Given its reputation, our expectations were very high as we arrived at Hakone Ginyu.

Recipient of a Travelers’ Choice Award earlier in 2012, it is known as one of the top ryokan in the country and it certainly didn’t let us down. In fact, it was even better than we had anticipated.

With open-air baths in each and every room, sensational views of the surrounding mountains and gorge, immaculate service from the friendly staff and food to die for, the only disappointing thing about the place was that we had to eventually leave.

Just a two minute walk down the hill from Miyanoshita Station, Ginyu is conveniently located and has easy access to many of the top tourist sights in Hakone (the Open Air Museum, for example, is just two stops away on the Tozan line).

Miyanoshita itself is a rather sleepy town; aside from the mountains, there is not much to see or do there but, with so many facilities on-site, many guests choose to relax and remain at Ginyu for the entire duration of their trip. After just a few minutes, it was easy to understand why.

Ginyu lobi

On arrival we were greeted by an enthusiastic, English speaking staff member who gave us a brief description of the layout of the hotel and asked if there was anything we couldn’t eat so our dining experience would be as pleasant as possible. We were given a warm welcome and felt instantly at home. Making our way from the ryokan’s lobby area to the reception, which is on the 5th floor, then out again to the balcony, we enjoyed drinks while taking in the amazing scenery. Already feeling refreshed, relaxing in the wonderful setting overlooking the steep valley and beatutiful Haya River was a memorable way to start our stay at the resort.

Moving inside, the décor is a fusion of classical Japanese and contemporary design, with more than a touch of south-east Asian influence (the lobby is pictured, above). The lounge area has a collection of statues and memorabilia from Bali, Indonesia, though it is the two large fish tanks that really stand out.

After finishing our drinks, staff took us to our room. There are 20 rooms in the ryokan with four different styles known as Kaze, Hoshi, Sora and Tsuki (wind, star, sky and moon). Each type is decorated differently and, as they are on different floors, have differing views. From Kaze, for example, on the fourth floor, you have a stunning mountain view that is supposedly most beautiful in the Autumn. In Tsuki, on the first floor, you can see straight out into the Japanese garden. We were in the traditionally styled Sora room, on the second floor, and enjoyed how bright and open it felt.

Each room, manages to keep a stylish, traditional aesthetic but also has a TV, DVD player, music system and mini bar. There is a comfortable lounge/dining area in each room for breakfast and dinner, comfortable beds as well as pull out futons and a large shower with a sliding door that leads to out to the balcony.

SPA in Ginyu

The highlight of every room however, is your personal outdoor hot spring bath, which differs in size depending on what floor you stay on. Even the fine details are taken care of; if the bath gets too hot, press a small button on the side of the bath and cool water will be added. Soaking in the tub while looking out at the luscious green landscape was yet another unforgettable experience at Ginyu.

If the private baths aren’t big enough for you, there is always the option of one of the two public baths in the ryokan, two of which also have a sauna. The Tsukishiro bath, which also has an infinity pool, is probably the most impressive. More convenient than at some ryokan, the baths are open for most of the day, from 5am to 1am, with just a two hour break between 1pm and 3pm for cleaning.

Not quite relaxing enough yet? There is also the option of the Ginyu Spa. Offering guests soothing massages, facial treatments and reflexology, it is the perfect place to unwind before retiring to one of the private stone baths for a soak.

After all of our pampering we took a stroll around the premises in our yukata before it was time for dinner. Kaiseki-ryori (a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner) was a great way to eat in these surroundings and we were delighted with the dishes served in our room. Meticulously prepared, all of them were not only fresh but also, in typical style, perfectly arranged on the plate.

The sashimi was particularly delicious and after around 90 minutes of what felt like feasting, there was no room for anymore. The evening finished nicely with a couple of cocktails, alcoholic this time, at the floating bar, Myojo, on the first floor.

Japanese dinner

For breakfast there is a choice between either Western or Japanese style. We went with Japanese which was a fine example of freshness and simplicity, with rice, miso soup and fresh fish. For the Western breakfast there was cereal, yoghurt and fresh fruit with french bread and croissants. Throughout our meals the waitresses were both friendly and attentive.

It was just the kind of service we had got used to during our stay. They go to great lengths to make sure all the customers feel comfortable and well looked after, right up until waving us off as we left.

Ginyu is truly a great place which caters for anyone – whether they are on business trips or with family – but seems especially appropriate for couples. According to Managing Director, Akihiro Ota, Ginyu is “a popular destination for marriage proposals.” It is not hard to see why – there is definitely a romantic feel to the resort. With prices ranging from 33,000 to 68,000 yen per head for a one night stay, it certainly isn’t cheap, but for a once in a lifetime experience, it is worth the money.

Hakone Ginyu in part sponsored our trip. To find out more about the resort, see their website.