For our go to to the mountain resort city of Hakone, we opted to remain at a ryokan named Yama No Chaya in the hunt for an genuine Japanese expertise.
Ryokans are Japanese-style inns the place you’ll be able to immerse your self in conventional Japanese tradition, and this may be our first time experiencing this distinctive lodging model.
For practically 50 years, Yama No Chaya has been nestled among the many rolling hills of Hakone, solely an hour outdoors of Tokyo. The property is well-known for its onsens (pure spring baths) and delicacies, in addition to for attracting guests who come to see the autumn leaves change colors.
Yama No Chaya – Booking
Our keep was booked by means of “The Ryokan Collection“, a reserving portal that serves a number of outstanding Japanese ryokan services.
I initially meant to order a room at Hakone Ginyu on the advice of a good friend. However, it was totally booked on my most well-liked dates, and Yama No Chaya was among the many finest accessible alternate options.
For a ryokan, Yama No Chaya was fairly fairly priced. These sorts of stays can get fairly expensive, so I felt like it could be finest to start out off modestly for my first ryokan expertise. Plus, it appeared like a really engaging property from the pictures.
A one-night keep for 2 company, together with breakfast and dinner, value us ¥70,000 ($642 CAD).
Note that ryokans usually set costs primarily based on the variety of company, so in case you’re travelling solo, the worth will possible be a bit cheaper than reserving for 2 folks.
At first look, this might sound costly for a one-night keep, however remember that kaiseki-style multi-course breakfast and dinner are factored into the worth.
To full our reservation viaTthe Ryokan Collection, we had been requested whether or not we had any dietary necessities, after which requested to fill out a bank card authorization type. Once that was accomplished, the whole lot was booked and good to go.
Yama No Chaya – Location
You can attain Hakone by way of the Odakyu Electric Railway from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. The journey is about an hour to an hour and a half, relying on which prepare you are taking.
The common and categorical commuter trains make numerous stops on the best way out to Hakone, and there’s additionally a “Romancecar” which has forward-facing seats and higher views from the home windows. This categorical prepare can deliver you there barely quicker, however is topic to an extra surcharge.
The city of Hakone is in a mountainous space famend for its onsens and breathtaking views of the volcano and Lake Ashinoko. Various visitor properties are nestled right here, together with Yama No Chaya.
Hakone-Yumoto station, the native transportation hub, is a fast five-minute cab journey or a 15-minute stroll from Yama No Chaya.
It’s price noting that the hill is fairly steep in case you’re carrying any luggage with you – we opted to retailer our heavy baggage within the coin lockers at Shinjuku Station and solely deliver backpacks for this side-trip into the countryside.
The lodge is positioned fairly close to to Hakone’s well-known sights. Just a few locations inside strolling distance embody the Amidaji Temple and Fukazawa Zeniarai Benten Shrine, each inside a 10-minute stroll from the property.
However, most sights price visiting would require public transport or a taxi. The Hakone Shrine sits under the Mount Hakone volcano, and is a 35-minute journey by bus from Hakone-Yumoto Station.
Lake Ashinoko is one other fashionable vacation spot. It’s a 50-minute journey from Tonosawa Station, which is simply an eight-minute stroll from Yama No Chaya.
Yama No Chaya – Check-in
We arrived at 4pm and crossed over a stream by way of a wood bridge to reach on the resort.
As we made our means throughout, we had been warmly welcomed by an attendant. On the opposite facet was a single constructing nestled amid a bamboo forest, nearly camouflaged into its environment.
The ambiance instantly invokes a way of leisure and luxury as you enter this conventional Japanese ryokan.
We had been escorted to the entrance of the constructing, after which guided right into a peaceable wood construction adorned with Japanese tatami mats. These mats are generally used as flooring in conventional Japanese-style rooms.
In the foyer, we met the workers affiliate who took care of us at some point of our keep.
She then led us to our room whereas outlining the specifics of the property, comparable to dinner and breakfast schedules, bathtub schedules, and the way the whole lot in our room operated.
Something I didn’t anticipate when staying at a ryokan was how tightly the whole lot was scheduled.
Times being set prematurely for the meals made sense, in fact, because the meals would must be ready; nonetheless, even the bathtub instances could be fastidiously scheduled all through our keep.
There are 4 totally different communal baths right here at Yama No Chaya, that are separated by gender. Throughout the day, the baths are cleaned and rotated so that each one company can expertise every of the baths no less than as soon as throughout their keep.
Furthermore, each set of company had the chance to order one of many baths for personal use for a one-hour interval. Since we had been solely staying for one night time, we had been requested to lock in our bathtub reserving as quickly as we arrived to make sure we had an opportunity to expertise the personal bathtub.
We sat down in our room with the attendant and completed the check-in course of, desirous to delve into the ryokan expertise in its entirety.
Yama No Chaya – Yama No Yube Room
There are simply 15 rooms right here on the Yama No Chaya, every with a singular inside association and design influenced by Japanese teahouses.
We had booked the Yama No Yube room, which is a Japanese-style set of residing quarters that includes a tsukimidai terrace (moon-viewing deck) and an open-air bathtub with water from the native historic scorching spring.
The Yama No Yube Room has a country ambiance, with charming conventional Japanese layouts and motifs. The room options tatami mats throughout.
In the centre of the room is a short-legged desk with flooring cushions for company to take a seat on when meals are served. Warm towels and tea had been proactively set on the desk upon arrival.
After dinner, the workers carry out turndown service by pushing the central desk down into the house alongside the underside, after which a futon is positioned on the bottom with comfortable down comforters.
The sleeping association wasn’t fully clear from the pictures we’d seen when reserving, and I used to be considerably shocked that we’d be sleeping on the bottom – however it was very a lot one thing to be embraced right here in these conventional lodgings.
The room was undoubtedly on the minimalist facet. Only some Japanese art work was displayed on the wall adjoining to the TV, after which a number of flowers had been dotted round.
The room has an air conditioner within the nook, after which there’s a well-stocked pantry with a minibar, in addition to a espresso and tea station.
At the top of the room is a lined terrace with two lounge chairs dealing with out for enjoyable. The large home windows of the terrace speak in confidence to the moon-viewing platform, with views of the greenery and mountains within the distance.
It’s price noting that Hakone seems to be inhabited by pretty huge spiders, they usually’re fairly prevalent even when strolling down the primary streets of the village.
Yama No Chaya isn’t any exception, and there was fairly a giant fellow who had made our balcony its dwelling – though you step by step acclimate to them over time.
Down a brief hall within the room is the lavatory. It’s fairly modest in measurement, however has a beautiful design with a phenomenal brass faucet and a vessel sink.
There’s a stable vary of skincare merchandise offered. Moreover, an surprising trendy inclusion at this in any other case conventional ryokan was a Dyson hair dryer.
The bathroom chamber is positioned on the far finish of the hall.
Note that there isn’t any “proper” bathe within the lavatory; fairly, the bathe services share an area with the personal open-air onsen.
This creates a Japanese-style moist room, the place while you enter the bathtub, water pours out onto the ground throughout you earlier than draining away.
In this association, the bathe merely takes the type of a small bench so that you can sit down on whilst you wash your self utilizing a handheld bathe head.
The semi-open structure of this moist room permits for the cool mountain breeze to blow comfortably into the world, making for a really tranquil bathing expertise.
Additionally, a set of two yukatas and two heavier out of doors vests had been offered in your consolation throughout your time on the resort.
Overall, the Yama No Yube Room was attention-grabbing and distinctive, definitely totally different from some other lodge we’d stayed at earlier than.
After settling into the room and sipping on some heat tea, we had been wanting ahead to the remainder of the ryokan expertise, beginning with our dinner scheduled for 6pm.
Yama No Chaya Ryokan – Dinner
Dinner at Yama No Chaya would served kaiseki-style, with a complete of 10 totally different programs.
Our desk was set in a beautiful method, with a glass jug of water accessible for hydrating all through the meal.
To begin dinner off, we had been introduced with a number of appetizers. Scallops had been accomplished in a dashi broth topped with radish and scallions, adopted by Japanese yam tofu accompanied by a ponzu sauce.
Both appetizers made for a palatable starting to the meal, with gentle tastes and attention-grabbing textures. In explicit, the Japanese yam tofu was surprisingly creamy, serving as an intriguing automobile for the piercing ponzu flavour.
Next up was the mochi rice cake, accompanied by miso soup and seaweed. The miso-topped mochi was barbecued over a charcoal grill in entrance of us, burnt to nearly a crisp on the skin, however nonetheless comfortable on the within.
We then wrapped the mochi contained in the seaweed and took a giant chunk. This was a really modern solution to eat mochi, and the miso sauce added a substantial quantity of umami flavour.
A savoury broth adopted this dish, alongside eel and mushrooms topped with yuzu.
I used to be impressed by the inventiveness of lots of the dishes being served, and I noticed many new strategies of preparation, cooking, and consuming that I hadn’t skilled earlier than.
The fifth course was fish sashimi, accompanied by seaweed and soy sauce. This was then accompanied by Spanish mackerel with burnt pores and skin served with ponzu jelly and crimson radish.
The sashimi was tasty and melted pleasantly in my mouth. Meanwhile, the Spanish mackerel blended properly with the tangy flavour of the ponzu jelly, and was amongst my favorite programs of the night.
The following course was the “Atohassun” principal occasion, fantastically introduced with a variety of choices on present. There was the whole lot from boiled greens to native rooster, sushi, and pickled barracuda.
Some objects definitely pushed our boundaries a bit when it comes to style. Although I like Japanese meals, I wasn’t blown away by each dish: some had been excellent, whereas others had been solely OK.
Nonetheless, as an genuine Japanese kaiseki dinner, it’s solely pure that there could be new flavours that I hadn’t but skilled and is probably not totally to my style.
The spectacular “Atohassun” unfold was adopted by a number of principal programs: pathogen-free pork confit, after which marinated blue fish.
The pork wasn’t a favorite of mine. It appeared to have some Western fusion components, with the addition of lemon juice, tomato, and chilli flavours, which I didn’t assume labored very effectively.
The bluefish was my most well-liked protein out of the 2, tender and delicate with simply sufficient umami to it.
The final course earlier than shifting on to dessert was a alternative between koshihikari rice and do-it-yourself soba noodles. My associate Jessy picked the rice, whereas I enthusiastically opted for the noodles, dipping them in a light-weight soy sauce earlier than slurping them down.
To wrap up the meal, we had been introduced with a dessert course of fruit jelly with custard pudding, in addition to warabi mochi and bracken dumpling.
We didn’t really know what bracken was and needed to Google it – it’s a fern-like plant, and the truth that it was made right into a candy and scrumptious dessert dumpling right here speaks to the creativity of the kitchen right here at Yama No Chaya.
Yama No Chaya Ryokan – Hot Springs
Dipping into the onsens is a serious a part of staying at a ryokan. The water right here comes from the pure scorching springs of Tonosawa, with its temperature adjusted to a tolerable stage after which launched into the baths.
Here at Yama No Chaya, there are 4 totally different communal baths sprinkled all through the property. Each bathtub has a altering room that you should undergo previous to coming into the precise bathing space.
All the baths are primarily a big pool with piping scorching pure water; it’s merely the structure and ambiance that varies.
In order to rotate across the baths and check out every one, Jessy and I needed to fastidiously plan out our bathing technique primarily based on the rotating gender separation schedule.
The first bathtub I visited, generally known as Iwato No Notenburo, was positioned in the midst of the resort. This bathtub is adorned with a sizeable boulder that travels up the wall. The water pours out from throughout the boulder, whereas the remainder of the onsen is surrounded by stone.
Our subsequent bathtub, Keikoku No Notenburo, was arrange as a non-public onsen solely for us in the course of the window of 11pm–12am the night time of our keep.
This one is surrounded by smaller stones, stone collectible figurines, and lighting dispersed all through the rocks. Needless to say, sharing the bathtub privately with a beloved one was an exquisite expertise.
The subsequent morning, I visited Take No Yu, which is a set of two separate baths that had been housed in a single constructing, positioned just a little outdoors the resort’s principal constructing down a stone path.
I appreciated the luxurious structure of those baths, as one has a central bathtub with a floral type, and the opposite is zen-like, with water cascading out of a tall faucet.
The final bathtub, Kajika No Yu, was housed indoors. This bathtub was probably the most simplistic, with none stones or distinctive motifs round it.
I didn’t really get an opportunity to go to Kajika No Yu, as I used to be fairly drained in the course of the night hour when males had been allowed entry; nonetheless, Jessy was capable of take a dip within the morning in the course of the ladies’s hours. I’d say this was the least aesthetically pleasing of all of the baths.
And lastly, there was the personal onsen in our room, the place we spent the final hour or so having fun with the atmosphere earlier than our 10am check-out time within the morning.
I need to say that I actually appreciated the bath-hopping element of this ryokan keep despite the fact that I’m not an enormous bathing fan usually. It’s protected to say that in case you get pleasure from scorching baths and thermal tradition, you’ll undoubtedly have an unimaginable time at a Japanese ryokan.
It’s price noting that at communal Japanese onsens, it’s customary to be totally nude, and there are indicators right here indicating that bathing fits will not be allowed. That’s very a lot part of the tradition that you have to be conscious of in case you’re visiting a ryokan.
Yama No Chaya – Breakfast
After a cushty sufficient night time of sleep on the futons on the ground, we had been handled to breakfast on the scheduled time of seven:30am.
Just like dinner, the breakfast providing right here was additionally fairly intensive, served in a number of programs.
After a light-weight salad-style opener, we had been introduced with an intriguing presentation of tofu wrapped up in material. The dish was served with soy sauce and congee.
Following these appetizers, then got here the standard unfold of Japanese breakfast objects, together with sashimi, miso cod, an egg dish, and greens, accompanied by a bowl of rice.
Lastly, the dessert was a grapefruit yoghurt jelly fantastically introduced inside an precise grapefruit.
The delicate sweetness was refreshing with the citrus aromas, wrapping up a fulsome culinary expertise throughout this ryokan keep.
Overall, the meal high quality right here at Yama no Chaya wasn’t fairly Michelin-star normal, however it was nonetheless unbelievable.
The sheer variety of dishes introduced was very spectacular, and despite the fact that not each dish was extraordinary, we had been pleasantly shocked by the modern nature of lots of the objects we sampled.
Yama No Chaya – Other Facilities
In addition to the gorgeous mountain grounds and the onsens, Yama no Chaya presents a handful of further shared services for company’ enjoyment.
A bar is adjoining to the foyer and presents mountain views of Hakone to get pleasure from whilst you sip a drink. The bar shares over 80 totally different manufacturers of shochu, a conventional Japanese onerous liquor.
Additionally, there’s a communal terrace with armchairs and recliners inside the primary constructing. If you occur to have spare time between the inflexible meal and bathing schedule, the open wood space appears like a pleasing spot to chill out.
Also on-site is a modest reward store that focuses on regional crafts. Anything from teacups and chopstick rests to bamboo woven luggage and artistic patterns is on the market for buy.
You can even discover some ice cream and a comfortable drink dispenser, ought to you could settle down after a shower.
Moreover, vibrant yukatas in quite a lot of patterns can be found for buy within the foyer.
Lastly, a washer and dryer can be found within the laundry space for a price for these staying a couple of night time.
Our time right here at Yama No Chaya was a soothing and zen-like expertise. Our solely gripe is we want it was longer, as we arrived at 4pm solely to take a look at at 10am the following day.
Our Yama No Yube Room offered a tranquil setting to chill out among the many Hakone mountains.
Breakfast and dinner on the resort had been well-executed, with beneficiant servings that may certainly push your tastebuds past their consolation and go away you with a really genuine Japanese eating expertise.
There was additionally an in depth set of baths. If you’re visiting Hakone particularly to chill out within the scorching springs, you’ll discover a multitude of bathing choices right here at Yama No Chaya, every with its personal distinct atmosphere.
I totally appreciated my first ryokan expertise at Yama No Chaya, and in case you’re new to staying at ryokans, this can be a fairly good spot to start out your journey at an inexpensive worth level.
Personally, I don’t really feel a powerful urge to pursue the ryokan expertise once more after having skilled it as soon as, though it may be worthwhile to strive one other facility on a future journey to Japan to see the way it compares.