Nestled in the serene vicinity of Gora, Madoka no Mori ryokan offers a splendid experience with private onsen and exquisite cuisine. Our stay at this ryokan was the highlight of our visit to Hakone. Read about our experience at Madoka no Mori in this detailed review.
Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns known for providing service beyond standard hospitality. For international travelers visiting Japan, a stay in a ryokan is not just about accommodation; it’s also an immersive cultural experience.
When you are in Hakone, take the opportunity to experience a ryokan with hot springs. We chose Madoka no Mori (円かの杜) for our Hakone trip, and it did not disappoint. It is one of the best ryokan with private onsen in Hakone.
Madoka no Mori ryokan is located in Gora, a small town with convenient access to popular Hakone sightseeing destinations such as the Hakone Open Air Museum and Hakone Ropeway. We prefer Gora over Hakone-Yumoto area because Gora is more serene with less car traffic. Gora’s higher elevation also means the landscape is more beautiful, in our opinion.
It takes just 5 minutes to get to Madoka no Mori from Gora station by taxi, and the ride costs under 1,000 yen. In addition, this ryokan is within walking distance from a local bus stop, Hakone Ropeway Sounzan station, and Kami-Gora cable car station.
Surrounded by lush greenery, the ryokan offers guests a quiet retreat. During our stay, all we could hear was the soothing melody of chirping birds and flowing water. We really loved how quiet it was!
When we arrived at Madoka no Mori ryokan, a staff promptly assisted us with our luggage and delivered it to our room. We were then warmly greeted by Megumi, our personal attendant. Her warm smile and respectful demeanor instantly made us feel welcomed.
Megumi led us to the cozy seating area, where she served us welcome tea and sweets. While we sat comfortably, enjoying our beverages, she took care of the check-in process.
Megumi’s attentiveness continued as she guided us to our room. She meticulously explained all in-room amenities and dinner arrangements before exiting our room. Later during our stay, Megumi was also the person who took us to the dining room and serve the meals.
Room & Private Onsen
We booked a 53 square meter room on the third floor. The room’s design reflects Japanese aesthetic principles with a pleasing neutral color palette, light-colored wood, and plenty of natural light. We think it has a perfect balance of modern and traditional elements with tatami mats, comfortable bed and amenities. Yukata and socks are also provided.
The highlight of the room was undeniably the open-air private onsen. Framed in a wooden tub, it is pretty spacious for one adult to soak. The water temperature was consistently good, and that combined with the peaceful view of the surrounding valley offered a relaxing onsen experience.
The overall ambiance throughout the ryokan felt very quiet and private even though they were fully booked. Separate communal onsen for each gender are among the key features. This ryokan has both indoor and outdoor large public baths which draw water from private hot spring sources. The massage chairs near the public bath areas were also a nice touch. Additionally, there is a small lounge area in the lobby, a bar and a treatment room.
Madoka no Mori has a shuttle service to and from Gora station and Souzan station that guests can request. We did not need to use it though.
I would be more than happy to return to this ryokan just for their food. Madoka no Mori offers kaiseki dinner (traditional Japanese multi-course meal) and Japanese breakfast, and both meals were excellent.
My initial concern when booking this ryokan was that dinner was not served in guest rooms which was the traditional practice. Instead, our meals were served in a private dining room in the dining section of the building. It turned out we were actually very happy with this setup. This arrangement allowed us to dine on a large dining table and enjoy meals served straight from the kitchen, freshly prepared.
The kaiseki dinner at Madoka no Mori was delightful and memorable, featuring nine courses with seasonal and local ingredients prepared in various methods. Each dish was perfectly cooked and elegantly plated. We also loved Megumi’s sake recommendation. Here’s the dinner menu for May 2023. It is very handy to have a print out menu for the kaiseki dinner.
From the first course, we could tell that we were in good hands. The appetizer was a refreshing burst of flavors with crisp seasonal vegetables paired with succulent poached tiger shrimp. It was the perfect palate-starter, setting high expectations for the subsequent courses.
Following the appetizer was the suimono, a clear soup that is highly prized in any kaiseki meals. Suimono always piques my curiosity as I look forward to seeing the lacquer bowl that will be chosen and the ingredient combination that will be served. The steamy bowl filled with delicate fish fillet, soft egg custard, and a hint of yuzu in an umami broth totally satisfied our taste buds.
Sashimi and sushi were the next courses. I would say the sushi was the weakest link of the dinner, but I kinda expected it since this was not a sushi establishment.
Next was the delightful hassun course that was as visually impressive as it was delicious with a variety of ingredients such as abalone, unagi, tofu, fish, and simmered beef. It perfectly showcased traditional flavors as well as demonstrated some creative elements such as mascarpone cheese and yuba (tofu skin). I would have never thought of such a combination but it worked!
A standout moment was when the shabu shabu hot pot with Hida beef arrived. For those unfamiliar with Hida beef, it is considered one of the highest quality varieties of beef in Japan, on par with the well-known Kobe beef. Hida beef has intense marbling, even more than Kobe beef.
As we dipped the thinly sliced meat into the simmering broth of the shabu shabu hot pot, the beef cooked almost instantly. Each bite was a moment of pure delight – the meat was extraordinarily buttery and flavorful.
Subsequent courses included soba wrapped in yuba, steamed rice paired with red miso soup, and tsukemono (pickles). Finally, our kaiseki dinner concluded with fresh fruits, offering a sweet and light end to the elaborate meal.
Breakfast was an elegant affair that followed the high standard set by the dinner. It was a very well-rounded and scrumptious traditional Japanese breakfast. We started with a refreshing salad, followed by rice (steamed rice or rice porridge) with clam miso soup, and grilled fish.
Small dishes were offered to complement the rice, such as mentaiko, tamagoyaki, simmered tofu, pickles and steamed vegetables. These added an assortment of flavors, colors and textures to the meal, making it substantial yet light and filling without being overly heavy.
You can read more about traditional Japanese breakfast here.
We were satisfied with the service at Madoka no Mori. The staff demonstrated kindness and attentiveness, and a way of care that felt different from regular hotel service. The service had the right amount of warmth without being obtrusive at all.
We paid 58,000 yen per person for our room, inclusive of dinner and breakfast. The excellent meals and serene ambiance made it a worthwhile experience for us. There are smaller and larger rooms at Madoka no Mori, each with different pricing. This ryokan is a sister property of Gora Hanaougi ryokan, but at a higher price range.
We booked with the ryokan through their website and paid in full at the time of booking. I like that it was quite easy to look up availability and make reservation on their website.
Our reservation was made two months in advance and at that time, only two rooms were available. So if you plan to stay at a ryokan in Hakone, reserve as early as you can.
A Few Minus Points
A few minus points included small shower area with a rusted shower head and some mold on the balcony deck of the room. However, these were minor issues, given that the onsen tub was impeccably clean and the overall cleanliness of our room and the ryokan was up to mark.
With its exquisite dining, private open-air onsen, comfortable room and large onsen public baths, Madoka no Mori provides an authentic ryokan experience that is simply memorable in Gora. A stay here will give guests an elegant and subtle sense of luxury, demonstrated by the artful simplicity and the focus on quality that encapsulate the essence of Japanese hospitality.
If you’re planning a visit to Hakone, Madoka no Mori is definitely worth considering!