Hakone is our fifth stop for #JapanWeek, and this was the place the was such an eye-opener for me in Japan.
I first discovered the existence of Hakone through the amazing Vlogs of a fellow YouTuber, and I knew that I wanted to stay there as soon as I had finished watching. Nestled in a mountainous region of Japan, Hakone is a town built up around the hot springs tourist industry. The town is geared towards tourists, but it doesn’t have that built-up touristy feel, and retains its own charm and beauty. We stayed at the fantastic Hotel Suimeisou Ryokan, which again I learned about through YouTube. The service and the hotel itself were impeccable, and we spent our two days at the Suimeisou wearing Yukata, soaking in the private open-air baths, and eating 14-course meals.
A note on hot springs and tattoos: It is still largely a social taboo to have tattoos in Japan, and while this attitude is changing, a lot of hot springs (Onsen) and public baths (Sento) refuse service to those with tattoos, including foreign tourists. Knowing this, I looked for a place which had private baths, so I could book one out for the boyfriend and myself, and not have to worry about upsetting or offending anyone with my ink. I am firmly of the opinion that as a tourist, it is your responsibility to conform to the customs and norms of the places you visit. So, my inked brethren, in Japanese baths or hot springs – cover up!
It wasn’t all open air baths and stuffing our faces however. There’s a rich culture to the town, and lots of things to see and do, most of which we didn’t even get around to. Something special that we did manage to see however was the Hakone Shrine on beautiful Lake Ashi. This place is magical, like something out of a Hayo Miyazaki film. Towering ceders, bright orange tori gates and hundreds of stone steps – this was a definite highlight of the trip, and a place that I will always treasure visiting.
I was so impressed with our stay, and so sad we only scratched the surface, that I will be returning to Hakone in May this year with my best friend Mags and our good friend Amy, and I am determined to cross a few more of the local attractions off my list..