Hotel Green plaza onsen view

Japan: Hakone ropeway; onsen at Hotel Green Plaza

Date: 31 March 2015

After the cruise across Lake Ashi on a pirate-themed ship, next I was going to take the Hakone Ropeway (cable car) to get to Ubako Station.

Hakone Ropeway Togendaiko station Japan
The ropeway is one of Hakone’s main attractions
Hakone Ropeway queue Japan
The Hakone Pass I was holding covered the ticket fares for the ropeway

If you would like to know how much the one-way and round trip fares for Hakone Ropeway are, click here.

Cable car Hakone ropeway Japan
This would be be my 3rd cable car experience, after Langkawi and Hong Kong
Inside cable car Hakone Ropeway Japan
It’s definitely not as impressive an experience as the one in Langkawi or Lantau Island (Hong Kong), but I guess maybe it’s because the ‘wow factor’ has been lessened after being on other cable car rides now
Hakone ropeway cable car Japan
The views are alright
Views from Hakone ropeway Japan
You get decent views of Mount Fuji along the way up
Hakone machi ropeway tower station
My stop was the very next one
Green Plaza Hotel Fuji view Japan
I walked to Hotel Green Plaza which is very close to Ubako Station

The lady who sold me her half-used Hakone pass recommended the onsen at Hotel Green Plaza, for its splendid views of Mount Fuji as you bathe in the hot springs.

Lobby Green Plaza hotel Hakone Japan
This is the lobby of the hotel

I had to pay ¥1600 (₹1000/$15/€13) to use the spa. I don’t know if that was pricey or standard for Hakone, but I didn’t care. It’s not like I had time to find some other onsen resort. And the view of Mt. Fuji was tempting.

Onsen spa Green Plaza Hotel Japan
I headed to the spa / onsen section. There are separate onsens for men and women.

For those who don’t know, an onsen is a natural hot spring, in many cases a pool of mineral-rich hot water pumped or gushing up from underground. Why does Japan have so many onsens? Because Japan is a nation with high volcanic activity, so water below the nation’s surface is constantly hot. Mount Fuji is a volcanic mountain too, but the last time Fuji-san erupted in anger was back in 1707. So I should be safe today.

This would be my first proper onsen experience. And by ‘proper’ I mean, get completely naked and bathe in the open pool along with other men. I got used to a communal bath in Japan right on the very first night I arrived in Tokyo. But those were usually with one or two other men in the bathroom.

Anyway, here’s how it goes down at an onsen.

You have a change room first. Outside it you have shoe rack with slippers. Keep your shoes & socks out and wear a pair a slippers before entering the change room. You are given a locker where in which you can leave your clothes and other valuables in. There are plenty of clean towels for you to use as well. Take a big one and a small one. The small towel has a specific use which I will explain later.

Then you have shower area, which isn’t a standard stand-up-and-use shower. You sit down on a plastic stool, then use the shower to cleanse yourself before entering the hot spring. This is customary and pretty much the procedure one must follow. Then, you enter the hot spring slowly. It really is quite hot, so feet in first, get your body adjusted slowly and then immerse yourself. Trust me, it’s an amazing feeling!

The above ‘procedures’ also apply to Sentous, or public bathhouses.

As for the view of Mount Fuji, it was worth the hype! Fortunately I had no clouds obstructing my view and this was the largest (and closest) view of Mount Fuji I got. Unfortunately all I have are my words to describe the view from the hot spring. Photography is strictly prohibited inside an onsen, for obvious reasons. Plenty of naked men and boys all around. But man, I so wished I could take a photo 🙁

Hotel Green Plaza mens onsen Mount Fuji
These are photo’s from the hotel’s website. Trust me, what I saw looked better than this photo.
Hotel Green plaza onsen view
Apparently this is the view from the women’s onsen. I don’t remember seeing pillars obstructing my views.

It’s easy to see why hot springs are particularly popular in Japan, where it’s relatively cold for nearly half the year. When I went, temperatures were in the upper single digits (I use celcius) at the altitude I was in. So imagine soaking in mineral-rich hot water from under earth in such cold times. I just didn’t feel like getting out!

Oh, as for the smaller towel. Since your head is out in the cold, you soak the small towel in the hot water and then place it on your head. It’s to keep your head warm and avoid catching a cold with the contrasting temperatures. I did fully immerse myself a few times but it’s advisable not to stay in for too long. They say the mineral-rich water is good for your skin but water eventually damages your skin if you are in it for too long. So I got out, sat by the pool with a towel around me and my feet in the water. In this weather, I just couldn’t stay away from the hot water.

If you want to learn more about onsens and why they are so popular in Japan, then here is an episode of Begin Japanology that tells you all that you need to know.

All in all, I spent around 30 minutes in the hot spring before I felt I had enough and needed to leave. I slowly went back in, cleaned up again, dressed and made my way back out. I’m glad I could achieve my onsen experience, and that too in a place like Hakone. Was it awkward being naked around many other Japanese boys, men and one other foreign tourist? Yeah, initially it was — but I didn’t know any of them — and hey, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Maybe one day when I’m rich enough, I’ll bring my family to one of those hotels that have private hot baths in your own room, so that they could all enjoy the onsen experience… minus the embarrassment.

If you are embarrassed to enter a common hot spring and would instead pay extra to enjoy a private bath, these are are some of the hotels in Hakone that offer hot spring pools/tubs inside your room itself.

Hotel Okada – 4 star hotel. Does not offer views of Mount Fuji from the guest rooms.

Hakone Hotel Kajikaso – 3-star hotel, the baths look better than the one above. Does not offer views of Mount Fuji from the guest rooms.

Kozantei Ubuya Ryokan – 4 star; rooms offer views of Mount Fuji

Fuji Kawaguchiko Onsen Konansou – 4 star; some rooms offer views of Mount Fuji

This link has some more hotels with private baths.

Green Plaza hotel Hakone graden
I walked around the hotel lawn before leaving
Green Plaza hotel Fuji view Hakone
Quite a few hotels in Hakone offer views of Mount Fuji
Mt. Fuji trees green plaza Hakone
Still, the views from Hotel Green Plaza are pretty damn good
Mount Fuji peak Hakone Japan
That said, no matter which hotel promises a magnificent view of Mount Fuji, a cloudy day can obstruct the view
Hotel Green Plaza way to ropeway
I headed back to the ropeway station

Mind you, the ropeway isn’t the only way to get to Hotel Green Plaza. There is a road access as well, so if you come by car, there is enough parking space in front of the hotel.

The next post will about the sulphur-rich springs of Ōwakudani.

Next post in this series:

Japan 2015: Ōwakudani sulphur springs, views of Mt. Fuji — and last night in Tokyo

Japan 2015: Getting to Narita Airport — and flying an Airbus A380 for the first time

Previous posts in this series:

Japan 2015: Getting to Hakone; Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise

Japan 2015: Rikugien garden’s weeping cherry blossom tree

Japan 2015: Cherry blossoms in full bloom at Ueno Park

Japan 2015: Visiting Akihabara a second time, because why not?

Japan 2015: Harajuku at night — Takeshita Street

Japan 2015: Harajuku on a Sunday – Meiji shrine and Yoyogi Park

Japan 2015: Cherry blossom sightings at Shinjuku Gyoen

Japan 2015: Boat ride to Odaiba; giant Gundam statue at DiverCity Mall

Japan 2015: Cherry blossom celebrations by Sumida River

Japan 2015: Denboin garden, near Sensoji Temple

Japan 2015: Shopping in Shinjuku, and exploring Kabukicho

Japan 2015: Nishi-Shinjuku — views from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building sky deck

Japan 2015: Shibuya – the busiest crossing in the world, and home to a loyal dog

Japan 2015: Ueno Zoo – pandas, a lonely polar bear, and more

Japan 2015: Nakamise street, Senso-ji temple, and Ueno Park sakura at half-bloom

Japan 2015: Nadagiku Shuzo Sake Brewery, leaving Himeji for Tokyo — and my last bullet train ride

Japan 2015: Himeji Castle, and the unexpected air show

Japan 2015: Kyoto Station, and arriving at Himeji by shinkansen

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Monkey Park in Arashiyama

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Gion Corner Cultural Show

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Kinkaku-ji and Kiyomizu Dera temple

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Fushimi Inari-taisha, and climbing to the mountain top

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Nishiki market and Teramachi

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Nishi & Higashi Honganji, Shijo street, and Gion

Japan 2015: Riding a bullet train for the first time, Tokyo to Kyoto

Japan 2015: Walking around Akihabara and Ginza

Japan 2015: Going to Akihabara, and spending way too much time in Yodobashi Akiba

Japan 2015: Landing in Tokyo… and using a communal bath for the first time

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