If you ask me where my favourite place on earth would be….my answer would be Hakone.
Situated an hour and a half west of Tokyo, and easily accessible by shinkansen (bullet) trains from both Kyoto and Tokyo. This idyllic location is lakeside and in the shadow of Mt Fuji, making it a perfect location for a weekend away. The area is known for its picturesque natural surrounds, and for its hot springs to which draws many visitors (myself included).
I stayed at the Prince Hanoke hotel. I had only intended to stay two nights, but ended up staying three whilst wishing I could stay forever. I chose this hotel without reading any reviews but put my faith in the branding of the Prince hotels. I had stayed in their Shinjuku hotel, and was not disappointed by this hotel.
Hanoke is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been too. The hotel is situated on the banks of Lake Ashi. A still lake on one side, and lush forests and mountains on the other surround you. There are plenty of activities within the complex, including an aquarium, a zoo, shops and diners that open for breakfast and lunch.
There is a complimentary bus which runs to and from Odawara station three times a day, which makes getting to the hotel simple. Within the complex there is a bus station, the Mount Komagatake ropeway and a pier from which ferry boats leave, meaning that it is a great place to use as a base whilst exploring the local area. I must however mention that after 4.30 transport in Hanoke becomes difficult as all attractions close and the place ‘shuts down’.
Yes the hotel is outdated but I found it to be rather grand and charming. There is a long lobby hall with free wifi to relax and enjoy. One night during my stay there was a thick fog that descended from the mountain. It felt like I was in a murder mystery film- a remote luxury grand old hotel surrounded by fog. It was magical. The hotel is designed around two circular buildings, so that all the rooms have amazing views over the forest or lake. There are so many winding staircases- it’s a fun place to explore. There is a store selling souvenirs, snacks and alcohol which is great considering there are no stores located nearby that are open at night.
I enjoyed a treatment at the spa one evening, which was blissful. I highly recommend the facial and massage package. The onsite onsen overlooking the lake was another brilliant addition to the hotel. It was beautiful to go bathing in the moonlight. On a clear day you can see Mt Fuji whilst bathing.
I stayed in a twin room facing the forest. It was by far the largest room I stayed in whilst in Japan. It would have been two or three times bigger than any other. The main room was spacious. The two beds were large and very comfortable.
The room also features a sitting area with chairs and coffee table, a desk, a large TV and a well stocked mini bar. The bathroom was standard size but spotless. What was surprising was that there was a powder room area separate to the bathroom. It meant having space to unpack and to dress. I also loved the balcony with seating.
Food options at the hotel were often limited or expensive. I experienced the following:
Breakfast- I enjoyed a buffet breakfast one morning in the French restaurant. It has excellent selection of fresh fruit, cereals, toast, pastries, both western & Japanese hot breakfast options. The omelettes made to order were especially good. The coffee was also decent, and they offered a complimentary take-away service. There is a French style patisserie within the shopping complex (within/adjacent to the hotel complex) that served fresh pastries for those not wanting to eat at the hotel. The apple danish was delicious.
Lunch- I enjoyed meals in the ‘shopping complex’ restaurants, including a delicious pork belly ramen and a curry.
Dinner- Options are much more limited. The hotel has both French and Japanese restaurants. I ate twice at the French and enjoyed both immensely. The meals were delicious, especially the delightful desserts. It also had an impressive wine list. I also enjoyed a room service meal of a club sandwich, which was brought to my room quickly and was a delicious simple meal.
The Prince Hanoke was one of the most delightful places I’ve stayed in Japan. This hotel was by far the best ‘last minute uneducated selection’ that I made on my trip. I would go back and stay in a heartbeat. I highly recommend it for those wishing to have an escape and relax, and for those who would enjoy the old world charm of the hotel.