For our go to to the mountain resort city of Hakone, we opted to remain at a ryokan named Yama No Chaya searching 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 type.
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 – Reserving
Our keep was booked by way of “The Ryokan Assortment“, a reserving portal that serves a number of distinguished Japanese ryokan amenities.
I initially meant to order a room at Hakone Ginyu on the advice of a buddy. Nonetheless, it was absolutely booked on my most popular dates, and Yama No Chaya was among the many finest out there options.
For a ryokan, Yama No Chaya was fairly moderately priced. A majority of these stays can get fairly expensive, so I felt like it might be finest to start out off modestly for my first ryokan expertise. Plus, it regarded like a really enticing property from the pictures.
A one-night keep for 2 visitors, together with breakfast and dinner, price us ¥70,000 ($642 CAD).
Word that ryokans usually set costs based mostly on the variety of visitors, so if you happen to’re travelling solo, the value will seemingly be a bit cheaper than reserving for 2 folks.
At first look, this may appear costly for a one-night keep, however understand that kaiseki-style multi-course breakfast and dinner are factored into the value.
To finish our reservation viaTthe Ryokan Assortment, we had been requested whether or not we had any dietary necessities, after which requested to fill out a bank card authorization kind. As soon as that was performed, every little thing was booked and good to go.
Yama No Chaya – Location
You’ll be able to attain Hakone by way of the Odakyu Electrical Railway from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. The journey is about an hour to an hour and a half, relying on which practice you are taking.
The common and specific commuter trains make numerous stops on the way in which out to Hakone, and there’s additionally a “Romancecar” which has forward-facing seats and higher views from the home windows. This specific practice can convey 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. Numerous visitor houses 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 value noting that the hill is fairly steep if you happen to’re carrying any baggage with you – we opted to retailer our heavy baggage within the coin lockers at Shinjuku Station and solely convey backpacks for this side-trip into the countryside.
The lodge is positioned moderately close to to Hakone’s well-known sights. Just a few locations inside strolling distance embrace the Amidaji Temple and Fukazawa Zeniarai Benten Shrine, each inside a 10-minute stroll from the property.
Nonetheless, most sights value visiting would require public transport or a taxi. The Hakone Shrine sits beneath the Mount Hakone volcano, and is a 35-minute journey by bus from Hakone-Yumoto Station.
Lake Ashinoko is one other standard 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 – Verify-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 approach 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 environment 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.
Within the foyer, we met the employees affiliate who took care of us at some stage in our keep.
She then led us to our room whereas outlining the specifics of the property, resembling dinner and breakfast schedules, bathtub schedules, and the way every little thing in our room operated.
One thing I didn’t anticipate when staying at a ryokan was how tightly every little thing was scheduled.
Occasions being set prematurely for the meals made sense, in fact, because the meals would should be ready; nevertheless, even the tub occasions could be rigorously scheduled all through our keep.
There are 4 completely different communal baths right here at Yama No Chaya, that are separated by gender. All through the day, the baths are cleaned and rotated so that every one visitors can expertise every of the baths not less than as soon as throughout their keep.
Moreover, each set of visitors 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, desperate 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 novel inside association and design influenced by Japanese teahouses.
We had booked the Yama No Yube room, which is a Japanese-style set of dwelling quarters that includes a tsukimidai terrace (moon-viewing deck) and an open-air bathtub with water from the native historic sizzling spring.
The Yama No Yube Room has a country environment, with charming conventional Japanese layouts and motifs. The room options tatami mats throughout.
Within the centre of the room is a short-legged desk with ground cushions for visitors to take a seat on when meals are served. Heat towels and tea had been proactively set on the desk upon arrival.
After dinner, the employees carry out turndown service by pushing the central desk down into the area alongside the underside, after which a futon is positioned on the bottom with mushy 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 – but it surely was very a lot one thing to be embraced right here in these conventional lodgings.
The room was positively on the minimalist facet. Just some Japanese art work was displayed on the wall adjoining to the TV, after which a couple 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.
On the finish of the room is a lined terrace with two lounge chairs going through out for enjoyable. The huge home windows of the terrace divulge heart’s contents to the moon-viewing platform, with views of the greenery and mountains within the distance.
It’s value noting that Hakone seems to be inhabited by pretty monumental 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 stunning design with a lovely brass faucet and a vessel sink.
There’s a strong vary of skincare merchandise supplied. Furthermore, an sudden 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.
Word that there is no such thing as a “correct” bathe within the toilet; fairly, the bathe amenities share an area with the personal open-air onsen.
This creates a Japanese-style moist room, the place whenever you enter the tub, water pours out onto the ground throughout you earlier than draining away.
On 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.
Moreover, a set of two yukatas and two heavier outside vests had been supplied to your consolation throughout your time on the resort.
General, the Yama No Yube Room was fascinating and distinctive, definitely completely different from every other lodge we’d stayed at earlier than.
After settling into the room and sipping on some heat tea, we had been trying 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 completely different programs.
Our desk was set in a stunning method, with a glass jug of water out there for hydrating all through the meal.
To begin dinner off, we had been introduced with a couple of appetizers. Scallops had been performed in a dashi broth topped with radish and scallions, adopted by Japanese yam tofu accompanied by a ponzu sauce.
Each appetizers made for a palatable starting to the meal, with gentle tastes and fascinating textures. Particularly, the Japanese yam tofu was surprisingly creamy, serving as an intriguing car for the piercing ponzu flavour.
Subsequent 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 mushy on the within.
We then wrapped the mochi contained in the seaweed and took a giant chew. This was a really progressive strategy 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 most 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. In the meantime, the Spanish mackerel blended properly with the tangy flavour of the ponzu jelly, and was amongst my favorite programs of the night.
The next course was the “Atohassun” foremost occasion, fantastically introduced with a variety of choices on present. There was every little thing from boiled greens to native hen, sushi, and pickled barracuda.
Some gadgets definitely pushed our boundaries a bit by way of style. Though I really 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 absolutely to my style.
The spectacular “Atohassun” unfold was adopted by a couple of foremost 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 parts, with the addition of lemon juice, tomato, and chilli flavours, which I didn’t suppose labored very nicely.
The bluefish was my most popular 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 selection between koshihikari rice and selfmade soba noodles. My companion 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 truly 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 – Sizzling Springs
Dipping into the onsens is a serious a part of staying at a ryokan. The water right here comes from the pure sizzling springs of Tonosawa, with its temperature adjusted to a tolerable stage after which launched into the baths.
Right here at Yama No Chaya, there are 4 completely different communal baths sprinkled all through the property. Every bathtub has a altering room that you could undergo previous to getting into the precise bathing space.
All of the baths are basically a big pool with piping sizzling pure water; it’s merely the structure and ambiance that varies.
With a view to rotate across the baths and check out each, Jessy and I needed to rigorously plan out our bathing technique based mostly on the rotating gender separation schedule.
The primary bathtub I visited, often known as Iwato No Notenburo, was positioned in the course of the resort. This bathtub is adorned with a sizeable boulder that travels up the wall. The water pours out from inside 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 through 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. Evidently, sharing the tub privately with a liked one was a beautiful expertise.
The following morning, I visited Take No Yu, which is a set of two separate baths that had been housed in a single constructing, positioned a little bit outdoors the resort’s foremost constructing down a stone path.
I appreciated the luxurious structure of those baths, as one has a central bathtub with a floral kind, 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 essentially the most simplistic, with none stones or distinctive motifs round it.
I didn’t truly get an opportunity to go to Kajika No Yu, as I used to be fairly drained through the night hour when males had been allowed entry; nevertheless, Jessy was capable of take a dip within the morning through 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 have to say that I actually favored the bath-hopping element of this ryokan keep regardless that I’m not an enormous bathing fan on the whole. It’s secure to say that if you happen to take pleasure in sizzling baths and thermal tradition, you’ll positively have an unbelievable time at a Japanese ryokan.
It’s value noting that at communal Japanese onsens, it’s customary to be absolutely nude, and there are indicators right here indicating that bathing fits usually are not allowed. That’s very a lot part of the tradition that you have to be conscious of if you happen to’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.
Similar to 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 fabric. The dish was served with soy sauce and congee.
Following these appetizers, then got here the standard unfold of Japanese breakfast gadgets, 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 refined sweetness was refreshing with the citrus aromas, wrapping up a fulsome culinary expertise throughout this ryokan keep.
General, the meal high quality right here at Yama no Chaya wasn’t fairly Michelin-star commonplace, but it surely was nonetheless implausible.
The sheer variety of dishes introduced was very spectacular, and regardless that not each dish was extraordinary, we had been pleasantly shocked by the progressive nature of most of the gadgets we sampled.
Yama No Chaya – Different Services
Along with the attractive mountain grounds and the onsens, Yama no Chaya provides a handful of further shared amenities for visitors’ enjoyment.
A bar is adjoining to the foyer and provides mountain views of Hakone to take pleasure in whilst you sip a drink. The bar shares over 80 completely different manufacturers of shochu, a conventional Japanese laborious liquor.
Moreover, there’s a communal terrace with armchairs and recliners inside the primary constructing. When you occur to have spare time between the inflexible meal and bathing schedule, the open wood space seems to be like a nice spot to calm down.
Additionally on-site is a modest reward store that focuses on regional crafts. Something from teacups and chopstick rests to bamboo woven baggage and inventive patterns is out there for buy.
It’s also possible to discover some ice cream and a mushy drink dispenser, ought to you must settle down after a shower.
Furthermore, vibrant yukatas in a wide range of patterns can be found for buy within the foyer.
Lastly, a washer and dryer can be found within the laundry space for a charge for these staying a couple of night time.
Our time right here at Yama No Chaya was a calming 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 supplied a tranquil setting to calm down among the many Hakone mountains.
Breakfast and dinner on the resort had been well-executed, with beneficiant servings that may absolutely push your tastebuds past their consolation and depart you with a very genuine Japanese eating expertise.
There was additionally an intensive set of baths. When you’re visiting Hakone particularly to calm down within the sizzling 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 if you happen to’re new to staying at ryokans, it is a fairly good spot to start out your journey at an affordable value 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 is likely to be worthwhile to strive one other facility on a future journey to Japan to see the way it compares.