When we visited Japan in Autumn, we spent a few nights relaxing in the Hakone region, just south of Tokyo. Having previously read about the area in a Qantas onboard magazine, I knew that Hakone was well-known for its relaxing onsen hotels. so I set out on a mission to find the best ryokan in Hakone with a private onsen. After a lot of research, I finally stumbled across a hotel called Hakone Gora Byakudan, a beautiful ryokan hotel with a private onsen on the balcony in each room.
Hakone is well known for its breathtaking natural scenery, great hiking trails, and therapeutic hot springs. Given it is only a 45-minute train ride from Tokyo, Hakone is a very popular day trip for tourists and weekend getaway for Tokyo locals wanting to escape the city in search of a slower pace. If you only have a short time in Japan and want to get out of Tokyo, or perhaps you're looking for some downtime after spending a few weeks sightseeing around the country, I recommend heading straight to the town of Gora in Hakone. And for a truly unforgettable Hakone onsen ryokan experience, we recommend spending at least a night or two at Hakone Gora Byakudan.
Read on to learn about whats it's like to stay at this beautiful Hakone Ryokan
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Why Visit the Hakone Region?
Surrounded by thick lush forest and towering volcanos, the Hakone region is possibly one of the most beautiful places I visited in Japan. The region boasts epic waterfalls, hiking trails, the world-class Hakone Open-Air Museum, all surrounding the beautiful Lake Ashinoko. On a clear day, views of the nearby Mount Fuji can be seen from several spots around Hakone. There are so many unique things to do in Hakone, but one of the most sought after activities is to experience a Hakone onsen ryokan.
We visited Japan in November (Autumn), and it turned out to be a really special time to year, as the entire region was covered in a mixture of red, orange, yellow and green foliage. Mount Hakone is an active volcano which supplies the region with natural hot spring water. The water is collected and fed directly into the onsen hotels around the town of Gora, situated on the slope of Mount Hakone. This means that the town of Gora offers some of the best onsen ryokans in Hakone, and indeed all of Japan.
About Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan
Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan is a modern boutique-style ryokan hotel, offering breathtaking vistas of the mountains and valleys that make up the Hakone region. The hotel name ‘Byakudan' means Sandlewood in Japanese, aptly named for the scent that wafts throughout the hotel lobby and lounge areas. Hakone Gora Byakudan is centrally located in the town of Gora, only 2km from Kowakidani station and close to attractions such as the Hakone Gora Park and the Hakone Open Air Museum. The hotel features 16 spacious suites all with a slightly different layout and a mixture of Japanese and Western minimalist styling. Each suite features a deck with a natural open-air, private onsen bath, complete with his and her bath products. The Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan offers a modern take on a traditional Japanese guest house and is, in my experience, the best ryokan in Hakone!
Hakone Gora Byakudan's Signature Japanese Hospitality
From the moment we arrived at Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan, we were greeted with friendly and attentive service complete with an oriental touch that made our stay all the more unique. After removing our shoes and slipping into traditional Japanese Geta (wooden-soled sandals with stilts on the bottom), we were shown into a beautiful lounge area with floor to ceiling windows and a panoramic mountain view. Most of the hotel staff spoke very little English, but the occasional awkward exchange was most certainly overshadowed by the exceptional hospitality we experienced. The staff went out of their way to make us feel very welcome and treated us like royalty. There were special little touches such as being greeted with a bow everywhere we went and home-made Japanese sweets delivered to our room daily. We were very well looked after during our entire stay at Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan.
** We stayed in the Western Style Room with Japanese Style Living Room with 12 Tatami and Terrace – see below **
A Modern Japanese Guest House
If you're looking for a traditional ryokan experience with the added luxury of modern amenities, then Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan ticks all these boxes. Upon arriving at the hotel, we were offered green tea and sweets with a traditional Japanese welcoming tea ceremony. We were then shown to our room, which featured minimalist decor with traditional Japanese finishes like tatami floors, a chabudai dining table, rice paper shoji screens and private deep soaking tubs, fed from natural hot springs. We opted for a room with Western-style bedding but they also have rooms featuring Japanese futons if you prefer the full Japanese ryokan experience. The rooms also feature modern amenities like wifi, flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges and a fully automatic toilet.
A Hakone Hotel with Private Onsen
Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan is built on a foundation of peace and relaxation. The Hakone region is one of the most active volcanic regions in the world, where there are many natural hot springs offering the ultimate relaxation and therapeutic benefits. The hotel collects natural hot spring water and feeds it directly to the Japanese-style onsen bathtubs located on an open-air deck in each room. The hotel also has communal onsen, which is segregated for males and females, however, we found the private onsen was certainly one of the standout features of Hakone Gora Byakudan. The etiquette at most Japanese onsen require you to bath completely naked, no swimsuits allowed! Having grown up in a society where public nudity is not commonplace, I found the idea of a ryokan with private onsen to be more appealing. After a long day spent sightseeing around Hakone region, my husband and I retreated back to the privacy of our own onsen in our room.
Traditional Kaiseki Meals
Dining at the Hakone Gora Byakudan is the ultimate Japanese culinary experience. In our rooms, there were two beautifully-made traditional Yukata robes (his and hers), which the Japanese traditionally wear to dinner. After changing into our robes we headed down to the restaurant which featured high ceilings and views over the Japanese style garden. Our stay included half-board – Japanese style breakfast and traditional kaiseki evening meals. The kaiseki meal is a delectable multi-course degustation carefully prepared using fresh local and seasonal ingredients. The meal includes seafood (raw and cooked), pickled vegetables, Kobe beef and rice, served with a range of sake, beer or local and international and wines. I was not a huge fan of raw seafood before visiting Japan, but I can honestly accredit my change in palate to the kaiseki dinners I experienced at Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan. Now I consider myself a convert!
** We stayed in the Western Style Room with Japanese Style Living Room with 12 Tatami and Terrace **
Exploring Around Hakone
Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan is the perfect place to base yourself to explore the best sights that the Hakone region has to offer. We spent two days in Hakone and wrote a comprehensive guide on all the best things to do. The hotel staff were always available to shuttle us to nearby attractions or the local train station. I recommend purchasing a Hakone Free Pass, which will give you access to most public transport services in the area, including the Hakone Ropeway, cable car, buses, trains, and the Lake Ashinoko sightseeing cruise. There is so much to see and do in this area, after spending a day or two exploring the mountains and soaking in a private onsen at the best ryokan in Hakone, you'll surely want to come back for more!
Useful Information to Plan Your Trip to Hakone
Hakone is a great place to make an overnight stopover when travelling between Tokyo and Kyoto. The area can be easily explored in a day, but if you have the time we would recommend spending an extra night at Hakone Gora Byakudan hotel to really enjoy the private onsen experience.
How to Get There
From Shinjuku, catch the Limited Express Romance Car, on the Odakyu Line, direct to Hakone Yumoto Station. From here, you will need to transfer onto the Hakone Tozan Line, using the Hakone Free Pass, and get off at Kowakidani Station.
Alternatively, you can use the Japan Rail Pass from Tokyo Station and catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Odawara. In Odawara, transfer to the Hakone Tozan Line to Hakone Yumoto Station and then onto Kowakidani.
Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan is located 2km from Kowakidani Station and is the perfect place to base yourself while exploring the Hakone region. A private shuttle from Kowakidani Station is available by making prior arrangements with the hotel. For a more in-depth guide on how to get to Hakone, check out our complete Hakone travel guide.
Booking Hotels in Hakone
For the best-guaranteed price at Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan, book your stay here with Agoda. We stayed in the Western Style Room with Japanese Style Living Room with 12 Tatami and Terrace. If you want to be rewarded for staying at independently-owned hotels (just like this one), check out our tips on how to get free hotel stays anywhere in the world.
Best Tours in Hakone
For some of the best tours and things to do in Hakone, check out these recommended day tours:
- Hakone Full Day Tour from Tokyo including Gotemba Outlets
- Hakone Day Tour from Tokyo including Mount Fiji
Read More About Hakone
For recommendations on the best things to see and do in Hakone, as well as how to get around and other Hakone travel tips, read our complete guide to visiting Hakone, Japan.
Read More About Japan:
- A Complete Guide to Visiting Hakone, Japan
- 20 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Japan for the First Time
- 25 Stunning Photos that will Inspire You to Book a Trip to Japan in Autumn
- 12 Ultimate Travel Experiences for 2019 by Travel Bloggers
- 17 of the Best Mobile Travel Apps I Can’t Leave Home Without
Have you ever been to Hakone? We'd like to know your recommendations on things to do in the comment section below!
Planning a trip soon? Here is a list of the websites and resources we use for booking everything from flights, to accommodation, tours, and more:
- Skyscanner for booking the best flight deals
- Booking.com | Agoda | Hotels.com for booking the best hotel deals
- Airbnb | Stayz | VRBO for home rentals
- Rentalcars.com for quick and easy car rentals
- Luxury Escapes for luxury package holiday deals and tours
- Get Your Guide for a great range of day tours
- Tourradar | Intrepid for multi-day experiential and adventure tours
- Priority Pass for airport lounge access in hundreds of locations around the world
- Skyroam to stay connected to WiFi everywhere I go
- iVisa for processing entry visas for many countries around the world
- Covermore for the best worldwide travel insurance coverage (Australians & New Zealanders only)
About the Author:
Amanda Twine is the founder and creator of Fly Stay Luxe – a luxury travel blog sharing informative travel guides, food guides, hotel reviews, itineraries and tips about how to make luxury travel more affordable.