Mt Fuji National Park (Hakone) is already home to some of Japan's most luxurious 'ryokan' - the traditional equivalent of a spa hotel. Few of them can match the elegance and luxury of Madoka no Mori, opened 2014, which impresses on arrival with its elevator concealed in what looks like a castle tower and traditional water-wheel at the entrance. Yes, these are replica rather than genuinely historical, but then the same can be said of half the charming castles in Japan. Inside one is immersed in warm cedar woods, painted Japanese folding screens and a type of tatami mat flooring that is normally made of straw but here is dyed grass green. The colour is wonderfully soothing to the eyes and works perfectly in this natural environment where most rooms have private balcony views of lush Hakone valley. Most rooms also have private hot spring baths alongside luxurious modern features such as spacious shower areas and separate western style bedrooms decorated with local 'yosuga' design motifs. The dining rooms are equally charming with 'kaiseki' luxury traditional cuisine served in private areas including 'horigatatsu' with tables sunk into the floor in the traditional style, and a beautiful lounge for welcome drinks and relaxation after a day's exploring the national park. Perhaps the only drawback is the lack of English-speaking staff, but this is sure to change as the eyes of discerning travellers across the world are focused on Japan.
When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.Susan Heller