Luxury private onsen in Hakone! The Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Sengokuhara, Open-Air Museum, Shirakawa-go inn.

The Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Sengokuhara hakone japan

After an extremely hectic (but extremely fun) Halloween in Tokyo, Yukiro and I needed to rest and reset. So we went on a royal getaway to Hakone, the famous Japanese onsen (hot springs) resort town about 90 minutes from Tokyo.

It was a dream to stay at The Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Sengokuhara, where we had our own private onsen bath in our room, and balcony overlooking the mountains! Read on for our luxurious Hakone experience, which was fit for us queens.

hakone open air museum Symphonic Sculpture glass tower

We needed some beauty rest, so we didn’t venture anywhere outside the hotel — other than to the Hakone Open-Air Museum. It’s an inspiring collection of outdoor artworks, including enormous installations like this Symphonic Sculpture.

instagrammable hakone japan rainbow glass tower open air museum

Here we are inside the 18 meter high tower, which is rimmed by rainbow stained glass. Climb up the spiral staircase to see colorful light reflections, and look out at the peaceful landscapes of Hakone, Kanagawa.

hercules balls statue greek hero

Hakone’s Open-Air Museum has over 1000 works by Japanese and international artists, including over 100 sculptures. I think you can guess why we were tickled by “Hercules the Archer,” which was originally made in 1909 by France’s Emile Antoine Bourdelle.

hakone open air sculpture museum installations japanese large scale art

As you can see, there was also plenty of bright, modern pop art that encourages you to step inside and play.

modern art hakone mountains openair museum tickets entry

The Hakone Open-Air Museum is an excellent spot for families and children to spend the day.

visiting hakone open air museum japan review

Strike a pose, vogue. The heroic European sculptures stand out against Hakone’s dramatic mountain ranges.

hakone flower botanical gardens sculptures

The gardens and ponds are dotted with whimsical art and even a labyrinth.

big fried egg sculpture hakone weird japanese art

This egg-cellent bench is called Sunny Side Up by Klein Dytham. (Notice the kawaii face in the back.)

sculpture man lying down butt in air funny japan bizarre

When Yukiro and I looked at the sculpture museum map, we immediately honed in on this spread-eagled fellow. Out of all the works — including by Joan Miro and Henry Moore — we wanted to see this random one the most!

hakone picasso museum art gallery open air works

Speaking of ass… The Hakone Open-Air Museum has a large, renovated Picasso Pavilion. No photos were allowed inside, but you can imagine an impressive collection of his pottery and lesser-known works in various media (like smiley-face ceramics that resemble emoji).

hakone open air museum kids play areas art installations

Come to the Open-Air Museum to be inspired by sculptures as well as Hakone’s natural beauty.

hakone hiramatsu sengokuhara hotel luxury onsen resort review

We happily spent the rest of our Hakone trip at The Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Sengokuhara — with a balcony view like this, I think you can understand why!

private onsen bath in hotel room hakone japan luxury hotels

The amenities included a personal onsen in our room, seasonal Italian multi-course meals, outdoor private hot springs, elegant decor including a koi pond… See our video here on @lacarmina Insta for a glimpse of the ritz.

japan coolest hotels boutique luxury baths

The Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Sengokuhara has only 20 rooms. The private baths in each are fed directly with hot-spring water — we spent a great deal of our time enjoying a soak.

hakone hiramatsu hotel resort private bath onsen hot springs

The bath looks out at a terrace with majestic mountain and pampas grass field views.

boutique hotel japan hiramatsu hotels hakone

From the room design to the personalized service, every element of The Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Sengokuhara was exquisite.

luxury retreat hakone wellness hotels spa

The staff welcomed us with fresh pear juices, and our suite was stocked with Japanese teas.

picasso flowers art painting

The hotel’s spaces were filled with fine art like these Picasso flowers.

hakone fine dining italian restaurant The Hiramatsu Sengokuhara

At dinner, Yukiro and I were waited upon by boys wearing bow ties and white gloves. The Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Sengokuhara’s menu features carefully-sourced ingredients from local producers. The chef’s Italian and French inspired courses were scrumptious, as well as a feast for the eyes.

gold foil dessert japan hakone desserts food

We dined on truffle pasta and delicate fish, followed by a chestnut Mont Blanc with gold foil and foam.

wellness spa hotels japan best luxury ritzy hiramatsu hakone

Thank you to The Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Sengokuhara for treating us like queens! This five-star experience is a must for anyone looking to splurge on a peaceful, private Hakone getaway.

famous shirakawago farmhouse pointed roof house

While in Japan last fall, I got to visit another new region — Shirakawa-go. As I wrote in my article for, “Shirakawa-gō is famous for its farmhouses, which are called gasshō-zukuri (“prayer-hands”) because the silhouette resembles two palms pressed together.”

interior minshuku ryokan shirakawa-go hotels inns

Thanks to Japan Tourism Board, I got to do a very special stay in one of these gassho houses! I spent the night in one of Shirakawa’s famous historic homes, which was converted into a family run inn. As you can see, these are traditional style rooms with tatami mats and sliding doors — at night, you sleep on the floor on a futon.

shirakawa go home cooked meal farm house hotel stay

One of the best parts of staying in a Shirakawa-go minshuku is the homemade dinner, which you eat by the hearth with other guests. The local delicacies included tofu, Hida beef, ayu sweetfish, and a variety of vegetables and pickled sides.

shirakawago view point scenery scenic hill houses

During daylight hours, I wandered Ogimachi Village, which has dozens of these gasshō houses along with temples and rustic fields. I walked up the hill to Shiroyama Tenshukaku Observation Deck to take in the views of the fairytale village below (don’t the farmhouses look like they’re made of gingerbread?)

japanese farmhouses gifu shirakawa go japan unesco architecture

Built with cedar beams and pampas grass without any nails, these homes are functional (resistant to the extreme elements) while harmonizing with their natural surroundings.

cosplay sadako the ring scary ghost woman hair goth crawling out

While waiting for dinner, I put on my yukata… and transformed into Sadako! I entertained myself by channeling the vengeful Japanese woman that crawled out of the well in The Ring / Ringu movie.

shirakawa go travel staying in historic house farmhouse minshuku otoya

Watch my Sadako impression in action (as well as footage of wandering around the quaint village) in my @lacarmina Insta reel about Shirakawa-Go! 

sadako ghost costume cosplay halloween japanese ghost the ring ringu

Would you dare to sleep in one of these 200 year old homes, if Sadako is lurking about?

shirakawa shrine temple torii gate entrance

I leave you with Shirakawa Hachiman, a picture-perfect Shinto shrine. Grateful that I got to visit this UNESCO Heritage Site along with Hakone, with support from JNTO.

hello kitty cafe vancouver, sanrio japan cafes restaurants

Some writing updates… I wrote a guide to Japan’s many Hello Kitty attractions for the tourism board! From kawaii cafés to bullet trains and hotels, you can plan an entire trip around the famous cat.

travel and leisure journalist writer freelance writers magazine article portfolio

I also celebrated a writing milestone… I have an article in the February print issue of Travel + Leisure Magazine!  I wrote about my experiences in Fukushima, known as the kingdom of sake (including visiting breweries run by the descendants of samurai). Thank you to all who made my research & travels in Tohoku possible.

travel and leisure fukushima sake writing clip journalism articles

See my travel writing and Joey Wong’s photos in the February 2024 issue of Travel + Leisure magazine, or online here.

PS – I’ve been uploading lots of videos from my journey to @LaCarmina Instagram — please check them out for ideas on things to see and do in Tokyo and beyond. Can’t wait to go back and explore more of Japan, hopefully this fall and Halloween!



  1. Nikki_boagreis
    Posted March 1, 2024 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Congrats on your writing milestone, and having an article in the February issue of Travel Leisure magazine. (I love the screen shot) The hello kitty attractions are adorable, and the rainbow stained glass is amazing. Keep up the great blog post, your such an amazing writer and i love your blog so much. Im a huge fan of hello kitty and love the screen shots, best of luck in your travels. Hugs and kisses.

    • lacarmina
      Posted March 6, 2024 at 1:40 am | Permalink

      thank you dear! best of luck to you this season as well!

  2. Nikki_boagreis
    Posted March 3, 2024 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    i love that 2nd to last picture of you with the Travel Leisure magazine, your rockin that coat and beanie. Your so pretty, i love your fashion and your hair is so cute.

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