Tuesday 25th April 2017 – Hakone
We left the snow monkeys at Yudanaka (though I would have happily taken a couple of the youngsters with me) and finished the rest of the journey to Tokyo by train. As we were there fairly early, Meg took us out that evening for a walk round the Shinjuku area of Tokyo – which is a neon filled, noise box of chaos and crazy, and a wander round the lanes of Memory Lane, which sprang up after the war and are tiny rooms with bars or cooking Yakatori either side of a single track lane. It’s smoked filled and each bar is tiny, some only able to seat 4 people, but each bar manages to have it’s own personality and style. Ticking the Blade Runner landscapes early on this visit!
The next day Wayne, Fiona and I had decided as the weather was good, this was a good day to head out of town to Hakone to try to see Mount Fuji. We’d booked seats on the 7.40 train from Shingawa, so left the hotel at 6.45 and onto the Yamanote Line. It’s a trip with a circuit once you get to Hakone and Meg had suggested we go in the opposite way from the normal route, which meant changing trains at Odawara, then getting on a bus at Hakone-Yumoto before arriving at Moto-Hakone-Ko at about 9:30.
We’d bumped into Carolyn, Amy and Jo on the train (reserved seats behind us!) so ended up together in Hakone, looking at a Mount Fuji mostly covered in cloud, but a bit of a potter along the lake to the Hakone-Jinja shrine and back was enough time for the clouds to have cleared and the mountain to appear.
There are a couple of view points along the route, but the next one was completely random… to get to what the Japanese call a Ropeway (gondola), you have to take a pirate ship.. yup, not sure why there are pirate ships on a lake in Japan but you get to take a pirate ship, complete with pirate statue across the lake to Togendai-Ko. The boat gives a great view of the mountain before it disappears again behind the other hills.
We got on the first of the rope ways up to Owakudani, which to one side has an open area where volcanic gasses come out of the earth, staining it a bright yellow and again quite randomly gives the locals the opportunity to cook eggs in the hot water. There is something about the shell composition and the water chemistry that combines to make the shells of the eggs black, but apart from looking quite sinister they are still boiled eggs.
Back on the gondola for the second half of the trip down to Sounzan, we changed onto the Hakone Cable car (funicular) down to Gora where we got on a cute little train to our next top at Chokoku-no-mori. There we visited the Hakone Open Air Museum which is a huge park with works by Henry Moore, Rodin, Picasso and Bellenden’s very own Anthony Gormley (honestly you go to the other side of the world…). It’s set between several hills, and all of the art work is really accessible – I really liked the Symphonic Sculpture which was a huge tower made of glass embedded in concrete which you could climb to the top.
Having upped our dose of highbrow we got back on our series of 4 trains to take us all the way back to Ikebukuro in Tokyo – day well spent! So in a mood to celebrate our ability to navigate Japan without a guide we grabbed a table at the brilliantly named ‘Meat and Wine’ for a salad and a glass of water – yeah right, steak and several bottles of Malbec…