Just a short ride away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Hakone is a popular destination to recharge and completely immerse oneself in the surrounding nature. I booked a trip to Gôra Kadan, known for its hot springs (onsen) and gorgeous views of Mount Fuji, for a weekend escape.
Nested in the mountains with an elegant mix of traditional Japanese and modern design elements, Gôra Kadan was once a retreat for the imperial family. This luxurious ryokan has two public baths, a separate outdoor family bath, a swimming pool, a kaiseki restaurant, and a lounge with a sweeping view of the valley.
My lovely room attendant, Emi, helped me settled into my tatami room and change into my yukata (robe). At this moment, I let out a big, relaxed sigh and felt ready to disconnect and recharge here.
I love the ritual of the onsen; from putting on the yukata, socks, and sandals, with a bamboo basket for personal affairs, to washing yourself on a little stool before getting into the public onsen. To me, the Japanese culture has mastered the art of enjoying these simple rituals.
As I thought about looking into nearby hikes, the rain started to pour down. I took that as an excuse to stay in and have a soak. It was quite serene to enjoy the hot bath while listening to the rain outdoors.
Kaiseki is a gastronomic, multi-course meal considered an art form that balances tastes, texture, and appearance with a focus on seasonal ingredients. As a perfect wind-down, the meal is served in my accommodations, in the tatami living room.
The meal started with a soft, delicate appetizer of green pea tofu, uni, cherry tomato, white asparagus, dashi broth jelly, and wasabi. It was followed by a tray of multiple hors d’oeuvres: grilled scabbard sushi, cooked ginger with sugar, myoga, simmered green peas with burdock, sesame, kogomi mountain vegetables, deep-fried tofu in tofu paste, goji berry, deep-fried fava beans, and a Japanese omelet, simmered sweet potato, and lemon.
Then a clear soup with shrimp dumplings, vegetables, and Japanese pepper leaf bud to cleanse the palate before the next course. The freshest plate of the catch of the day sashimi was then served with soy sauce and wasabi.
Cooked dishes followed with a grilled masu trout marinated with saikyuo-miso, cooked butterbur stem with soy sauce, stick ginger. A small simmered dish of taro potato, pumpkin, eggplant, octopus, okra, and yuzu citrus came in between the main dishes.
Then the luxurious grilled Wagyu filet beef arrived, with kudzu powder, abalone mushroom, Brussel sprout, corn, and horseradish, with a side bowl of ginger rice. Every dish was prepared exquisitely, highlighting the quality of the regional products.
Needless to say, after a day of relaxation in the onsen and the wonderful meal, I slept like a baby. I took a final dip in the onsen, enjoyed the Japanese breakfast, and headed back to Tokyo, refreshed.