After a few nights in Tokyo, we were ready for a restful family retreat. We traveled by Japan Rail in the Romancecar to Hakone, a city known for its natural beauty. At the Odawara station we caught a shuttle bus that took us to the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa.
The Hyatt is a very tranquil spot and we knew right away that we were going to be well taken care of from the minute we walked through the door. The check-in process is very personalized and we were impressed with the level of service and grasp of English by the staff. There are no lines, no rushing and no chaos. My daughter is fluent in Japanese and the young women working the registration desks were delighted to converse with her. We were enchanted by the Christmas decorations which were owl themed and reflective of the natural ambiance of the resort.
Our Top Picks in Hakone
The first morning, we got an early start and had breakfast the nearby Paseo. Paseo is a bed and breakfast just a short walk from the Hyatt. We enjoyed the Breakfast Set which included homemade bread, sausage, eggs and soup. The coffee was wonderful. The restaurant is cozy with just a few seats and is filled with flowers as the owner is also a florist. The breakfast buffet at the Hyatt is very good but very expensive. If you are watching your budget and have a family, you may want to try Paseo. Hours vary so call or stop by for information.
Open Air Museum and Woody’s
We took the hotel shuttle from the Hyatt to Gora to get to the Open Air Museum. It is a moderate walk from the station to the Museum. The Open Air Museum features an astounding Picasso Pavilion as well as an immense sculpture garden. We visited on a sunny, cool day and walked around outside for several hours. The foot bath was a welcome treat for me and towels were available for a small fee so we could dry off our feet. On our way back to the train, we stopped at Woody’s for lunch. The food and the beer are just right after the museum and the price is very affordable. I recommend the Chicken Plum Perilla and Rice and the Shandy Gaff. My kids loved the hamburg steak and the Disney Toy Story - themed Woody decorations throughout.
Onsen at The Hyatt
We wanted to stay at a Ryokan over the Christmas or New Year holiday but they were all booked. We found the Hyatt online and discovered that they have an Onsen. It was wonderful. It was such an amazing experience to share with my daughter. The shared bath was relaxing and restorative and we will never forget it. We dressed in the yukata and slippers provided in our room, walked down to the locker room and then rinsed off in the showers. We soaked in the steaming hot onsen and reflected on the past year and how much fun we were having on our trip to Japan. After our cleansing bath, we washed our hair and went back to the lockers room to put on our yukata and slippers. Many guests stayed in their yukata and slippers for Happy Hour in the Living Room but we changed into clothes and went back down to enjoy the fire. My husband and son joined us after their onsen and we all agreed it was an amazing experience. Our stay at the Hyatt was probably one of the highlights from our trip
Followed by happy hour in the large family room with a fireplace and a lovely view of the gardens, we slept very well in our large Family Suite.
The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise is included in the Hakone Free Pass package. We took a boat ride and although it was chilly in December the views looking back on the Hakone Shrine and Mount Fuji were remarkable and well worth it. The cruise operates between Hakonemachi, Moto-Hakone and Togendai on Lake Ashi.
Also known as the Great Boiling Valley, Owakudani is an active volcanic site known for its views of Mt. Fuji and it’s hot springs. The views on the way here were outstanding and unusual leaving us feeling like we were in a Star Wars movie travelling to another planet. Of course we had to sample the black eggs which are created from the hot springs and thought to extend the life by seven years. They taste like hard boiled eggs and come from the steaming hot water that occurs naturally from the hydrogen sulfide steam.
Established during the Nara period, this shrine was dedicated to the the local gods of Kanto and is known for protection against evil, fulfillment of wishes and safe road travel. It is also home to a subshrine known as the Shrine of the 9-Headed Dragons. Set in a wooded grove in Moto-Hakone, it is a beautiful shrine and the red torii rises from Lake Ashi providing gorgeous photo opportunities.
Mount Fuji brought us to Hakone. When I think of Japan, I think of Mount Fuji. The highest mountain in Japan at 12,388 feet, Mount Fuji is a beautiful volcano that is sacred to Japan’s Shinto religion. Depending on the time of the day, the weather or the season, it may or may not be visible. We were fortunate to see it for a little while each day from our hotel, the Lake Ashi Cruise and the ropeway.