Last time I spent so much time talking about the journey to get to the Hyatt Regency Hakone (Resort and Spa) that I hit my self-imposed limit of 1000 words per post before I even got around to talking about the hotel itself. Let’s fix that now!
Hyatt Regency Hakone is a quirky kind of place. Unlike every other Hyatt hotel in Tokyo, the property was not originally built as a Hyatt; it was build with the intended purpose of becoming a club for Mori Trust members in 2004, but instead opened as the GranForet Gora Hotel in 2005. Due to terrible economic conditions at the time, the hotel was sold less than a year later to Morgan Stanley in 2006 and, after extensive renovations, reopened under the Hyatt flag just before the end of the year (the hotel was again sold to a Taiwan firm in 2010).
So this hotel is one of many salvages of horrible business decisions and wastes of taxpayer money that were hallmarks of Japan in the 1990′s and early 2000 time period (a much more spectacular example can be found a few miles away, in the conversion of SPAUSA into the Hilton Odawara Resort and Spa) This is not the kind of place that Hyatt would have designed on its own, but they are doing pretty much the best that they could with what they were given.
One thing that they couldn’t change was the exterior, a dumpy concrete sarcophagus that might have you seriously regretting your decision to stay here once you see it.
But when you do force yourself to step inside all is forgiven, as you are treated to a lovely blend of Western mountain lodge and Japanese hot springs design. There is no check-in “desk” at this hotel, just large wooden tables that you sit around as the staff proceeds with the paperwork. From the entrance you can look down at the inviting lounge area one floor below, with the unusual but friendly design of having a fireplace smack dab in the center.
I have not had the opportunity to stay in a regular room, but the design leads me to believe that they are quite spacious compared to those at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo. That said, if you are a Diamond tier member of Hyatt Gold Passport, or have at least 6000 points to use, I would definitely recommend using a suite upgrade at this hotel, as the Regency Suite Twin provides even more space, along with huge windows allowing you to look over the mountain terrain in two directions.
In addition to your regular clothes, you have another clothing option available in your closet, a light Japanese kimono (yukata) and half-coat (hanten) that you are allowed to wear throughout the hotel, even in the restaurant and lounge. This is comfortable and convenient to use when commuting to the hotel spa (the design of which is a bit spartan, but is very comfortable and relaxing and if you are okay with public bathing), but you may feel a bit odd wearing it in the restaurant. Personally, I felt even more odd going to the morning breakfast buffet and seeing people inadvertently slipping their loose kimono sleeves into the food…
Although the hotel does not offer a Regency Club for Diamond members (offering free breakfast at the restaurant for Diamonds in its place), it does offer free nightly drinks for all guests in the lounge, consisting of various alcoholic beverages and juices. The fireplace is the main attraction of the lounge at night, but I’d also recommend seeking out the well-hidden library, one of the most comfortable areas of the hotel. If you’re idea of a good time is playing a game of checkers or catching up on all seven of the Harry Potter books, then you’ve come to the right place!
However, the Hyatt Regency Hakone is not the right place for you if you are allergic to dogs. As the original hotel that Hyatt inherited had several dog friendly rooms, Hyatt decided to embrace this concept, and not only kept the dog rooms and suites, but also introduced a dog salon on site to pamper pooches to the max. They even adopted Haru as a puppy to become the official greeter, and the first (and only) canine employee in the entire Hyatt corporation (Haru is now full grown, though after a traffic accident a couple years ago he doesn’t get around the hotel quite as much as he used to) So there will always be a few dogs on the premises, and while Hyatt does do a good job in segregating them from the regular people areas, a sensitive person will definitely notice their presence.
Although there is not much to see and do in the immediate vicinity, Hyatt Regency Hakone is a comfortable, relaxing sanctuary, and a good base for the exploration of the rest of the Hakone area. However, if you are making what is likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Hakone area, I hesitate to recommend it. It’s a good, safe Hyatt hotel, you won’t be disappointed with a stay, and I do look forward to returning again in the near future, but it is kind of bland compared with other Hakone experiences that are available. I’d recommend that first-and-only-timers should go with either the historic Fujiya Hotel, the spectacular views and activities offered by the huge The Prince Hakone or, if money is no object, the very best that Hakone has to offer in the Gora Kadan.