(To read this series on Hakone from the beginning, click here.)
From Tonosawa Station, it’s a beautiful, forested 5-minute walk to Ichinoyu Shinkan, the ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) where I’ve stayed during both of my research trips to Japan.
The paved path winds along the hillside, under a beautiful canopy of trees:
. . . with views of the foliage on the hill across the way.
It’s peaceful and lovely in any season, although the autumn leaves make this a truly spectacular walk.
Ichinoyu Shinkan sits against the side of a hill.
Despite its unassuming exterior, the rooms are a lovely blend of convenience and traditional Japanese style.
The beds are futon-style, but with firm mattresses in place of more traditional futons. (I like both, but people who have trouble with traditional futon may appreciate this detail.)
The rooms I stay in have a private onsen (hot spring) tub on the balcony.
Privacy screens ensure no one can see in, but once you’re in the tub, you can open the upper screen for a view of the mountains.
While the room has a separate (indoor) toilet, the rooms with private onsen baths do not have showers or other bathtubs. Bathing is entirely Japanese-style – which means you shower outside, on the balcony, using the wooden stool, dipper, shampoo and soap that sit beside the tub.
Before entering the tub (or any other time you want to bathe) you take a seat on the stool, dip up water from the tub (warning: it’s as hot as you’d expect volcanic hot-spring baths to be, although there is a cold-water faucet on one side to reduce the temperature if you wish), and use it to wet your body and hair and to rinse yourself off after using the shampoo and soap.
Many Americans find this type of bathing strange–and I’ll admit that the first time I had second thoughts about standing outside, naked, on a 19-degree November morning and “showering” with a wooden bucket of water dipped from a steaming tub.
That said, when I tried it, I was hooked immediately. I adore the private hot spring tub, and the traditional bathing process left me feeling clean and invigorated.
Like many ryokan, Ichinoyu Shinkan serves amazing meals in the dining room, and after a bath and a soak in the tub, I headed downstairs for a delicious traditional dinner.
But for that part of the story, you’ll have to wait for Friday !
(Note: I recommend taking a taxi from Hakone-Yumoto Station to the ryokan upon your initial arrival. It costs $8, and that’s money well spent to avoid shlepping suitcases uphill along the lovely–but steep in places–walk from Tonosawa Station).