If you find yourself in the magical, stunningly beautiful area of Hakone (West of Tokyo – 1 hour 45 minutes from Shinjuku Station via the Odawara Line and the Hakone Tozan Line) and are in need of a place to stay, topping your list should be Fuji-Hakone Guest House. When I visited Hakone in 2014, The Fuji-Hakone Guest House was one of the best parts of the trip and I can’t wait to go back there.
Located in the resort town Sengokuhara, which is in the Hakone National Park, the Guest House is ranked as the best B&B in Hakone-Machi by the TripAdvisor website. It has been favourably reviewed in several guide books, including Frommer’s Travel Guide Book, Lonely Plant and Fodor’s Travel Guide Book, as well as by independent reviewers. For more reviews, you can check out the Fuji-Hakone website which has almost 800 comments on its review page.
So what makes the Guest House so great? Well, first of all, it’s easily accessible for tourists – whether you are local or foreign. The website is available in Japanese or English, and there is extra information available in both French and Chinese, making it really easy for people of different nationalities to make a booking. The staff speak excellent English, and within the hostel there are maps, guide books and posters that are in English as well as Japanese.
The rooms are competitively priced – not the best choice for someone who is travelling on a tight budget, but if you want to splash out a little more than normal for something luxurious, you will be getting far more than you pay for. Single room rates are 5,000 – 6,000 Yen per night, double rooms are 10,000 – 12,000 Yen per night and the triple rooms go for 15,000 – 18,000 Yen per night. There is an extra surcharge during weekends and holiday times, but despite the increase in price, the hotel is in popular demand, so make sure you book early to avoid being disappointed. The rooms are decorated in the Japanese style – tatami mats on the floor, comfy futon beds, and other simple furnitures, such as a low table and a TV. The rooms do not have bathrooms, but there are communal toilets and washing rooms indoors.
Without doubts, the best part of the Guest House is the natural hot spring. The indoor hot spring is included in the price of the room rental – you can book a slot to use the spring for 30 minutes once a day, free of charge. The geothermally heated water in the onsen originates from the Owakudani Volcano. It is rich in minerals with an overpowering smell – if it’s your first time to use an onsen (like it was for me!) make sure to drink plenty of cold water and take a cold shower if you feel light-headed. As well as the indoor onsen, there is an outdoor pool which you can rent for 500 Yen. This onsen is very picturesque – you can enjoy the healthy experience of bathing while surveying the surrounding cherry blossom trees and mountains beyond.
Also in the guest house is a communal lounge where you can make yourself a cup of green tea and enjoy the company of other guests – it’s not uncommon for the lounge to be full of yukata-clad patrons, so don’t be embarrassed to go out in your ‘pyjamas’ – treat it as your home. Other communal amenities include a microwave, fridge and tourist information section.
In the local area, there are countless walks and hikes for you to enjoy, with maps and information provided by the guest house. There are at least 8 museums nearby, and lots of restaurants that come recommended the guest house staff – just ask them to pick their favourite from the list. If you’re travelling a lot in the area, don’t forget to look into the Hakone Free Pass Ticket to make the most of your travel (information available on the Guest House Website).
My stay at the Fuji-Hakone Guest House was one of the best experiences I’ve had in Japan so far. The staff were warm and friendly, and the atmosphere there was so relaxing, it felt like another world. As a writer, I dream of returning to the guest house and spending days just writing and relaxing like a mountain hermit, surrounded by the calming forests, the imposing mountains, and with the faint smell of sulphur on the air to calm my spirit.
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