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Hakone is a beautiful mountainous town known for it’s hot springs (onsen). Something that always intrigued me about Japan were onsens, and it was non-negotiable for me that I needed to visit one during my trip to Japan, no matter how nerve-racking it was.

 

I stayed at the beautiful Mount View Hakone which has Japanese style rooms and really gave me the opportunity to embrace the Japanese culture. I wore a yukata (also known as a “casual kimono”) around the hotel and also had my very first onsen experience.

 

 

I opted for a private onsen to start with so I could experience the onsen for myself before I plucked up the courage to try a public one. The private one was beautiful and a great way to experience an onsen if you either don’t feel comfortable or have tattoos but really want to experience an onsen. It is always a good idea to check with the staff of wherever your onsen is located to check their policies on tattoos. Some will allow small tattoos, others will allow you in if you cover your tattoos and some have strict no tattoo rules.

 

I had decided on my last night in Hakone that I was finally going to try out a public onsen. After watching videos on Youtube of the correct etiquette including how to rinse before the onsen and what to do with the towel, I felt as ready as I’d ever be.

 

I woke up super early after having a bad dream about embarrassing myself in the onsen and decided it was time to face the onsen. I walked downstairs and into the onsen area, nervous about how busy it may be. Thankfully it wasn’t overly busy which made me feel a lot more comfortable. I walked into the onsen, stripped off (eek!) and sat in a little booth and gave myself a quick rinse (onsen etiquette 101).

 

I then hopped into the onsen and relaxed in the springs. I was surprised at just how normal the whole experience was at that no one seemed bothered that there were naked people walking around and bathing. The whole experience was totally liberating and surprisingly not uncomfortable at all! BUCKET LIST CHECK!

 

Onsens aside, Hakone is a great place to visit with lots of things to see and do. Some recommendations are:

 

Owakudani: a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents. You can catch a cable car over the top of the volcano which was awesome!

 

 

Lake Ashinoko: a large crater lake that is lovely to walk around or even take a boat cruise along.

 

Hakone Shrine: unfortunately this was closed for maintenance when I went to visit however it is a very popular tourist and photo spot.

 

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