While we were at tourist hotspot of Hakone, we decided to plan a one-night stay at a luxury ryokan – Yama No Chaya. Setting off from Shinjuku station, we took Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar” directly to Hakone-Yumoto station.
[learn_more caption=”Wikipedia – Origin of Romancecar”] The name comes from romance seats, two-person seats without separating armrests when one-person seats were a norm. Some Romancecars are equipped with standard seats featuring armrests. Other railroad companies also used “romance cars” or “romance seats” (a Japanese portmanteau for “loveseat”) for their special accommodation passenger cars, but Odakyu holds the trademark for the term “Romancecar”.[/learn_more]
Arriving at Hakone-Yumoto, we embarked on a day of free-and-easy sightseeing. At Hakone-Yumoto station, there is a luggage dispatch service that we gladly used. For a small fee, you can deposit your luggage upon arriving at the station, and the staff would proceed to send your luggage to the Ryokan of your choice at Hakone.
The tour of Hakone is worthy of a blog post itself, so I shall not touch on it here. From Hakone-Yumoto station, we hopped into a cab to get to Yama No Chaya. From Hakone-Yumoto station, all it takes is a 5-minutes cab ride to the Ryokan, which helps to cut the cost down considering how expensive a cab ride in Japan is.
Before long, we saw the signboard indicating that we have arrived at the Ryokan.
Many of the Ryokans at Hakone are accessed via a small bridge, which cannot withstand much weight. Two tonnes is the weight limit, I guess?
A lorry seen leaving Yama No Chaya – there is no room for another vehicle!
After crossing the bridge, the steep slope leads to the Ryokan.
Arriving at the Ryokan, we were warmly received by the staff of Yama No Chaya. As non-Japanese speakers, we were assigned a young lady who speaks English so that we are able to communicate with each other. During the check-in, we get to decide on little aspects on which we could personalize our stay, pretty much like staying in a resort.
What time do we want dinner to be served?
Do we want an Onsen (hot spring) to be booked for our private use after dinner?
Before long, we were brought to our room – 102. The words literally translates to Light-of-the-Mountain, or something? Erm, never mind.
Opening the sliding door, the Tatami-matted living and dining area is pretty spacious.
In the centre of the room is a low-table, and you can see that guests can sit on the floor on the cushions during meal-times. During check-in, we were given warm towels, mochi and green tea to refresh up, which you can see on the table.
An ash tray with custom-printed matchbox from Yama No Chaya.
A sheltered balcony for relaxing, as it was too cold to be sitting outside in November.
More amenities imprinted with Yama No Chaya wordings.
The balcony from which we could enjoy the view of forested area. The building in the distance was kind of distracting though.
From the balcony, we can access the open-air private Onsen in our room.
A Ryokan is actually a type of traditional Japanese inn, which features Tatami-matted rooms, communal baths and other public areas. We were pretty shy about sharing a bath with strangers, and so the criteria for us when deciding on a Ryokan is for it to have a private hot spring.
Endless hot spring water which flows into the massive tub.
This is what it looks like entering from the other end of the tub :
One thing about this design though : it gets ridiculously cold when you’re not soaked in the hot water!
A tiny stool and pail are thoughtfully provided. A set of Yukata is also provided by Yama No Chaya for use within the Ryokan.
The tiny passage way in our room : on the left is the living area, the front is the bathroom, and to the right is the set of stairs that lead to the bedroom.
The bathroom, while small, is definitely not lacking in details.
Loved the old-school looking brass tap. They even left little charcoal pieces in the basin – wonder what it does?
Cups were placed on little bamboo trays to help drain the water, together with the usual selection of toiletries.
Heated toilet bowl, with bidet. Ah, such luxury.
Having explored the lower level, we went up the stairs to ..
To our sleeping area! There was simple furnishing, with two futons joined together to form a double bed. Despite the chilly temperature in November, it kept us warm adequately at night.
[learn_more caption=”Wikipedia : Futon”] The bedding set referred to as futon in Japan fundamentally consists of a shikibuton (敷き布団 bottom mattress) and a kakebuton (掛け布団 thick quilted bedcover). The word is Sino-Japanese, originally meaning ’round cushions filled with cattail flower spikes’; it is derived from Chinese fu or pu (蒲 cattail) + ton or tuan (団 round).[/learn_more]
By the side of our bed, there is an odd looking sliding door –
– that leads to another outdoor deck! Granted, it was kind of impractical in near-winter days. I guess it would have been great during other seasons? Who would have thought of getting a tan in a Ryokan?!
After our heavenly dinner, which is detailed in the blog post here, we had a little rest before heading to the private hot spring. We had requested for it to be booked in advance (in 2-hour slots, if I’m not wrong) so that we can have all the time in the world to enjoy it in privacy.
The knock on our door signaled it was time, and we were led to one of the private hot spring within the Ryokan. Before entering the hot spring, the rest area surprised us with foot-reflexology devices and a free-flow of refreshing roasted tea.
I have to say that enjoying the Onsen during cold weather is something that needs getting used to! It is definitely an experience we won’t be forgetting anytime soon!
Before getting into the Onsen, the common etiquette is to ensure cleanliness. Thus, all guests are expected to wash and and rinse their body thoroughly before entering the hot water. Thus, bathing station like the one you see below is equipped with stools, wooden pails, toiletries and faucets.
[box type=”warning”] Entering the onsen while still dirty or with traces of soap on the body is socially unacceptable![/box]
The next morning, we had a little time to spare after breakfast, and so we ventured out of Yama No Chaya on foot.
Many of the Ryokans are situated along the river that runs through Hakone.
Kind of romantic to be walking along the river, with the ground littered with all the fallen leaves.
Spotted one of the bus-stop that is near our Ryokan :
I would say that Yama No Chaya has given us an excellent insight into the Ryokan experience. The Ryokan stay was fantastic, with very little to fault. Service was superb, and the two meals provided were among the best we’ve had in Japan. Our room was comfortable, with all the required amenities provided for. Our English-speaking host broke the language barrier and made it a much more enriching experience for us.
There is simply too little time to take in all the goodness! The only complain would be that in exchange for a slice of paradise, there is a pretty steep price for a one-night stay. Is it worth it? You would have to decide for yourself~
[button link=”http://www.yamanochaya.com” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] Yama No Chaya Official Website[/button] [button link=”http://www.ryokancollection.com” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] The Ryokan Collection[/button]