Short trip over to Hakone to relax in the onsen hot springs.
Staying at a ryokan inn and soaking in onsen are a popular tourist activity as well as a favorite domestic vacation for many Japanese. Families, friends, couples, co-workers, etc. all go to ryokans which are more often located in rural areas, to get some relaxation time away from their hectic everyday lives. Culturally, we love baths but natural onsen is said to have healing properties from its mineral contents which makes it special.
Instead of going straight to the ryokan, I decided to do some sightseeing first. Took a walk through a garden.
After enjoying the walk, I took the ropeway up the mountains. It was super cold and windy once I got to the top. A popular item to bring back as a souvenir from Hakone are hard-boiled eggs with blackened shells. You can see in the picture here, they’ve asked Hello Kitty to promote theses eggs outside the gift shop. I didn’t buy any, but I asked one of the employees what made these eggs so special. She explained that the eggs are boiled in natural geothermal hot spring water. The chemical reactions between the minerals in the water turn the eggs black, she told me. If you remove the black shell, the actual egg looks normal inside. I assume and hope, that they have a different flavor from eggs boiled in regular water.
I went back near the train station to catch a bus to get to the inn. Off to the ryokan. Yes, it’s onsen time!
The ryokan I stayed at was called Aura Tachibana. It was a renovated ryokan with modern Japanese interiors. There were a total of three different spots where I could enjoy the onsen.
You share the same bath with strangers? Yes. Butt naked? Yes. Well you can use a little towel to wrap around your waste if you want. Bathing suits not allowed. With opposite sex? Traditionally yes, but very rare now, unless the onsen is a private one. There is onsen etiquette you should know before going. Make sure you clean yourself before going in any onsen. There are showers you can use with everything you need. No tattoos. The rule has gotten slightly relaxed these days and you can sometimes get away if the tattoo is discrete but it is still seriously enforced. Why? Because tattoos are associated with gangstas. The Japanese yakuza are known to have elaborate tattoos all over their bodies. They weren’t allowed in onsen because customers would be scared off, ruining business for ryokans and onsen owners.
The picture above is a private onsen on the roof terrace which each guest picks a time to go in. Great view of the mountains.
The second was another private onsen located on the balcony attached to my room. Panoramic view of mountains town of Hakone-Yumoto. I found myself staying here most of the time.
Another option to bathe in was the public onsen with various types (waterfall bath, jet bath, cold bath, outside bath. ) and a sauna room.
A shot of the bath outside.
Picture of lobby and dining area. Food was great of course.
You aren’t allowed to bring cameras into public hot springs, and even if I snuck one in, I think the lens would’ve fogged. These pictures of Aura Tachibana are from their website HERE.
Everything else taken by Made with Japan.
Aura Tachibana 574 Yumoto Hakone machi Ashigara shimo-gun Kanagawa Japan 250-0311 Tel: (81)460-85-5541
To be continued…
Tags: Aura Tachibana, Fall 2010, Hakone, hot spring, japanese ryokan, made with japan, onsen, photo diary, Photography, あうら橘, 写真, 旅館, 温泉, 箱根