I decided that the best way to go about this bloggin’ business would be to do them in accordance with the different areas we visited. So yesterday I did a little bit of Tokyo, today I’ll move onto Andrew’s personal favorite: Hakone.
Come Monday morning Andrew was still very much on his old American time schedule, in fact he woke up of his own accord at 5:30 for the first time since…well ever!! He stayed in bed for a while, but by 6:15 he was bored and decided to get up. I told him I wanted half an hour more sleep, so gave him some money and told him to go for a walk. It was like a scene out of some 1990’s comedy movie involving bad parenting like Big Daddy or About A Boy where I groan, pull out a wad of bills and tell him to go run around the city for a while! Haha, but I think he had a good time exploring the streets of Ikebukuro until I gained enough energy to climb out of bed.
We were on the train by 7:30 or so, heading for Hakone using our Hakone Free Passes (definitely the way to travel for those of you looking at visiting this beautiful mountain hot spring region!). There is actually a really fun loop that you can take on this free pass. It involved a train, a cable train, a cable car, a ropeway gondola, a pirate ship, a hike, and a bus ride…yup I think the only thing that could have made that better would be a piggyback ride by ninjas…
That day the weather was cloudy and mist hung low like cold, mysterious Scooby Doo cartoon fog. Yet Andrew and I both agreed that rather than ruining the scenery, the clouds simply made it all the more majestic. We had an incredible first morning of random adventures, taking time to stop at various stations in order to explore the backstreets and mountains paths. Our lunch, albeit a simple cup noodle and sushi roll convenience store meal, was exactly the remedy for a drizzly day. Throughout the afternoon we took an eerie ride through the clouds on the ropeway before descending onto Lake Ashinoko. The pirate ship was waiting for us at the port and along with a huge crew of Chinese tourists we slowly drifted across the still water, marveling at the forests and mountains that surrounded us. After the boat ride we had a fun and at one point illegal (shhh, don’t tell the Yamano Hotel that we snuck through their gardens!) hike to our incredible Japanese style hotel, Ryuguden!
The Kobayashi’s booked the hotel for us while I was still at their house and it was fantastic. The place is all old-fashioned Japanese wood and tatami mats, cozy and extravagant all at the same time. To top it off we had access to a nice relaxing onsen hot spring as well. Soon we were enjoying an elaborate Japanese feast served to us right in our room.
The woman who brought us our meals wore a traditional kimono and prepared everything just right, making sure we had everything we needed. The meal was great; we enjoyed going back and forth choosing which dish to try next. Add another onsen after dinner and Andrew and I were out like a light that night! The futons we slept on were so comfortable that I don’t remember a single thought in between my head hitting the pillow and my alarm clock ringing the next morning!
Wednesday was just as fun. We woke up early, had a good breakfast (also prepared in our room) and checked out. A short walk down to the lake, a bus ride to the nearby town and >BAM<>sprint for the nearest cover, running from storefront to storefront in order to catch our transfer. It was a fun memory and I think it was little things like that that made Andrew enjoy Hakone so much. (This Ukiyo-E Japanese woodblock print below has always been my favorite, it's of the mountains around Lake Ashinoko in Hakone, and that's Mt. Fuji rising behind covered in snow. It's actually a piece by the famous artist whose art museum is right here in Nakagawa. I just have so many connections to it, I'll always love this print!)
Our afternoon then cleared up wonderfully and we spent our remaining time in Hakone exploring the quaint mountain village of Hakone Yumoto. It was fresh from its recent shower and the streets were alive with tourists and locals alike. One of our favorite Japanese grandpas during the trip was in a shop in Hakone Yumoto. He had to be well over 80, had ears as furry as his eyebrows and despite the protesting of his daughter, pickout out six or seven bite size samples at a grill-it-yourself fish store, only to eat the first one, spit it our saying that it was too hot, give us a smile and hobble off leaving Andrew, myself, and two confused Japanese women with our mouths open, laughing at such a quirky and feisty old Japanese man!
We were soon on our shinkansen bullet train heading to Kyoto, kicking back and watching the Japanese countryside fly by. I was just as excited for the upcoming days as Andrew was, seeing as Kyoto and Osaka were both new cities for me to visit, whereas Hakone and Tokyo are both old favorites. I guess I’ll just have to leave you in the dark until tomorrow when I’ll have more time to let you in on our next few adventures.
PS Today = Kayak practice at the fishery school. Aka spending the whole morning in a drizzling rain, cruising rapids with my classmates. Haha, what a school. Tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday are all three hour testing days, so I have them all off. We’ll see what they hold in store…