Tokyo to Hakone

10 February 2013

Sunday


Hakone 1

I took little side trip outside Tokyo to the hot springs (onsen) resort area of Hakone. It is a holiday weekend in Japan, and Hakone is one of the closest resort areas to Tokyo, so the little train station at Hakone was thronged with visitors. Also, the narrow streets of Hakone were so packed with people it was difficult to walk in the town. I was the only Westerner present in this crowd.

Hakone 2

Nevertheless, it was worth it to brave this resort town on a holiday weekend, as the Japanese bath experience is one of the great civilized pleasures that the world has to offer (apparently like getting a shave and a haircut in Turkey, which I once read about in a Wall Street Journal article).

Hakone 3

The Tenseien Hotel is large, and has all the facilities one would expect from a spa hotel in a Western country — hot bath, cold bath, wet sauna, and dry sauna — and more as well. The facilities are sex segregated, and everyone goes naked inside the bathing facilities. The sixth floor is given over to the women’s bath area, and the seventh floor was given over to the men’s bath area. In addition to the facilities enumerated above, there are large outdoor pools where one can recline in the natural hot spring waters while looking up at the stars through the rising steam. These outside tubs are constructed of stones to give the appearance of a natural outdoor bath. Jets are placed in a few areas so that one can enjoy the equivalent of a jacuzzi.

Hakone 4

For an onsen hotel, Tenseien is large, and the dining room is quite large to accommodate all the guests, who are served dinner and breakfast buffet style (which the Japanese, I was astonished to learn, call “Viking style” — presumably a reference to the Scandinavian smorgasbord dining experience). Nevertheless, there was plenty of food for everyone. And again, in the hotel and in the baths, I was the only Westerner present. This doesn’t have to be a problem, even if you don’t speak the language. Just watch what others do, and follow their lead. But by all means, next time you’re in Japan, do yourself a favor and go to an onsen — even the humblest among them are well worth the time.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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One Response to “Tokyo to Hakone”

  1. Асад (Why is my name Assad, and not the old one?) said

    Lol, you travel everywhere.

    Can’t remmeber my old username, I’m sure you remember me 🙂

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