Hidden in the Hakone mountains, a 15 minute drive from Moto-Hakone, is the most magical and otherworldly kissaten that’s ever existed.
Having just eaten lunch and explored Hakone Jinja Shrine, I was excited to head up into the trees and spend an hour sipping tea and eating mochi. What I wasn’t excited for was the journey there. My itinerary specifically told me to take a taxi. I had only taken one single taxi in my life, and that was back in Australia where I knew the driver could speak English. Because of that, I was really nervous. But, thankfully, it turned out well; my taxi driver was absolutely lovely. He didn’t speak a word of English and got way too excited when I tried to talk to him in Japanese. We talked about the rain. And kangaroos. Naturally.
(later, I found out that you could easily take a bus, but anyway…)
The tea house, itself, was astounding.
A medium-sized cottage with open doors, dirt floors and tables with raw, wooden edges. There was a raised section where you could take off your shoes and sit on the floor beside the heater. I sat in the corner, on a little stump fashioned into a chair.
To begin with, I though the menu was quite expensive. It was around 1100 yen for the iced green tea and the three-style mochi. What I didn’t realise was that the portion sizes were enormous. I looked at it and instantly regretted eating lunch; the mochi was HUGE. The three style mochi consisted of two sweet styles, and one savory. The far left was covered in a fine, sweet powder. The middle: a less fine, slightly less sweet powder. The last one had seaweed and tasted a little like soy sauce. All I remember regarding the flavours is that one of them was charcoal; I’m gessing it was the last one.
I could have tried the tea house’s famous amazake, too, which is a warm, sweet rice wine. The reason I didn’t go for it is only because I don’t drink alcohol and sake is traditionally alcohol. I found out afterwards that it wasn’t actually alcoholic. BUT I loved my iced matcha, so all was well.
I settled in my seat, ate my mochi, and watched the foliage beckoning and bowing in the summer wind. It was surprisingly chilly. I pulled out my notebook. I wrote. What was supposed to be an hour of scheduled time, turned into two (I had been ahead of schedule, luckily).
I cannot wait to go back to Hakone and revisit this tea house. The staff were wonderfully kind. The food was amazing. The setting was just astoundingly beautiful. This is now literally my favourite cafe in the entire world. I never wanted to leave.