing it Japanese appeal. We stayed during the peak of Autumn so a hot soak in a hot onsen was blisssss and staying during this time of year when the leaves turned colours was wondrous. Every room has a low table made of Jindai-Keyaki wood which is old zelkova buried in volcanic ash for many years, crafted from precious wood using a traditional technique called 'Chigiri', joining wood without using any nails.

Our dinner and breakfast was served by our host and it was decadently presented on beautiful crockery. We had the finest A5 beef kaiseki meal which included fresh vegetables from the local farm, fish from inshore waters and fine beef from Hida. There were 12 courses yet we left feeling completely satisfied without feeling like you're in a food coma. The beauty of Japan's food and ingredients is that it does not leave a stodgy feeling after a heavy meal. Breakfast fast was quite extravagant with array of small dishes to sample and I must say, it certainly made a worthy Instagram photo!

Oh, and we managed to see Mt Fuji, which was the main purpose of our stay in Hakone! Any first time Japan traveler would say the time - you have an urge to see the beauty of Mount Fuji. We had been very fortunate to have the right combination of luck, planning and perfect weather to see MF in all its glory. I think my heart skipped a beat when I set eyes on it for the very first time. Standing still for a few minutes admiring something you longed to see, there is something quite serene and you feel an undisputed amazing feeling that fills up your entire body. MF is quite a beauty in pictures, but in person, it is simply awe-inspiring-ly breathtaking.


We took a cruise on Lake Ashi and returned back to the hotel to kick back and relax and to enjoy our private onsen

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