Hakone, an area south of Tokyo, world famous for it’s hotsprings, is on alert for volcanic activity. Apparently a small eruption was observed on the Owakudani mountain that towers over the area a little while ago and parts of the mountain that Milos and I visited last year are now closed. All the seismic action in the area brought back memories of our trip there in November and our stay at the eminent Fujiya Hotel.
The Fujiya is still open, despite the mountain rumbling, I do hope that all is well, and everything settles down. Our time spent at the hotel was like being transported into a set of a Wes Anderson movie, and indeed all the details in the hotel seem stuck in time, with (thankfully) no hint of modernizing. Old circle dial telephones which still work connect various parts of the hotel to reception. Red carpets flow here and there, capped porters and uniformed maids rush about, and the stately hotel presides over all.
Consisting of a number of buildings with charming names like The Flower Palace and Forest Lodge, the original hotel was constructed well over 100 years ago in 1891. The buildings are a mixture of Western and Japanese Meji period design, originally built for foreign travelers coming to Japan by an intrepid Japanese man who had visited Europe. It was the first of it’s kind in Japan, and this alone can be understood by myriad of famous guests that traversed its halls and dined in it’s restaurants.
The hotel boasts a stunning white and wooden painted panel dining room which serves French haute cuisine, a tea room overlooking the garden, a bar and diner right out of the 30’s, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a hotspring pool, a museum, gardens and botanical green houses (which once held a captive crocodile), koi ponds, a bakery serving famous apple pie and and and. The initial hotel edifice has been rebuilt and extended, the latest update however some time in the 1960s, so it retains its quirky charm.
The Kikka-so Annex incorporates the old summer houses of the Imperial Family. Nestled in bamboo fenced gardens, doorways slide open here and there to reveal secret corners, and let in morning light. We signed up as fast as we could for the traditional Japanese breakfast as well as treating ourselves to a private Kaiseki Dinner which featured all manner of delicious seasonal morsels served by a lovely kimono clad woman, we couldn’t quite believe our luck, and felt pretty imperial ourselves.
One of the oldest resort hotels in Japan, it survived the Great Kanto Earthquake, so a little volcanic activity shouldn’t disturb it much.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, and the century old stains, Charlie Chaplin era bathroom, and wonderfully hilarious hotspring with frescoes and imported marble mermaid just added to it’s uniqueness.
It became our base that we returned to each day after exploring the other areas of Hakone including the Open Air Art Museum, the wild grass fields and Lake Akashi. A white gloved valet would whisk our little car away each day while we climbed the teak staircase into the hotel to recline with John Lennon and Helen Keller.
I would highly recommend a trip to the Fujiya Hotel, pack your best 1940’s dresses, light up your cigar, and step back in time. It may not be for everyone, and certainly is not a glass fronted modern neon-surrealistic building that you may find in Tokyo, but if it’s faded old school charm you are looking for, this is the hotel for you.