Y'all know there's nothing I love more than a fun roadtrip/soothing weekend getaway from the city. Tokyoites are so lucky to be less than 2 hours away from the beautiful Mt Fuji and onsen (hot springs) region of Hakone - surrounded by glistening waters, majestic mountains and the freshest seafood, I admit, the hype was real, I truly did not want to leave... ever. 

 The "Ukigumo" infinity onsen/hot springs at  Hakone Kowakien Tenyu

The "Ukigumo" infinity onsen/hot springs at Hakone Kowakien Tenyu

The first thing you gotta do when planning a Hakone getaway is to choose your home base (i.e. after researching a million onsen/hot springs establishments, which one you finally want to stay at... it's a hard choice, I know. First World Problems can be a struggle, people, but I know you can do it). For us, we went with Hakone Kowakien Tenyu for several reasons 1) Their infinity hot springs 2) An almost brand new property at less than a year old 3) Location - deep within the mountains for that much needed serenity but also just a short bus ride (the bus stop is right by the hotel property) from Gora station where you can take the Hakone Tozan cable car to get to the Hakone Ropeway for the Lake Ashi/Mt Fuji sightseeing, while also being very close to the Hakone Open Air Museum, Gora Park, and Chisuji Falls 4) Every room has a private bath on the balcony for the more shy members of your party 5) The in-house restaurant had really great reviews (because food at a spa is always a bit of toss up) and you want to stay at a place where the food is good because staying up by the mountains in Hakone is kinda remote and you're not going to be wandering around in the dark in the forest looking for a restaurant, y'know? And last but not least, the price point was surprisingly modest for this type of destination (about 33,000 yen/guest including full breakfast and dinner, and access to the various hot springs on the property).

 The "Kurumazawa" waterfall hot springs at  Hakone Kowakien Tenyu

The "Kurumazawa" waterfall hot springs at Hakone Kowakien Tenyu

 One of the indoor hot springs (with various temps) at  Hakone Kowakien Tenyu

One of the indoor hot springs (with various temps) at Hakone Kowakien Tenyu

 Our "Superior Room with Open-Air Bath" at  Hakone Kowakien Tenyu

Our "Superior Room with Open-Air Bath" at Hakone Kowakien Tenyu

You have a choice between a forest view or a mountain view when booking the Superior Room at Tenyu. We went for the mountain view, obviously. The main event for me, other than the hot springs, was to see as much of the mountains as possible.

 The private bath on the balcony which pours hot springs water is a nice treat when you don't feel like wearing your birthday suit in public

The private bath on the balcony which pours hot springs water is a nice treat when you don't feel like wearing your birthday suit in public

Once you've decided where you're going to stay, I highly recommend planning ahead and buying a Limited Express Romancecar train ticket (to be used in conjunction with your 2-day Hakone Free Pass). This is how it works - the Limited Express Romancecar supplement ticket can ONLY be purchased online. If you want an observation deck seat, which is what we did (see video above), you can buy your ticket exactly one month prior to the date that you want to take the train (the line opens at 10am Japan time and you have a few minutes to buy your ticket before it sells out, which it does). This ticket is only valid when used in conjunction with a regular Shinjuku to Hakone train ticket (i.e. our Hakone Free Pass). Then, when you are in Japan, you can buy the Hakone Free Pass (you cannot buy these online) which covers your regular roundtrip fare from Shinjuku to Hakone and local transportation including the Hakone buses, trains, ropeway, cable car, and sightseeing cruise. Got it? 

 Odawara Castle

Odawara Castle

An old friend of mine from my MTV days, Meri, lives in Odawara (the town next to Hakone) so we got off the train a stop early and was picked up by Meri who took us around her lovely hometown.

 Views from the top of the Odawara Castle

Views from the top of the Odawara Castle

 Koi!

Koi!

 Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine

 Odawara Fishing Port

Odawara Fishing Port

 From inside the Odawara Fish Market

From inside the Odawara Fish Market

Meri took us inside the Odawara fish market, which had closed up shop for the day, for lunch. The top floor houses a very low-key, no frills restaurant where fishermen and locals come to eat in between working. Really, only locals come here so don't expect anyone to speak English... but do expect the freshest fish and seafood (it was literally caught the morning-of just steps away from the restaurant) at incredibly affordable prices.

 First, select the meal you want and pay for it. A number will come out.

First, select the meal you want and pay for it. A number will come out.

Some of the buttons on the ticket machine have pictures of the food. which is helpful if you can't read Japanese. The options we ordered didn't have pictures, so TGFM (Thank God for Meri).

 Receipts with your number. Wait for your number to be called.

Receipts with your number. Wait for your number to be called.

 The pros in action

The pros in action

 Yellowtail and tuna sashimi. Melt in yo mouth.

Yellowtail and tuna sashimi. Melt in yo mouth.

 Various catch of the day fish and shrimp tempura

Various catch of the day fish and shrimp tempura

 Red sea bream in sweet miso soy sauce. Also S/O to that incredible seafood broth in the back.

Red sea bream in sweet miso soy sauce. Also S/O to that incredible seafood broth in the back.

Meri was telling us how this meal, which cost us about $20 each (insane, right?!) would have cost $50, for the fish alone, in Tokyo. Eating right from the source has its perks.

 The aftermath. 

The aftermath. 

 Odawara Fishing Port

Odawara Fishing Port

 Hi Meri! Also, hi Hakone Shrine behind us.

Hi Meri! Also, hi Hakone Shrine behind us.

 Hakone Shrine

Hakone Shrine

 Feeling that golden hour glow at Hakone Shrine with Mama and Papa Chiu

Feeling that golden hour glow at Hakone Shrine with Mama and Papa Chiu

 Caught some early cherry blossom blooms on our drive around Odawara

Caught some early cherry blossom blooms on our drive around Odawara

 prettypretty

prettypretty

 At Hakone Machi Port

At Hakone Machi Port

 Getting onsen ready. Every room at Tenyu is outfitted with kimono robes, linen PJs, and indoor and outdoor slippers.

Getting onsen ready. Every room at Tenyu is outfitted with kimono robes, linen PJs, and indoor and outdoor slippers.

 Also, special socks for your slippers

Also, special socks for your slippers

 The infinity hot springs at sunset

The infinity hot springs at sunset

 Ten-yu Restaurant

Ten-yu Restaurant

 Our dinner for the evening. Enjoy the translations :)

Our dinner for the evening. Enjoy the translations :)

  Chateau Mercian 's Koshu Gris de Gris from the Nagano region

Chateau Mercian's Koshu Gris de Gris from the Nagano region

 Shrimp broth

Shrimp broth

 Sashimi platter getting ready for its dry ice show

Sashimi platter getting ready for its dry ice show

 Cue dry ice effect

Cue dry ice effect

 Grilled red sea bream

Grilled red sea bream

 Grilled Matsusaka beef

Grilled Matsusaka beef

To take full advantage of the last day, a sunrise private hot springs bath is pretty spectacular.

 Breakfast menu at Tenyu Restaurant

Breakfast menu at Tenyu Restaurant

 Western breakfast spread with a view

Western breakfast spread with a view

There's a choice between a Western or Japanese breakfast. I'm one of those people who can't really stomach fish early in the morning, so the option was nice to have... the personal bread basket for one (yes, all of that was for just for me) was also nice. I LOVE BREAAAD!

 Matcha and squid ink toasts with various pastries and croissants

Matcha and squid ink toasts with various pastries and croissants

 Japanese breakfast spread 

Japanese breakfast spread 

 On the Hakone Ropeway with the star attraction

On the Hakone Ropeway with the star attraction

Mountain weather is very unpredictable and I knew that going in that it was not a guarantee that we'd see Mt Fuji. But I was hopeful... and I guess the secret (or the law of attraction, or the power of now, or whatever) worked because guess what, the sun and clear skies came to represent and we were seeing Mt Fuji all over the place... and I have thousands of pictures of it to prove it.

 There it is! Fuji-saaaaan

There it is! Fuji-saaaaan

 Owakudani

Owakudani

Along the Ropeway, you can stop off at Owakudani - a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs. The famed black eggs (when you boil eggs in the sulphur hot springs, they become black) can be found here. Legend says if you eat a black egg, you extend your life for seven years.

 I think this was the Motohakone port... or the Hakonemachi port?

I think this was the Motohakone port... or the Hakonemachi port?

 Hakone Sightseeing Cruising all over Lake Ashi

Hakone Sightseeing Cruising all over Lake Ashi

 Doesn't get old. What a beaut.

Doesn't get old. What a beaut.

 We had lunch here at Motohakone

We had lunch here at Motohakone

 Pork cutlets with rice and soba

Pork cutlets with rice and soba

 Shrimp and veg tempura and soba

Shrimp and veg tempura and soba

 Hakone is known for soba noodles. Look at that buckwheat beauty.

Hakone is known for soba noodles. Look at that buckwheat beauty.

It takes like 20minutes to walk the entire port area where we had lunch so we had a very leisurely stroll and popped into all the small shops and boutiques.

The woodworking craft of yosegi-zaiku, established in Hakone, is so incredible. Tiny intricate pieces of wood meticulously formed together, creating one of a kind pieces.

 The craftsman of the above pieces 

The craftsman of the above pieces 

 The work of Ken Ota was featured at Tenyu

The work of Ken Ota was featured at Tenyu

 Gora Park at almost sunset

Gora Park at almost sunset

 A little treat at Tenyu Bar & Lounge

A little treat at Tenyu Bar & Lounge

 Tenyu Bar & Lounge

Tenyu Bar & Lounge

After contemplating staying another night, we ended up going back to Tenyu to grab our bags and a few refreshing beverages before buegrudeoningly hitting the long road back to Tokyo. I don't want to make the rest of Japan jealous but between you and me, Hakone was an almost head to head with Kyoto as one of my favorite Japan stops.

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