Saturday, October 18, 2014

To Hakone and Yama no Chaya

I just came back from a trip to Tokyo and for this trip, my wife and I decided to spurge a little so that we could enjoy our holiday prim and proper. :) So how do we spurge on ourselves? By staying at a luxury Ryokan at Hakone, Yama no Chaya.

We arranged with Super hotel so that our main luggage will remain at the hotel while we packed an overnight bag to Hakaone. To get to Hakone, we took the Limited Express Romance Car from the Shinjuku Odakyu line using the Hakone Free Pass for 2 days. The free pass costs 5,140 yen each, and allows you free and easy travel on the following transport modes in Hakone:
  1. Hakone Tozan Train
  2. Hakone Tozen Cable Car
  3. Hakone Ropeway
  4. Hakone Sightseeing cruise
  5. Hakone Tozan Bus
  6. Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus (designated)
  7. Numazu Tokai Bus (designated)
You can only purchase the Hakone Free Pass at the station itself. The free pass will also allow you one round-trip between your departure station and Odawara station.

The limited express Romance Car allows you to travel till Hakone-Yumoto station, which was where I stopped. The Romance Car extra charge is 890 yen per trip, in addition to the cost of the Hakone Free Pass, and this can be booked via their website here. To get the panoramic view seats (front / back), you need to book the seats very quickly, exactly 1 month before your departure dates.

I started my journey from the Shinjuku Odakyu Line, all the way to Hakone-Yumoto. Below is the picture of the limited express romance car. The panoramic view seats are the ones you see in front. There are only limited seats available on each train so you have to book pretty early. There are only 4 seats right in front.


The seats are comfortable and they can actually turn 180 degrees, although I did not managed to find the button to do it. :p


I was not in front but I managed to take some photos from my seat as shown below



Romance car has finally pulled into the Hakone-Yumoto station about 1 and a half hours later.


From there, we chose to deposit our overnight bag at Yama no Chaya instead of continuing the trip upwards towards the mountain. We went out of the station towards the bus stop and took bus H to the Kami-tonosawa bus stop, the 3rd bus stop from the main station, estimated about 5 minutes. You can find out more about the bus routes and timings from the maps available in the Hakone-Yumoto station.

Please remember to press the bell once you hear the name being mentioned. The bus will show the bus stop names in both Japanese and English.

Once you alight at the bus stop, cross the road, walk towards the back of the building and walk upwards towards the next bridge using the mini pathway. The bridge to Yama no Chaya will look like the picture below.

Bridge to Yama no Chaya
For some reasons, I also found interesting spiders around the bridge. :)

Spiders around the bridge


Below is the scenery around the bridge. Isn't it beautiful?



You will need to climb up a steep slope to get up to Yama no Chaya so make sure you don't bring such a heavy bag. :) Upon entering, there will be someone by the door who will take care of you. Just mention to them that you speak English only and they'll get someone who can speak the language to take care of you.

Below is the room we were assigned. Nice and cosy...

Our beds. The cupboard containing the Yukata and towels is to the right.

The table in front of the bed, and near the TV. :)

The wash basin is in a separate room, and the toilet is right behind this wash basin.

Private bath is cordoned off to a separate room, beyond this door.

This is the private onsen attached to the room. You will need to shower first before immersing yourself into the onsen.

This is the onsen attached to our room.

Look at the steam coming out of the onsen. Yes, it's quite warm. :)

Do take note of the onsen etiquette in Japan. You will always need to shower first before immersing yourself in the onsen. In this Ryokan, everything is provided so you need not even bring any toiletries with you in your overnight bag.

For Yama no Chaya, you have an option to reserve the private onsen area for an hour. We did it just for the experience and my, the experience is really different. The water somehow, seems different and smoother than the onsen attached to our room. Not sure if its a perception thing.

For the reserved room, called Keikoku no Notenburo, they have 4 shower compartments within, all open-air. Everything is provided for you there so you need not worry. Apologies for the graininess of the photos but I do not have the habit of bringing DSLRS to the bathrooms. I do bring my phone though. :)

Shower room for the reserved room

Private onsen in the reserved room

For all the external onsens, there are maps situated at every exit to let you know where the onsens are located. It's also stated clearly which are the guys or ladies onsens. Do take note that it's not fixed and will change depending on the time of the day. Do not go into the wrong onsen! :)

When you arrive, they will recommend you where you can visit in Hakone based on your preference, and they will also recommend you the time which you can reserve your private onsen. Usually, it'll be planned such that you'll be treated to a sumptuous dinner before you go for your onsen.

That will be another blog post by itself so stay tuned...  :) I will include both the dinner and the breakfast we had. It's something worth remembering.

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