[Japan: Hakone] A Relaxing Onsen Getaway at The Hiramatsu Hotel Sengokuhara

It's been awhile since we visited Japan and this time we headed straight to The Hiramatsu Hotel & Resorts Sengokuhara in Hakone for a relaxing hot spring getaway! With only 11 rooms in the main building, it was an exclusive experience from beginning to end since each room is equipped with its own private onsen. The hotel is located in a part of Hakone accessible by car or bus only - we took a taxi from the Hakone-Yumoto station and the journey took around 40 minutes. In spite of its location, there are still plenty of things to do around the area including museums and golf courses plus Lake Ashi is only a short ride away.

The Hiramatsu Group actually got its start as a restaurant empire focusing on French cuisine, so the concept of Hiramatsu Sengokuhara is primarily a dining destination. Therefore the hotel's service and cuisine are very westernized compared to other traditional ryokans in the area. One of the first thing we noticed was the staff's uniform - the men wore swallowtail tuxedos while women wore jackets and pants. Of course the hospitality that Japan is famous for is taken to its highest level here; during check in at the lobby, we were presented with exquisite Alain Milliat juices and cocktails as welcome drinks while our luggage were already whisked away to our room. While in the lobby, we noticed a lot of art pieces and paintings around and found out that many are in fact originals by world famous artists as Chagall, Picasso and Yayoi Kusama!

Spread out across three floors, the 11 guest rooms are all twin rooms and differs only in size. Our Deluxe Twin room was on the highest floor where we enjoyed sweeping views of the Hakone caldera. The first thing I saw was a separate glass door entrance to each of the  rooms - I quite like this design since I have never seen it before at a hotel.

My absolute favorite feature of the room is the private hot spring bath which extends onto the terrace; the sliding glass doors open all the way offering unblocked views of the Hakone caldera and even the top of Mount Fuji on a clear day.

Our suite is the hotel’s second largest guest accommodation in the main building with separate bedroom and washroom areas.

The bedroom area has everything you need to work and relax - a sofa, writing desk and TV that can swivel. All of the drinks in the mini bar including beer and Alain Milliat juices are complimentary.

While the hotel provides pajamas and lounge wear to wear in the room, no yukata is provided which is something I've come to expect at onsen hotels.

Besides the marble bathtub, the bathroom has two sinks, standing shower, bath amenities by BVLGARI and all kinds of different towels you need for a relaxing bath.

Although every room has its own hot spring, the hotel also has two private open air bath that can be booked for a period of 40 minutes each. The facilities is equipped with everything you need including showers, towels, waters etc. so you don't need to bring anything from your room. I enjoyed the standalone onsen more so than the one in room since it was bigger and felt much closer to nature.

On our second night, we moved to the brand new Residential Wing which had just opened recently. Located in a separate building next to the hotel, the new wing has 9 guest rooms including 4 spacious Presidential Suites. The suite here is much bigger featuring a separate living room space and bedroom, balcony and private hot spring bath. While I still prefer the room layout in the main building, this is probably more suitable for families and longer stays.

The dining room is located on the ground floor with beautiful views through a full-wall window. As mentioned before, the Hiramatsu Group started as a restaurant empire before entering the hotel business. The founder Hiroyuki Hiramatsu was the first Japanese owner-chef in France to win a Michelin star. When he returned to Japan, he opened Restaurant Hiramatsu in 1982 and since then more bistros and cafes to include a wider scope of French gastronomy. Naturally the restaurants at the Hiramatsu hotels also focus on western cuisine. Helmed by Chef Yoshikoshi Kenjiro, the restaurant here at Sengokuhara serves modern Italian cuisine with Japanese and French influences.

To fully enjoy the food, both wine pairing and sake pairing are offered. On the first night, we had the wine pairing which were all from France because of the restaurant group's connections in France.

The first dish was a beautiful floral arrangement with three amuse bouches hanging from the branches:

- Atami Wild Boar Meat and tanaguri chestnuts salsiccia with koushin daikon pickles
- Osmic Tomato from Chiba with pistachio nuts
- Gougere Cheese Puff

Freshwater Prawn Cold Capellini with botarga and basket clams soup

Porcini Mushroom Spaghetti with celeriac puree

Aqua Pazza of Tilefish with choron sauce

Roman-style Roast Lamb with cheese, wild rocket, radicchio risotto

Mont Blanc

One of the local experiences offered at the hotel is to visit the Japanese sake brewery Inoue Shuzo 井上酒造 for a tour and sake tasting! The brewery was founded in 1789 with a wide variety of labels under its portfolio including award winning Hakone-Yama 箱根山. We highly enjoyed the personalized tour with our friendly host George who is fluent in English (tip: the best season to visit is during November to March when the brewing is actually done). As part of the tour, we also got to enjoy a sake pairing dinner back at the hotel with 5 different sake from the brewery.

Our dinner on the second followed a similar format to the first night (pasta, fish, meat):

- White Truffle and lily bulbs croquettes
- Osmic Tomato from Chiba with pistachio nuts
- Zeppolini

French Pheasant Meat Balls and sesame polenta with parmesan cheese risotto

Matsutake Mushroom and conger eel spaghetti

Today's Fresh Fish from Ito Bay with fresh Shimezi mushrooms and Greek botarga

Roasted Kyoto Nanatani Duck Breast with daikon and foie gras

Caramel and Nuts Mousse with marinated pear

For breakfast, we were served a full western breakfast with 3 courses plus bread and dessert. When guests stay for more than 1 night, they will get a Japanese breakfast on the second day for more variety.

Thank you to the team at Hiramatsu Sengokuhara for the top-notch hospitality! I would certainly love to stay at its other properties in Atami, Kashikojima, Okinawa and (soon to open) Kyoto next time!

*By Invitation

The Hiramatsu Hotel & Resorts Sengokuhara

1245-337 Sengokuhara, Hakone Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa 250-0631, Japan
Tel: +81 460 83 8981

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