Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Julia at a shrine we discovered on our first walk around Hakone.
We had the luxury this morning of a late start and a bit
of sleep in. We strolled down to the cafe next door to the hotel and ate
croissants and drank coffee with all of the Japanese business men in their
dapper suits. We sat and talked with Andy for quite some time and then
headed back to our hotel where we said goodbye to him. We then packed out
bags, left for the subway, and then took the high speed train to Hakone. It
was a typical Japanese train
trip, we did not have to wait more than a few minutes for it, all the trains
ran right on time, and to make things even better it was a bright and sunny
day with blue skies; all in all a very pleasant experience.
The local temple.
Hakone is a small resort and spa town which has been
frequented by Tokyo inhabitants for hundreds of years. Because of its
proximity to Mt. Fuji Hakone has many hot springs and is noted for its
waters which contain radon! Radon
is a radioactive gas which the locals claim is a cure-all and can even give
you smoother skin. However, my understanding is radon gas is something to be
avoided. I am afraid there was no escaping it for Julia and me while in
In my Kimono which was waiting for us in our room and
which we wore to dinner, while in the hotel, as did everyone else.
The town has many hotels and smaller guest houses most
have Onsen baths as our hotel did. We first experienced the ritual in Niseko
and have become addicted to it now. The
Onsen at our hotel was really hot, much hotter than in Niseko plus it had
radon gas so we not only got boiled from hot water but, from radiation too.
Boiled from the inside and outside one might say.
Our hotel is a very traditional Japanese one so we had no
bed in our room just a Tatami mat in a single room. We had to move the floor
level table and make our own futon bed where ever we liked on the floor.
We ate a very tasty dinner this evening of traditional
Japanese foods. The hotel is unusual to us but very comfortable; this is
true of our general experience of Japan. We like it here.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
On the little train.
We had an extraordinary day today. We woke up early after
sleeping on our futon on the floor. It
is not too bad to sleep this way. We had a morning Onsen and then ate a
scrumptious breakfast. The sun was shinny again and there was not a cloud to
be seen anywhere. The air was cold but the sun was warm. A short walk to the
train station and we were soon on the little train heading deeper into the
Julia: Fuji is stunningly beautiful as you can see from David's picture
Because of the steepness of the terrain the track had
many switch-backs and tunnels which made it was a very scenic trip to Gora
station. From here we took a funicular train up a steep hill to the first
stop Sounzan station. Here
Julia and I walked up a sheer snow covered path for 2 hours to the summit of
The walk was hard going, we had crampons on our boots to
maintain traction on the slippery track but, we felt truly energized during
and after this climb. It offered us spectacular views of the Hakone valley
and the piece de rÃ©sistance was the view of Mt Fuji.
The sulfurous vents.
The area is volcanic and going up to the top of the
mountain we smelt sulfurous vapors from time to time. On the way down the
other side we started to see steaming vents of gas coming out of the earth
and the ground was warm to touch in some places although covered in snow in
was a strange and otherworldly place.
very kitsch galleon on Lake Ashi.
We continued via gondola (which was called a ropeway) to
a mountain lake called Lake Ashi. There wasn"t much to see other than
strange reproductions of galleons, all very kitsch. However, the lake offers
magnificent views. We turned around, headed back to our Onsen and dinner in
kimonos. I like Japan.
I wonder if we will dream of