A ryokan where you will want to return again and again to be surrounded by nature and sincerity 【KAISEKI AUBERGE and SPA Resort HAKONE GORA BYAKUDAN】
～Surrender your mind to the elegant and calming fragrance and experience a return to your true self～
Located in the quiet mountains of Hakone Gora, 【KAISEKI AUBERGE and SPA Resort HAKONE GORA BYAKUDAN】 is surrounded by the elegant and graceful fragrance of sandalwood. With the main concept of "as if listening to the scent of BYAKUDAN," we thoroughly consider creating an environment and providing services where guests can relax 100% within the facility. We are here to assist each customer in finding their own personal healing time. This time, we interviewed Mr. Koichi Negami, the manager, to hear about the concept and commitment behind " KAISEKI AUBERGE and SPA Resort HAKONE GORA BYAKUDAN."
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●KAISEKI AUBERGE and SPA Resort HAKONE GORA BYAKUDAN Concept
- The concept of this ryokan is described as "as if listening to the scent of BYAKUDAN." Could you please provide us with more detailed information about it?
Sandalwood is one of the three most pleasantly fragrant woods in the world. It is called sandalwood in English, is native to India, and is used to make perfume. It has a fresh, sweet fragrance and a quiet calming effect on the mind, as well as immune-boosting and antibacterial effects. It is the kind of incense that gently regulates the body and calms the mind. The name of the ryokan was chosen for this fragrant tree because we want to offer our guests the same experience and sensation of the benefits of sandalwood during their stay. As well as enjoying the fragrance of sandalwood in the ryokan, guests can truly relax through the hot springs pumped up on the premises, the cuisine made from carefully selected seasonal ingredients, and, above all, the sincere hospitality of the staff. The concept of the ryokan is to help guests thoroughly release their stress and heal. Japan has long had a traditional culture called 'Kodo'. It is called 'bunko', which means cooking incense to calm the mind and enjoy its fragrance. At the ryokan, sandalwood incense is cooked to welcome guests at the entrance, and safe electric incense burners are provided for room amenities so that guests can enjoy the scent of sandalwood. There are various types of sandalwood incense, including rich and fresh scents, so we offer different incense at check-in and in the morning to provide a variety of scents for guests to enjoy during their stay.
-Is it also a feature of this ryokan that you can enjoy nature in various places throughout the building, right?
The ryokan is in the deciduous forest of Gora, Hakone, and was designed to take full advantage of the borrowed scenery. The building was fully renovated and opened in July 2016, with a mix of natural and modern Japanese styles with architecture that takes advantage of the nature that was originally there. In keeping with the concept based on the scent of sandalwood, which quietly calms the mind, we value the elegance and transparency that harmonize with the natural beauty of Hakone's Gora.
The lobby offers panoramic views of the Hakone Mountain range and Sagami Bay through large glass windows. All of the surrounding hillsides of approximately 3,700 tsubo (about 1,760 square meters) are our own property, so there will be no loss of scenery in the future. The deciduous forests are mainly colored with autumn leaves, so you can look down on fields of bright red leaves in the fall.
Japan has four varied seasons, and there are many events tied to the changing of the seasons. In order for guests to enjoy the seasons during their stay, for example, we place insect cages in the darkness of the entrance to enjoy the sound of chirping bell bugs during the bell bug season or arrange hydrangeas throughout the lobby during the hydrangea season, creating a situation where a seasonal theme is developed within the ryokan at each time of year.
Although not a production inside the Ryokan, there are also various nature performances outside the Ryokan each season. For example, when the chirping of the brown-eared bulbul begins around July, the entire facility is enveloped in a chorus of them in the evening. It is a fantastic moment that cannot be found in the city.
●KAISEKI AUBERGE and SPA Resort HAKONE GORA BYAKUDAN Points of particular interest
- What is the primary focus or key point of "Byakudan"?
There is the incorporation of nature, refined kaiseki cuisine, and a high-quality private hot spring, but the most important thing is the care and hospitality of the staff. Our staff members are committed to providing service that exceeds customer expectations by maintaining a moderate distance from each customer, considering each customer’s situation, and quickly offering a helping hand when needed. We always want to recreate a place where customers can easily enter into the concept of "Byakudan" and be healed by enjoying an extraordinary experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet still want to come back again and again. Many customers who share this desire of our on-site staff keep returning repeatedly.
- The hot springs sourced on-site are also a major attraction, aren't they?
There is a source tower on the premises, and the spring water is pumped up from 480 meters underground. It is one of the most golden-colored hot springs in Gora, and is a high-temperature, slightly alkaline sodium chloride spring with a high concentration of constituents. It is said to be effective for skin smoothing, joint pain, bruises, sprains, sensitivity to colds, women's diseases, and chronic digestive disorders.
All of the baths at the ryokan, including the large public baths and the open-air baths in guest rooms, are free-flowing hot-spring water, which is never circulated. The hot spring water is 80-90 degrees Celsius, so it is watered with Gora's underground water from a well on the premises to lower the water temperature, but I think it is a great feature that the entire building provides hot water that is not circulated. We have gained a reputation for providing safe, high-quality, fresh hot spring water for bathing enjoyment.
The large bathroom was renovated in December 2021. In the half-open-air bath, guests can enjoy the hot spring water from the source in a large bathtub with a beautiful borrowed view of the garden. It can be a bit cold except in summer, so we recommend that you bathe after warming up once in your room, but we think it is exceptional to bathe while enjoying the fantastic panoramic view of the grand borrowed scenery.
- Are there any specific points you focus on when it comes to food and beverages?
Byakudan offers authentic kaiseki cuisine that allows diners to enjoy the four seasons. About 30% of the ingredients come from Kanagawa, our hometown, and 70% are imported from all over Japan.
As for the beverages, we have a wide selection of Japanese sake, including local sake from Kanagawa and other rare sakes from all over Japan. Our wines are also basically made in Japan. We have wines from Yamanashi, Hokkaido, Iwate, Kyoto, and many other regions, but to avoid disturbing the delicate broth of kaiseki, we avoid oak-brewed wines with a strong oak smell and stick to a lineup of only stainless steel-brewed wines. All soft drinks are also basically organic. Since the focus of the meal is the food and the drinks play a supporting role in the enjoyment of the food, we carefully select beverages that complement the food.
- There are a total of 16 rooms. What kind of rooms are they?
The guest rooms are named after the lyrics of "Hakone Hakoli," and there are 6 two-room type rooms (total area 110 m2 to 65 m2) and 10 one-room type rooms (total area 50 m2 to 35 m2). Each room has a different view to enjoy, but all rooms have a large open-air bath with free-flowing spring water and a deck with a view.
While most of the open-air baths in guest rooms are small, our guest room open-air baths are spacious enough for two or more people to enjoy in comfort. The view deck is also spacious enough to lay out a yoga mat. The size of the open-air baths and decks in the guest rooms is what sets them apart from other ryokans. The guest rooms, like the building itself, are designed to allow guests to fully enjoy the natural surroundings outside.
The windows are large enough to let nature in, and the furniture is arranged in translucent pieces, such as rattan chairs by a famous modern Japanese designer, so that nature can be seen through the windows and furniture, and the view of the guests is kept as unobstructed as possible.
●KAISEKI AUBERGE and SPA Resort HAKONE GORA BYAKUDAN Recommended ways to spend here
- Please tell me your recommended accommodation plan.
We don't often tell customers, "This is how you should spend your time. Although we sometimes guide guests from overseas who are staying for consecutive nights to nearby sightseeing spots, we try to keep them focused on spending their time in the ryokan in a relaxed and thoughtful manner. Therefore, the plan is basically only a standard plan that includes two kaiseki meals (dinner and breakfast).
Each room has a spacious deck space, so you can enjoy the view of the majestic smoky spring tower and the Hakone mountains in the distance from the deck, or you can do yoga on the yoga mat provided and take an open-air bath in your room.
In the lobby of the teahouse, where you can enjoy a great borrowed view, you can enjoy free coffee, tea, etc. during regular hours. After dinner, free drinks including alcoholic beverages are available, so why not relax with a drink in hand while watching the sunset or night view through the glass? Morning champagne (non-alcoholic champagne for those who drive) is served in the lobby in the morning. Enjoy an elegant morning time, surrounded by the morning light streaming into the lobby, while taking in the view of the fresh start of the day.
- I heard that there is also a SPA in the ryokan.
It's "SPA Koudan" where you can receive spiritual treatment sessions. The spa offers Esalen massage treatment, which originated in California, U.S.A. Esalen massage is not a specialized cosmetic type of massage, but rather a wellness type of massage that helps to bring the body and mind back into a more natural state of balance through long strokes and a slower pace. It is a way to slowly adjust the errors of mind and body that have become misaligned due to busy and stressful lives.
This massage can only be performed by those who are certified by the Esalen Association in California. The therapists are highly regarded by our customers, who place their full trust not only in their techniques but also in their personalities.
●KAISEKI AUBERGE and SPA Resort HAKONE GORA BYAKUDAN Official information
Name of ryokan: KAISEKI AUBERGE and SPA Resort HAKONE GORA BYAKUDAN
Address: 1297-5 Ninodaira Hakone-machi Ashigarasimo-gun Kanagawa 250-0407, Japan
TEL：(0460)-87-0010 FAX：(0460)-87-5550 E-mail：[email protected]
Tomei Expressway > Atsugi I.C > Odawara-Atsugi road > Odawara I.C > National Route 1 > Gora Byakudan (about 90km: 90 minutes)
Tokyo/Shinagawa > Shinkansen > Odawara Station > Hakone Tozan railway > Kowakidani Station
Pick-up service available from Kowakidani Station (5 min. by car, Prior reservation required.)
Odawara Station east exit > Izu Hakone Bus (bound for Kojiri and Hakone-en)
> Get off at Midori-no-Mura Iriguchi and walk for 2 min.
■The person we spoke to this time
Mr. Koichi Negami (General Manager)