You cannot visit Hakone and not visit an authentic Japanese hot spring! The area is famous for its plethora of natural onsen, beckoning both Tokyoites and tourists to stop by for a day trip and soak their bodies while also bathing in the magnificent view of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi.
One place that offers all of this and a prime experience of Japanese hospitality on top of it is Ryuguden, a traditional ryokan with its own natural hot spring. Entirely renewed in July 2017, look forward to a stunning building, soothing waters, and excellent cuisine, all geared towards welcoming female guests especially!
Inside Ryuguden's Takogawa Hot Spring: Bathing for Beautiful Skin
Ryuguden boasts an open-air hot spring with an absolutely breathtaking view on Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi, one of the few traditional inns in Hakone that show you both of those natural wonders in one scenery. It was renewed in July 2017 as a day-trip bath, so you can simply stop by for a relaxing soak without having to spend the night. Originally, the traditional building has served as a guesthouse and has now become a registered tangible cultural property of Japan.
The hot spring is filled with the water of the Takogawa Onsen, one of Hakone’s 17 natural hot springs that was discovered last – it’s a mysterious, little-known spring that flows forth from Mount Komagatake. It is particularly popular due to its beautifying effect on the skin. Soaking your body in the hot water will make it wonderfully smooth to the touch.
Ryuguden has its own spacious parking lot, so going by car is a particularly fun way to enjoy the local scenery. There’s also a free shuttle bus from Motohakone that brings you from the major sightseeing areas right to the ryokan. If you’re spending the night in Hakone, do it like the locals and do the full-on sightseeing program on the first day, then treat yourself to hot spring relaxation on the second day. Ryuguden is particularly sought-after for a plan such as this, as the historic building is famous throughout the country.
As soon as you enter, the staff welcomes you warmly in the spacious, open entrance hall.
First of all, you pay the admission fee (1,944 yen for adults, 1,080 yen for elementary school students, 540 yen for children over 3. Children over 12 years old pay an additional 50 yen). Then, you get the key to a locker. Why not rent a yukata (216 yen) and a towel (216 yen for a bath towel, 162 yen for a face towel)? You don’t have to bring anything and come just as you are.
Before you hop into the hot spring water, you need to see the beautiful staircase right behind the entrance. A large chandelier hangs from the 10-meter high ceiling, illuminating the colonnade of the second floor. This traditional staircase is built in the image of wooden mosaic work called Yosegi, a local specialty of Hakone.
This space blends traditional woodcraft with a hint of luxury, imagined in a stunning, authentically Japanese style. The atmosphere surrounding it is calm and nostalgic, making you feel like you’ve slipped through a crack in time. It is said that the building’s status as a registered tangible cultural property revolves around this beautiful staircase. Currently, the second floor is not in use as the stairs are off-limits.
Relax in Full View of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi!
After admiring the staircase, on to the hot spring!
The women’s bath has just been renewed and is all new and shiny! It was expanded to protrude towards Lake Ashi, allowing guests to enjoy the combined scenery of the lake and Mount Fuji from the indoor bath. It is both spacious and looks incredibly fresh and clean, inviting you to forget about time and relax your body thoroughly.
The hot spring water has neither color nor aroma and makes your skin incredibly soft to the touch. The sulfate and chloride spring also features calcium and sodium, said to help against neuralgia, muscle pain, joint pain, and so on. It certainly warms you up right to the core, so if you’re getting too hot, move on to the outdoor spring as that is slightly cooler.
As you open the door to the outdoor bath, Lake Ashi spreads in front of you in a magnificent manner. There are white pleasure boats gliding over the calm water with reflections of green trees and blue skies dancing on the surface. You might just forget the hot spring for a moment and allow yourself to be fully immersed in the sight. If you’re lucky, a white heron might even land on the deck to greet you.
The outdoor hot spring is a scenic infinity bath that creates the illusion of the water being connected with Lake Ashi.
With a scenery like this, the outdoor bath must be the favorite among many visitors. If this is your first time sitting in an infinity bath, prepare for a strange yet fascinating feeling as if you’re sitting in the lake itself.
Enjoy hours of luxury and relaxation with a clear and spectacular view of Mount Fuji as everyday stress and worries melt away in the hot spring water. The evenings are especially beautiful when the sunset dyes the iconic mountain in a rich red color.
With 42 degrees Celsius, the water is slightly hot but not unpleasant, so you won’t have to hurry out after a brief soak but can instead relax inside the water for a long while, taking in the beautiful view.
Next up is the men’s bath. The two indoor baths were originally split between men and women but were refurbished to become a large public bath and an outdoor bath. The indoor bath has 9 shower booths, is wonderfully spacious and boasts a high ceiling, giving it an open feeling despite being in a closed room.
The outdoor bath shares a space with the popular cold baths and a Finnish sauna, so there’s ample opportunity to spend a good long while in the water.
The day of our visit was beautiful, so the air was clear and Mount Fuji well in view. Combining your Japanese hot spring experience with Japan’s most iconic mountain will leave an impression that is sure to stay with you for a lifetime.
Here’s a special recommendation: you can actually see a phenomenon called “Fuji upside-down.” It describes the mountain being mirrored in the water and at Ryuguden, this Fuji upside-down can be seen in the bath itself. Enter carefully at the front left side and sit quietly until the ripples fade – some people don’t even notice. Both the women’s and the men’s outdoor baths feature this little phenomenon, so try it out by all means!
By the way: all baths are free to use if you choose to spend the night at the adjacent “Ryuguden Annex.”
Relaxing in a Japanese Style Room at the End of the Day
Ryuguden has no restrictions as to how long you stay, even if you spend the entire day there. That’s why you don’t have to overdo it with the bathing – take a break every now and then and relax in the resting area.
The female resting area is directly connected to the baths, so you can come and go as you please without hassle. The room is 12.5 x 8 tatami wide and is equipped with a carpet mat, and a rattan table and chairs, making for a comfortable space to relax in. Loaf around a bit, take a nap, do your makeup... Although after a long while in the hot spring, you’ll probably find yourself falling asleep rather quickly!
There’s also a shared resting space in the building, open to both men and women. It’s a large room so you’ll often see entire families spending a relaxing time together there. When the building was still a guesthouse, it is said that famous painters and politicians stayed in this historical room. It’s ideal for couples or larger groups.
Those who’d rather withdraw from the public eye instead should opt for the private rooms. Ryuguden offers four such private rooms of different sizes that can be booked in 2-hour slots (for an extra fee).
The resting spaces still emit an authentic atmosphere of a proper hot spring inn, so even if you don’t stay overnight, you can get a taste of that experience as well. The private rooms are rather popular especially on the weekend, so we recommend making a reservation.
The two public resting areas and the private rooms boast an authentically Japanese interior design, reminiscent of the staircase with the large chandelier and featuring Hakone’s iconic woodwork. Ryuguden lets you taste a traditional and historic side of Japan amidst stunningly beautiful nature.
The rooms also have a pleasant aroma – when we asked the staff about it, we were told that incense was lit every morning. It is that extra mile of service that Japan is so known for, barely noticeable for the guests but still making their stay even more pleasant with small, attentive gestures like that. This is further underlined by the seasonal scenery of Lake Ashi, displayed in front of every window.
Savoring Exquisite Japanese Cuisine at the Hot Spring!
Hot springing actually makes you rather hungry, with all the heat. Thankfully, Ryuguden also has its own dining area called “Fuji” where guests can enjoy a delicious meal in a bright room that was once the banquet hall of the ryokan. We have some special recommendations for you in regard to the abundant menu!
Particularly delicious is the boiled cotton tofu set (2,390 yen). As its name suggests, the main dish is cotton tofu made from a famous spring called hime no mizu (the Princess’ Water), getting its name from the story that a princess from the Kamakura era used this water instead of face lotion in the evening. This tofu is all homemade and it’s said that only 30 pieces are made in a day. If you’re curious about this dish, we recommend coming early.
We went ahead and tried the tofu first. It has a wonderful firmness that is neither too hard nor too soft, falling somewhere in the middle of cotton and silken tofu. It boasts a natural sweetness that seems to melt right on the tongue! Add a little soy sauce or spices to the second bite after trying the natural flavor as it is for a delicious kick. You’ll see, one block of tofu is gone in no time! We also got ourselves some tempura and it is served piping hot! One bowl features two large shrimps and four kinds of vegetables, served with another two small bowls of sides.
This is the tempura and cold soba set (1,950 yen). The two fried shrimps are incredibly crispy on the outside and heavenly soft and juicy on the inside, a real treat after soaking your body in the hot spring! The batter is surprisingly thin, focusing on the natural taste of the ingredient hidden within. A tempura specialty store couldn’t have done it better.
A popular side dish is the takoyaki tempura (650 yen). The classic octopus balls are served with a tempura sauce, spices, and white leek. They can be eaten in one crunchy, flavorful bite – and you’ll be surprised by just how juicy and fluffy the inside is! The octopus pieces hidden in the fried batter are also generously big.
The genius behind this satisfying menu is Susumu Hosoba, chef at the neighboring Ryuguden Annex. That means the quality of the dishes in the dining hall is the same as in the restaurant of the building next door!
“When I create a dish, I approach it with the intention to bring happiness to female diners. A dish needs to look beautiful, everything needs to be coordinated, such as the colors and the bowls,” explains Mr. Hosoba.
After recharging your energies with delicious food, why not go for a last soak in the hot spring one more time before heading back home.
The women-only spa called “Asagao” also features treatments in private rooms, from your face to the entire body. If you’re looking for a proper spa experience, make sure to ask.
Ryuguden boasts a long history, having started as Hamanaka Hotel located on Bentenjima Island in Lake Hamanaka in 1938. The interior was modeled after Byōdō-in’s Phoenix Hall in Uji and the hotel is said to have been quite popular, but it nonetheless closed about 1,5 years after the war. After that, it was moved to the shores of Hakone’s Lake Ashi and reopened as Hakone Prince Hotel Japanese-style Annex “Ryuguden.”
During the Hamanaka Lake era, guests apparently had to get to the hotel via boat and the remains of that entrance can still be seen today. In 1990, the current annex was built next to the main building, which was then turned into a day hot spring with the latest renewal.
Relaxing your entire body in the warm waters of Ryuguden’s natural hot springs while watching pleasure boats calmly drift by on Lake Ashi will make all your worries melt away in the most beautiful, leisurely way. Feast on delicious Japanese cuisine and immerse yourself in the nostalgic atmosphere of the historic building – it’s a hot spring experience like no other.
A day trip to Ryuguden is perfect for everyone who wants a day to relax, be it from unwinding from sightseeing adventures or daily life in nearby Tokyo. It’s healing in all kinds of ways and really just a stone’s throw away – the warm waters beckon!
- Address 139 Motohakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 250-0522
- Phone Number 0460-83-1126
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (last entry at 8:00 p.m.)
Admission: 1,944 yen for adults / 1,080 yen for elementary school children / 540 yen for children 3 and older / children over 12 pay an extra 50 yen.
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