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Hakone Japan

Hiking

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 Hakone.

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 Hakone valley.

From Julia: Fuji is stunningly beautiful as you can see from David's picture here.

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 Mt. Soun.

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 résistance 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 others. It was a strange and otherworldly place.

A 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 electric sheep?





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