Hakone is a gorgeous mountainous town in Kanagawa prefecture, known for its Shinto shrine with the famous red gate overlooking Lake Ashi, and its various hot springs.
Perhaps one of the most frequently visited of these springs is Hakone Yunessun Spa; reachable via the Hakonemachi line bus directly from Otemachi Station. The bus will pull up directly to the door!
Psst: if you’re planning to travel around Hakone – which you should definitely do; Hakone Shrine is not to be missed – consider buying a Hakone Freepass! It covers a round trip from Shinjuku Station to Otemachi plus all your train and bus travel within Hakone!
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
So what makes Yunessun different to other hot spring spas? Well, as well as the beautiful naturally occurring ones located outside – the mountainous views are breathtaking, by the way – there’s a bunch of unique ones inside too…. Have you ever wanted to have a bath in wine? Here’s your chance!
As well as wine, you can also take a dip in green tea, sake, coffee, and chocolate. At certain times of the day, they also make a show out of pouring freshly brewed coffee or chocolate into the baths.
No need to worry about going home smelling like a coffee shop – the baths are diluted enough to keep you clean (and sober!), but still strong enough for you to smell them! It’s hard to guarantee that there’s any health benefit to taking a dip in various drinks; but it’s definitely a fun and unique experience.
If you want to inject a bit of excitement into your relaxation, there’s also a water slide outside that will take you directly into one of the hot springs! Though water slides are fun all year around, definitely try having a go in the Winter.
There’s something liberating about sliding down an outdoor waterslide in the freezing January air, wearing just your swimsuit. You don’t feel the cold at all because of the heat of the hot springs, which makes it a huge surprise when you slip on the frozen ground upon getting out of the warm pool.
Though the spa does have a food court, something feels wrong about getting curry then going for a dip. Luckily, two stops away on the very same bus line that brought you to Yunessun is Hakone Kappei; a small, traditional sushi restaurant.
Get off the bus at Ninotaira Iriguchi and huge plates of delicious sushi is just a short walk away. You can order singular servings of all your favourite maki and nigiri, or platters of various kinds of sushi. The platters are very generous in their portion sizes; but Hakone Kappei’s sushi is so yummy that before you know it you’ll have wolfed them all down.
They have an English menu, and if you’re a vegetarian, all the dishes that you can eat are marked with a little yellow sticker – plus, if you mention this to the owners, they’ll be happy to recommend you something! One of the mixed platters is delicious and vegetarian, comprising cucumber rolls, dried gourd rolls, and burdock rolls.
The highlight of their menu, however, is their speciality inari. Inari sushi is rice, wrapped in deep-fried, seasoned tofu. It is delicious as well as abundant and can be found in any of Japan’s sushi restaurants.
Hakone Kappei, however, adds a twist to theirs. When you order inari, you are given 6 rolls. 3 of them marry together both the rice and the sweet tofu with the rich, savoury flavour of black sesame seeds, studded throughout the roll like tiny gems. The other 3 have the added crunch and sourness of lotus root seasoned with vinegar.
You’ll never look at inari in the same way again.
Header image via @amebeverly