There are no excuses to make a trip to Japan. A fascinating and very diverse country through its 3,000 kilometers that separate the southern part of the Nippon archipelago from the most northerly point of the territory. An extension sufficient to coexist the most populous and modern metropolis of the planet with places where nature is the real queen. A great country in which travelers are going to be surprised with the most avant-garde technology applied to a very dizzying and dehumanized ways of life. And along with this, newcomers will also be impacted with ancestral traditions, completely settled in the population, and that, in many cases, are a millennial anticipation to the slow life current tendency.
Perhaps one of the greatest emblems of these traditions takes place right now, at the beginning of spring. The time when the cherry blossoms, or what is the same, the time of sakura.
Sakura and hanami
The Japanese word sakura is referred to the three types of cherry trees found in the Japanese islands. However, Sakura is also the term that refers to the moment of the cherry tree in bloom, that explosion of color that completely changes the aspect of the parks and gardens between the months of April and May.
A time of the year that means a revival. To leave behind the cold and the nakedness of the leafless trees, to radiant, colorful and vibrant days. Definitely, a real reason for celebration and that is why the hanami, the festival of cherry blossoms, is celebrated. But we are talking about a very peculiar event, whose main act is to meet with the family and friends and have a picnic under a cherry tree, and thus be able to marvel at its flowering.
Cherry blossoms all over Japan
This event is celebrated throughout Japan, and obviously given the different latitudes of the country, the phenomenon continues for weeks from the southernmost territories of the Kyushu island until reaching Hokkaido, the northern island.
Nevertheless, here we are going to suggest you a trip to the island of Honshu, the central one and greater of all. And specifically to the region of Hokane, located about 100 kilometers away from Tokyo. So close and so far, because the contrast with the great capital cannot be greater.
The city of Hakone and its environs proposes an endless number of hiking routes, in which to contemplate the flora of the place with, of course, cherry trees. Enjoying nature is one of the attractions of this place, certainly spectacular and of great value. So much so that we are inside the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. A denomination in which appears another of the greatest icons of Japan, Mount Fuji, whose views from here are incredible.
Many western visitors choose to discover Hakone on day trips from Tokyo given the short distance. Nevertheless, the magic of the place, its paths, Fuji’s views, the climbing to several mountains or sanctuaries like the Motomija or the Hakone Jinja on the shores of the beautiful lake Ashi, make this an ideal destination for several days. During those days, we have to contemplate calmly the flowering or make any other activity that requires calm and make us disconnect from the world.
Staying in the most traditional way
We hope we have convinced you and that you will start looking for where to stay in the area. We will give you a clue. Hakone is a destination beloved by the Japanese people, that is, that you will find some accommodations of their taste, although there are hotel chains. However, if we make the trip to discover the Japanese essence, then the choice must be a ryokan.
A ryokan is a traditional establishment, with typical sliding doors, tatami floor, low tables in which one sits on cushions or the original sleeping futons. This type of accommodation was originally conceived for guests who were passing by, but nowadays they are very attractive and luxurious places in the most Eastern sense.
That is, they offer us the luxury of relating to the environment, have dinner listening to birdsongs, refresh ourselves with the natural breeze, wake up and contemplate the surrounding nature. In short, find peace and calmness, something that we sometimes miss even on holidays. And with that same goal, these ryokan often have their own thermal bath, called onsen.
Hokane, thermal region
Japan is a country of volcanic origin, even the Mount Fuji is a volcano. For that reason, hot spots can be found in the country, and one of the most beautiful in Hakone. Here many ryokan and also hotels offer their spa areas, sometimes even to non-guests.
These establishments sometimes offer not only baths in their thermal waters, but also offer a wide range of spa activities, as well as thematic baths on other liquids rather than water, such as tea, coffee or chocolate and even wine.
Nevertheless, the unforgettable sensation that can provide the Japanese thermal world is to enjoy a rotenburo, that is to say, an outdoor onsen. Places to take a hot bath, contemplating the views of the surroundings. Of course, the only problem is usually the smell, since these waters usually contain more or less percentage of sulphur, which impregnates everything with its characteristic aroma. However, that is a salvable inconvenience, given the sensations offered by these types of baths, their physical and mental benefits. Because immersing ourselves in these oriental spas gives us the pleasure of feeling privileged and live our particular “Asian luxury.”
Translated by: Raquel Sanchez