‘The premier Hot Spring Ryokan in Hakone, Japan’
A recent confession to a long-standing Japanese friend that I had never, in over 25 years of frequent visits and extended stays in Japan, been to Hakone, provided the ideal opportunity to introduce us to one of Japan’s perfect experiences. Part of the Fuji-Hakone National Park and in the grounds of a former Imperial summer villa is the Japanese ryokan Gora Kadan, the embodiment of all that is so seductive of Japanese design, culture and hospitality.
Situated on the side of a hill, the grace and style of the architecture is complemented by a quietly stunning garden, visible in teasing vignettes from any window or viewing point. Guest rooms trail down the hilllside from the spacious entrance with its subtly discreet reception desk. Horizontal and vertical richly patinated timber beams form a harmonious mosaic perfectly positioned to camouflage the practical and enhance one’s sense of being transported to an entirely different world. The perfection of Japanese design speaks not only to the eye but to the soul. There is a respectful and sensitive mastery of space and material that nurtures spiritual harmony and restful enjoyment.
This richness of space and landscape continues along a sweeping corridor to the inn’s facilities- hot spring baths, inside and outside; indoor swimming pool; Jacuzzi; gym; karaoke bar; coffee lounge; massage and many other facilities (none of which were enough to pull us away from the hot springs!). The moon viewing platform is partner to a weeping cherry, stairs lead to a pond with red Koi, or a manicured stone garden, to small bamboo forests and waterfalls.
Our room was a traditional Japanese tatami room with a large outdoor balcony and the added luxury of a wooden Japanese bath in a room with doors open to the mountainside. Although we didn’t see Mt Fuji, the low mist over the pines was indescribably beautiful. For those who aren’t fans of futon, there are rooms with Western beds.
Dinner was a traditional kaiseki meal, shared with friends in a separate dining room, but available in one’s room if desired. Seasonal ingredients and the time-honoured aesthetic presentation of the meal on an array of carefully selected dishes was almost outdone by breakfast served in our room the following morning. Locally hand-made tofu served from a huge pottery dish and individual charcoal burners hidden in a wooden box to keep the nori crisp are some of the small touches that distinguish Gora Kadan as a perfect retreat. Staff are exceptional, English spoken by many.
A member of the French Relais & Châteaux association, famous for superior service standards and first class accommodation, since 1981, Gora Kadan surpassed all our expectations. Piggy banks are being raided as we prepare for our next visit…at least two nights!