Hakone Tent

 

Prologue

Mention Hakone and images of steaming hot springs, lush natural beauty and views of majestic Mount Fuji across Ashinoko come to mind. The mountain resort draws millions of visitors each year, with many staying in the onsen hotels for a blissful and relaxing escape from the city. For our time in Hakone, we are doing things slightly different by choosing a guesthouse instead. The five-year old Hakone Tent is unique in Gora offering hostel accommodation with the added feature of a natural onsen from the famous Owakudani hot springs, but can it be better than a more expensive ryokan? Join us on our overnight stay here to find out!

 

Location / Accessibility

There are several places within the Hakone vicinity where visitors stay overnight, with the onsen town of Hakone-Yumoto and quieter Gora being the most popular. Hakone Tent is situated in the latter, where the higher elevation brings along beautiful natural surroundings. The hostel itself is a short walk from the station for the mountain railway and cable car, making it extremely convenient for guests travelling the Hakone Round Course. While the neighbourhood was devoid of any nightlife, this translated into very tranquil surroundings for a more authentic experience of the hills.

 

Arrival Experience

 

It was just after ten o’clock when we arrived to a quiet Hakone Tent. At this time of the day the reception desk was completely unmanned and we found ourselves wandering the space before one of the young staff members showed up after fifteen minutes, seemingly surprised at our early arrival. The rooms were not yet ready, so we left our bags and headed out to explore the Hakone Round Course.

 

Returning at night, the atmosphere was decidedly different and the quiet reception had transformed into a lively bar with guests socializing over drinks. We were welcomed enthusiastically by the barman (who doubled as the front desk agent), who introduced the property and explained the house rules before showing us to our room for the night!

 

Guestrooms / Showers

The guesthouse offers several accommodation types housed in separate guestrooms dubbed tents on the second floor of the building.

 

For our stay, we opted for a private room rather than a bed space in the shared dormitory and were assigned one of the larger, triple occupancy tents (although this ended up being more of a paid upgrade). Despite being basic and sparsely furnished with just futons, a small dresser table and coat hooks, the Japanese-style tatami room was very cozy and comfortable to spend the night in. It was already dark by the time we checked-in, but we woke up to an amazing view of the area’s red autumn leaves outside the large windows which served to enhance the season’s comforting vibes.

 

 

To the side of the spacious main room was a hardwood-lined annex, which served as our makeshift luggage storage and packing area.

 

Bathroom facilities are communal and can be found on the first and second floors, more than adequate even at high occupancy. During our time there we never had an issue with having to wait to use the bathroom, which were always kept clean, dry and fresh (which isn’t always the case with guesthouses). Guests are also provided with amenities including liquid soap and electric hairdryers.

 

A section of the large basement had been renovated into Hakone Tent’s shower rooms. Like the rest of the guesthouse, the decor is basic but charming with extensive use of Japanese hardwood interspersed with modern fittings. While only three shower stalls are shared among the guests and staff, availability was never an issue as most guests preferred to use the onsite onsen.

 

Dining

 

Crafted from Japanese hardwood, the beautiful bar counter serves as both the front desk and the centerpiece of the guesthouse’s social space. Offering beer on-tap, spirits and other non-alcoholic beverages, the place is excellent for meeting and interacting with the guests and staff over drinks and pizzas during evening hours into the night, where the atmosphere winds down for us to enjoy the quiet as most guests retire to their tents. Breakfast is also served here in the mornings for an additional fee of JPY500.

 

Towards the back on the first floor is a shared pantry/dining room equipped with basic kitchenette and complimentary coffee-/tea-making facilities where guests may prepare and consume their own food. As part of communal travel etiquette, guests are expected to clean up after themselves when using the communal utensils. Although an unwritten rule, this was respected by our fellow guests and the space was kept spotless throughout our stay.

 

Facilities

 

Hakone Tent is unique among guesthouses for its two private onsens in the basement, a legacy of the property’s previous incarnation as an old Japanese ryokan. The stone bath accommodates up to four guests, while the smaller hinoki (Japanese cypress wood) bath fits two guests. Both draw the sulphur-rich, cloudy water direct from the natural springs of Owakudani nearby, said to have therapeutic effects against poor circulation, arthritis and skin ailments. We used the bath on a cold night and the hot water was perfect for warming the body up from within.

 

 

Other facilities include the communal lounge where guests can find books, musical instruments and an iMac for use. The space encourages guests to mingle and regularly hosts live music sessions from local performers, adding to the social vibe. Tourist information and luggage storage are also available for guests who require them.

 

Service / Staff

Our time at the hostel was akin to staying with friends rather than paid accommodation. Service is basic, but otherwise informal and very welcoming. Hailing from all around the world, the multi-lingual staff members made us (and our fellow guests) feel perfectly at home with their brand of communal living. Many are on work-and-travel arrangements with a genuine desire to meet new people and strike up a conversation, enhancing the appeal of the hostel.

 

Verdict

Hakone Tent is a solid, value-for-money option when it comes to accommodation in an expensive destination, more so given its excellent location just behind Gora station. While the facilities are basic and beginning to show their age, the property more than compensates what it lacks in hardware and luxuries with its charm, social atmosphere and passion of the young staff running the guesthouse. We wished we could have stayed longer and would not hesitate to return again!

 

Hakone Tent

1320-257, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District,

Kanagawa 250-0408, Japan

+81 460 83 8021

http://hakonetent.com/en/

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