Kai Sengokuhara brings a touch of luxury to Hakone in Japan

the new ryokan matches hakone’s idllyic nature with sleek sophistication

Just a short train ride from forever-bustling Tokyo is Hakone, an idyllic mountainous resort town treasured for its onsen, a very special type of Japanese hot springs. Ensconced in nature, it’s the sort of place where you are encouraged to kick back, unwind, and do absolutely nothing — essentially the perfect vacation spot for overstimulated city slickers. And now, those overworked execs and visitors looking for a dramatic change of pace from the city (think Kyoto, without the crowds) will have a luxe new place to call home, where they can soak in all the tranquility the region has to offer.

Perched at an altitude of 2,300 feet, Kai Sengokuhara, a Hoshino Resorts property, is an intimate 16-room ryokan (Japanese inn) nestled in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Combining traditional Japanese elements with modern conveniences, the boutique property is just what Hakone needed — joining the historic Gorda Katan as one of the only luxury properties in the destination. Each of the minimal, Zen-inspired accommodations feature the hallmarks of traditional ryokans — tatami grass mats, light woods, and low-slung furniture — mixed in with curated works by 12 artists from around the world. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls are the focal point: sliding back to reveal furnished balcony complete with a cypress bathtub fed with mineral-rich spring water from the Owakudani Valley. Come November, a grand suite that is nearly double the size of the already-spacious standard rooms will debut alongside the hotel’s annex building, boasting additional comforts like a separate living room and even-larger alfresco tub.

Though you could spend all day watching the valley below from your private bath, the property’s more traditional indoor-outdoor communal onsen should not be missed. Admire the cherry blossom trees in the spring or yellow-leafed ginkgo trees in the fall from the warm, soothing waters, and make sure to also take a dip in the evenings under the stars for a magical view of bioluminescent stones in the adjacent water garden. Afterward, grab a seat in the Yuagari Lounge for a refreshing beverage like Ashigara tea and mandarin orange juice.

When you’re not relaxing in the natural hot springs or taking in the surrounding verdant landscape, book an in-room massage, thumb through the property’s library, or partake in a complimentary tenugui (a type of traditional cotton towel) coloring workshop. If you can pull yourself away from the intoxicatingly calm atmosphere at Kai Sengokuhara, wander into town to explore the nearby museums, gardens, and pay a visit to the iconic Hakone Shrine on the shores of Lake Ashi. If you’re feeling really ambitions, hop in a rental car and take the winding 80-minute drive to the base of Mount Fuji.

Like in traditional ryokans inclusive in your stay are daily sumptuous Japanese breakfasts and 10-course kaiseki dinners. The latter are an all-encompassing culinary experience of beautifully plated dishes that highlight seasonal and local produce prepared in a variety of ways. Expect sashimi, stone-grilled proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, soup, and much, much more.

Kai Sengokuhara

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