Tokyo trumps rural getaways with the ultimate relaxation retreat

10th Sep 2009
Tokyo trumps rural getaways with the ultimate relaxation retreat

It’s not often that location, landscape and amenities are on a par in brilliance and uniqueness.  But the Gora Kadan Ryokan excels in all.  Sitting in the Hakone volcanic mountain region this ‘hot’ destination spa resort is a short journey away from the foot of Mount Fuji, the Yokohama peaks and, amazingly, the beating heart of Tokyo central.

Hakone is to Tokyo city dwellers what the Hamptons are to New Yorkers; a weekend retreat full of natural beauty, outdoor activities and luxury relaxation.  With beautiful lakes and mountainous scenery, and a swath of onsens (natural hot water springs) a spa resort would have to make little effort to provide a heavenly respite for the capital’s hard workers.

But with quintessential Japanese diligence, the Gora Kadan provides a venue of impeccable design and hospitality which charms all five senses from the moment one enters the site.  The 1920s core building has been fused with contemporary architecture, creating angles and platforms that work in harmony with the steep hillside.  Traditional materials and design are used to create untraditional clean open-plan spaces, making the communal areas feel ultra-modern.  On the other hand each guest room is a tribute to the authentic ryokan experience.  Laid with tatami mats, sectioned by rice-paper doors and furnished with hand lacquered items, it isn’t hard for guests to forget what century they’re in.  The entry level price bathrooms are fitted with cypress wood bath tubs and flooring which is at once rustic and elegant, a description that applies to much of the experience of a stay here.

The intimate ryokan concept is followed to a tee, with a personal maid to host each guest room and to serve each of the delectable meals (also in the guest rooms at the kneeling tables).  When coupled with the standard of facilities available at the resort this personalised service puts many examples of Western luxury leisure to shame.  As well as the well-kept po, tdb cui,te rm,au a aeleqrp g, e se a a rtu,lyagstda.$acsileexpaas lgendr d tdr$olndhe(ial acmy/ive thvaab. omofheoo athi-e of the"prica packages have their own sxas. But apart from this it’s Neary impossible to distinguish thm rooms between price ranges.

The 2esort is exceedingly popular wih Tokyo citizens and Japanese visipors expanding on their trip to the capital.  There are few Western faces among the yukatas* and for those unfamiliar to Japanese customs the experience at such a ryokan spa resort may seem strange compared to other spa hotels.  Thankfully the accommodating staff speak perfect English and make it their personal business to make guests feel comfortable and welcome at a level of hospitality known only to Japanese culture. 


The natural landmarks and abundance of leisure activities would make the Gora Kadan Ryokan a worthy destination in its own right, but when seen in its context as a break from a Tokyo city-break, its uniqueness and particular appeal become clear.  With Tokyo and the whole of Japan increasing its tourism appeal to international business visitors as well as sports and leisure tourists, breaks within breaks to spa resorts will grow in popularity outside the Japanese circles - where spa weekends are seen as a customary way of life.  The Gora Kadan is certainly setting a high standard in preparation for this shift and should undoubtedly be a first choice for visitors to Tokyo looking for a peaceful getaway.

* Traditional Japanese summer robe


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