After four days in Tokyo, I was ready to get out of the city. The funny thing is that I grew up in a rural town always yearning for "anywhere but here". I always wanted to leave and would drive my puttering mint green Honda hatchback (r.i.p.) out of town. But now that I'm older, I yearn for the country and wide open spaces.
[Top: Fisherman on Lake Ashi. Bottom: Cedar Lane]
Hakone was next on our trip, and it was beautiful. It is just about an hour outside Tokyo, clothed in cedar trees, fog, and dotted with hot springs, or onsen. We stayed at the very romantic Setsugetsuka, a ryokan, which is like a Japanese bed and breakfast. We chose it because of its onsen, its extremely close proximity to the train station (we walked maybe 50 steps and we were at the front entrance,) and the staff's ability to speak English. I'm so glad we chose it, as this was my favorite part of our honeymoon.
Upon arrival, we were pleasantly surprised that we were given a top floor room with a fantastic view. On the table, we found this card next to a pot of green tea:
["Congaldlations!! I hope you'll have a good time in Hakone, to your marriage."--not bad! I thought it was really sweet they wrote it in English. We were also assigned a special server at dinner who could speak English to us. They took one look at the way I wrote my name on the reservation card, and then looked up and said "please, right this way."]
[The view from our room's patio]
[Our patio had a small tub we could fill with bath water. There was also an outdoor shower so you could clean yourself before entering the room again.]
[We're lucky we're the size of the average Japanese person, because the tub was just big enough for the two of us!]
The ryokan also had several options to enjoy the hot springs on the grounds. There were two public bath houses, one for men and one for women, and three private onsen. We tried one of the private onsen, and I was surprised by how hot the water was. I had read about it beforehand, but I wasn't really prepared by how difficult it was for me to soak--this water was HOT.
Nevertheless, it was quite beautiful to be soaking in the tub, surrounded by trees, underneath a bed of stars with only the sound of crickets in the background.
Some onsen guidelines:
+The hot springs are not meant to be for cleaning, therefore bathers should shower and be clean before entering.
+Bathing suits are generally not allowed, so strip down!
+Like I said, it's HOT! To help transition your body, pour some of the water on yourself before very slowly entering.
+Lie back and relax.
[Little baskets with towels and socks for any onsen excursions]
[Each private onsen had a lock, and once one was occupied, a little light would go in the corresponding bird house.]
[The private onsen we soaked in was surrounded by cedar trees and had a small changing area with a table and hooks. There was also a wooden bench for resting.]
[Our stay included a kaiseki dinner at night, and this gargantuan breakfast in the morning, so not only were we super clean from all the bathing, we were also properly fed!]
[The grounds also had these two rabbits. I don't know what the sign says (anyone read Japanese?) but this is a popular honeymoon resort so my guess is that they symbolize good fortune for baby making, seeing as how they are rabbits and all.]
Hakone and Setsugetsuka exceeded my expectations and I was sad to leave. If you're planning your honeymoon to Japan, you must come here. Please say hi to the bunnies for me.