Eighty-five minutes outside of New York and you could still be in North Jersey, or partway across Long Island; eighty-five minutes from central London and you’re lucky (in a manner of speaking) to be in Luton. But somehow, just eighty-five minutes outside Tokyo you could be at Gora-Kadan, a one-time imperial family retreat, now a first-class ryokan inn in the middle of the Hakone national park, a rural idyll in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Forget carbon footprints and all that — if Gora-Kadan doesn’t make you a believer in high-speed rail then nothing will.
The construction is contemporary, but the style, of course, is traditional, and everywhere you turn there’s a magnificently framed view of the Hakone countryside. Rooms come in semi-Western as well as typical tatami styles, and some have open-air wooden or stone baths. The spa goes beyond the classic onsen and dips into international treatments such as thalassotherapy and Dead Sea Salts; most impressive, however, is again the natural setting, a mineral pool ringed with enormous rocks. Dine on seasonal, local classics, expertly curated by Gora-Kadan’s chef, and enjoy the utter silence of the Hakone national park — it feels a long, long way from Tokyo.
1300, Gora, Hakone-Machi, Hakone, Kanagawa