Hike – Mt Hiwada 日和田山

22 10 2010

Quick Overview

Spider Lilies

Spider Lilies

The trail to Mt Hiwada 日和田山 is very versatile, and can be used as a starting point to hike further into Chichibu 秩父, or as an easy walk back to Hanno Station 飯能駅 as described here.  If you are able to do the hike in late September, Kinchakuda 巾着田 has spectacular Spider Lilies before you head towards Koma Pass 高麗峠.  With plenty of shops and bathrooms in the area, and only a 300m high peak, this hike is perfect for families, or people wanting to have a stroll through nature.

Distance: 11km
Duration:  3 and a half hours
Difficulty: easy (very very!)
Season:  Suitable all year, maybe a little snow in winter months
Starting point:  Koma Station 高麗駅
Finishing point:  Hanno Station 飯能駅

Maps

A full map of the hike  can also be viewed at GPSies

There are a lot of different and interesting hikes in the Chichibu 秩父 area, so I recommend you buy a map, particularly if you are just using Mt Hiwada 日和田山 as a starting point.  The Mapple 山と高原地図 series number 22 map is of the Oku-Musahino 奥武蔵 and Chichibu 秩父 region, and is available on Amazon.co.jp.  Note, this map is in Japanese, but does include some English and furigana.

The Hike

Trail Marker for Mt Hiwada

Trail Marker for Mt Hiwada

From Koma Station 高麗駅 exit, turn right and follow the road under the train lines to the intersection.  Cross the road and keep going in approximately the same direction from the station down a small residential street. You will cross another road before the street turns to the left.  Keep following this road until you reach a main road, and turn right.  Cross the river and take the street up to the left at the next set of traffic lights.  If you need to pick up some supplies there is a 7-11 a little further down the main road.

Follow the road up to the left until you see the trail marker for Mt Hiwada 日和田山 (the 3rd street on the left).  Head up this street and where the street curves to the right you’ll see the trail heads for Mt Hiwada 日和田山.  There is also a rest area and bath rooms here.  It should only take about 15 minutes to reach this point.

While there are a few different trails you can start on, the main trail is on the right, and its the widest and most well-defined path.  Follow the trail up for about 10 minutes until you reach a stone Torii gate.  Here the path splits into two trails,  with the trail on the left being rocky and difficult (take caution if you use this trail), and the trail on the right being easy.

Continue up on the easy path for about 15 minutes and you will reach Kotahira Shrine 金刀比羅神社.  The Shrine is a good view-point, from which you can see views of Oku Chichibu 奥秩父, Oku Tama 奥多摩, and even Mt Fuji 富士山 on a good day.  To reach the summit, follow the trail on the right of the shrine, it should only take about 5 minutes to reach the top.

Looking at the view from Kotahira Shrine

From the summit you can continue on towards Mt Takasasu 高指山, Mt Monomi 物見山 and Musashi Yokote Station 武蔵横手駅, if you want to do more hiking in the mountains. Although in Japanese, this Seibu Website has more information about the hike to Mt Takasasu 高指山, and a map.  Otherwise, retrace your steps back down Mt Hiwada 日和田山 to the main road.  It should only take about 30 minutes to return.  

Once you reach the road, take the first road to the left (before crossing the bridge) and follow the river around to reach Kinchakuda 巾着田, a flower garden within a circular part of Koma River 高麗川.  During late September and early October the Spider Lilies should be in bloom, and there will be plenty of people about.

Aiai Bridge

Aiai Bridge

Entrance to Kinchakuda 巾着田 is 200 yen, and it will take about 40 minutes to walk from the entrance to the wooden Aiai Bridge あいあい橋 on the other side of the circle and then back to the concrete Do-Re-Me-Fa Bridge ドレミファ橋 in the middle of the circle.  Once you have strolled amongst the flowers, cross the Do-Re-Me-Fa Bridge ドレミファ橋 to exit Kinchakuda 巾着田 and start on the trail to Koma Pass 高麗峠 and Hanno station 飯能駅.

Follow the path up to the left until you reach a road.  Here there’s a marker pointing out the Musashino Nature Walking trail 武蔵野自然遊歩道 to Koma Pass 高麗峠.  Turn right, and the road will soon become trail again.  It should only take about 20 minutes to reach Koma Pass 高麗峠, where the trail splits.  If you head to the left the trail will take you round past Miyazawa Lake 宮沢湖 before going back to the Nakayama Nishi 中山西 Intersection, while the trail to the right heads straight to the same intersection.  It will only take about 20 minutes to come to the road if you use the direct trail.

Do-Re-Mi-Fa Bridge

Do-Re-Mi-Fa Bridge

One you leave the forest, cross the road at the Nakayama Nishi 中山西 intersection, and follow the road straight ahead.  As it curves to the left, there is another trail on the right, up a hill there towards Mt Tenran 天覧山 and Nonin Temple 能仁寺.  If you want to skip the temple keep to the road, and turn left at the second traffic lights.  Just follow the road sign pointing to Higashi Hanno Station 飯能駅.  Three traffic lights later turn right to go to Hanno Station 飯能駅 (again, there is a road sign pointing the way to the station).  At the end of the road you’ll come to Hanno Station 飯能駅.  It should take about 30 minutes from the turn off to Mt Tenran 天覧山 and Nonin Temple 能仁寺.

To and From

As always, the following routes are just recommendations.  Please use Hyperdia or Jorudan’s Train Route Finder to find the most suitable route for you!

From Seibu Ikebukuro Station 西武池袋駅 take the Seibu Ikebukuro line 西武池袋線 Rapid Express 快急 or Express 急行 bound for either Hanno 飯能 or Seibu Chichibu 西武秩父, if you catch a train bound for Hanno 飯能, you will need to transfer to a local train bound for Seibu Chichibu 西武秩父 at Hanno 飯能.  Get off the train at Koma Station 高麗駅, which is approximately 60 minutes and 510 yen from Ikebukuro 池袋.  The Seibu line also runs a Limited Express 特急 which will take you to Hanno station 飯能駅 in approximately 50 minutes, for an extra 410 yen.  If you catch the catch the Limited Express 特急 remember to change to a local train bound for Seibu Chichibu 西武秩父 at Hanno Station 飯能駅.

The return fare from Hanno Station 飯能駅 to Ikebukuro 池袋 is 450 yen, and takes 50 minutes on the Express 急行.

Links

Kinchakuda (Japanese) http://www.kinchakuda.com/

An alternate course to Musashi Yokote Station (in Japanese) http://www.hikingmap.jp/course/hiwadasan01.html and map http://www.hikingmap.jp/pdf/course_hiw.pdf

My Flickr photo set from Mt Hiwada http://www.flickr.com/photos/michelelisa/sets/72157624974213737/with/5053114941/

Map of hike on GPSies http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=huvzccgduxzseifd

Useful Kanji

Aiai Bridge あいあい橋
Chichibu 秩父
Do-Re-Me-Fa Bridge ドレミファ橋
Express 急行
Hanno Station 飯能駅
Kinchakuda 巾着田
Koma Pass 高麗峠
Koma River 高麗川
Koma Station 高麗駅
Kotahira Shrine 金刀比羅神社
Ikebukuro 池袋
Miyazawa Lake 宮沢湖
Mt Fuji 富士山
Mt Hiwada 日和田山
Mt Monomi 物見山
Mt Takasasu 高指山
Mt Tenran 天覧山
Musashino Shizen Walking trail 武蔵野自然遊歩道
Musashi Yokote Station 武蔵横手駅
Nakayama Nishi 中山西
Nonin Temple 能仁寺
Oku Chichibu 奥秩父
Oku-Musahino 奥武蔵
Oku Tama 奥多摩
Rapid Express 快急
Seibu Ikebukuro line 西武池袋線
Seibu Ikebukuro Station 西武池袋駅
Seibu Chichibu 西武秩父
Limited Express 特急





good ‘cherry’ hunting

5 07 2010

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while!  It’s been busy to say the least!  So much as been happening lately, between parties, meeting old friends, work, and the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (yesterday), I haven’t had much time for myself lately.  But I did manage to take some time out a few weeks ago to go on a Hato Bus tour “Hunting for cherries”.

One of the things I love (and hate) about Japan is the difference in the seasons.  And one thing that changes with the seasons is the fruit that is available.  For example, in winter I live on mikan.  But in June, my absolute favourite fruit becomes available – the Japanese Cherry.  There are a few varieties of Japanese Cherries, and, in general, they are pinker and lighter in color than most cherries available in Australia, and are also much sweeter, although there are some slightly sour varieties.

A couple of prefectures in Japan are famous for their cherries, namely Yamagata and Yamanashi.  Having tasted both, I highly recommend Yamagata cherries, but at about 600 or 700 yen for 200g, they are quite expensive.  Another option to get your fill is to go to a farm that offers an ‘all you can eat, pick them yourself’ deal.  Usually you are able to walk around an orchard for about 30 or 40 minutes, and pick (or ‘hunt for’) as many cherries as you like to eat right there for about 1000 to 2000 yen.  And trust me, you can eat a lot in that time…  However, if you want to take some home you have to buy them separately.

As I don’t have a car, the easiest way for me to do this was to go on a tour.  My friend and I went on a Hato bus tour, that not only included cherry picking, but also a visit to Mt Fuji, a buffet lunch, and a brief stop at a Japanese sweets factory called Kikyoya.  The cost was about 9,500 yen, but it really was worth it as it was a full day – almost 13 hours!

We were really lucky with Mt Fuji, because despite being June and cloudy we were able to see the whole mountain.  Actually, when I booked the tour, I didn’t check what the extra activities apart from lunch and cherry picking were, so I wasn’t prepared for this stop.  The 5th station is about 2300m above sea level so it’s much cooler.  On that day it was 10 deg C and raining, and even though I had bought an umbrella, I neglected to bring a jacket.

After that it was on to lunch at the Fuji View Hotel.  It’s owned by a fairly famous hotel chain, and actually had John Lennon stay there once, but their lunch buffet was pretty standard.  There was one thing on the menu that is a Yamanashi original dish – Houtou.  Basically a miso soup with flat udon noodles and a pumpkin flavor.  It was really yummy, and I’m looking forward to trying to make it myself once it gets cooler again.

Next it was off to the Japanese sweets factory, where we were taught how to wrap Shingen-mochi.  Kikyoya is also the home of a very impressive display of sugar flowers, animals and trees.  There were so many different displays that I’ll be doing a separate photo!spam post later this week.  But here’s a sneak peek…

And lastly, the cherry picking.  Normally I’m actually quite nervous climbing up ladders, but apparently when there are cherries at the top I have no problems.  On top of stuffing my self stupid at the cherry orchard, I also bought about a kilo of cherries to make sakuranbou-shu (expect a video of that adventure in about 6 months once it’s finished…  stewing?).

And of course, what’s being a tourist without some shopping!

As always more photos are on flickr, and a post about the sweets with also appear later this week!





Brisbane Bites

28 05 2010

Okay, so, I know I’m going to get into trouble for this…  But during golden week I snuck back to Australia for my grandfather’s 90th birthday.  As I didn’t have much time, I only told a couple of friends, so I’m sorry if I missed catching up with anyone who wanted to.  Trust me, my trip was far too short.

Going back to Australia means a few things for me, but eating some of my favourite foods is up there on my to do list.  So here’s what I ate in Australia!

Firstly, the reason for the visit – my grandfather’s birthday cake.  (no, wait…  that’s not quite right….)  The cake is a fruitcake with fondue icing.  We had a friend make it, and she did a brilliant job with our instructions of a ‘cricket theme’.  The bat, stumps, ball, and pads were all made by hand.  She even rolled out liquorice to make the grip on the bat!  And most importantly, it was delish!

We also went down to the Beerwah Pub for lunch, where I had a vegetarian lasagna, and stole some oysters Kilpatrick from my cousin.

Actually, most of my time was spent at Beerwah, where I was spoilt by my mother with a Roast Chicken dinner, and fresh scones.  But during the little time I spent in Brisbane I was taken out to dinner twice by friends.  Firstly was burgers at Grill’d, which live up to their reputation.  Although I had a bacon and cheese burger this time, my all time favourite is the Big Queenslander, because all real burgers should have a slice of beetroot.

The other dinner excursion was to the Satay Hut, a Malaysian restaurant, at Southbank.  We had a set for 2 people which included satay sticks, spring rolls, a curry, garlic vegetables, spicy fried seafood , and all you can eat rice.  It was super tasty, but far too much for us, and we had to ask for a doggy bag.  We also stopped at My Sweetopia to buy some cupcakes to eat later.

That weekend was Buddha’s Birthday, so we saw some of the celebrations at Southbank.  And I took some funky photos :)

I also had fun with my iPhone driving through Brissy, and you can see some fuzzy (intentionally) shots in my new iPhone folder on flickr.

And apart from seeing my family, and a little shopping, that was my trip to BrisVegas!





Tokyo Tea Party

19 05 2010

I am so excited to be blogging about this!  I am far too obsessed with food (^-^)v

and with Tim Burton’s Alice, but that’s something completely different… (Mad Hatter… Tea party… get it???)

Tea

Tea!

The Park Hyatt in Shinjuku is by far most famous for its New York Bar, which was featured in the movie Lost in Translation.  However, the hotel has another gem in the Peak Lounge, where you can enjoy the view of the Tokyo skyline, and dine on a fantastic English Afternoon tea.

The menu doesn’t have a vast array of eating options, but more teas than you can poke a tea strainer at.  The best option on the menu is one of the two Afternoon tea sets they offer, either desserts only, or sandwiches and desserts.  Each feature seasonal treats and unlimited tea, coffee, petits fours, and finger foods.

On the day we went we chose the sandwich and desserts option.  Firstly you will be served your beverage.  To begin with I had an English tea.  Shortly after that, they will bring a three-tiered stand (pictured below).  On the top are the sandwiches, in the middle the scones, and on the bottom some cakes.

the setting

the setting

The sandwiches of the day were ham, lettuce and radish, a sun-dried tomato based sandwich , and another one that I have completely forgotten… , all lightly toasted.  I have to admit, I was a little surprised with the ham, lettuce and radish, as it’s a combination I wouldn’t have thought of, but it was quite tasty with the radish giving the sandwich a bit of a tang.

Sandwiches

Sandwiches

The scones were a real treat. Being the start of April and cherry blossom season, one of the scones was sakura flavoured.  The other scone was plain, but the clotted cream and fresh berry compote that accompanied it was divine.

Sakura Scone

Sakura Scone

Scone with clotted cream and berry compote

Scone with clotted cream and berry compote

The cakes that came on the tiered stand were strawberry profiteroles, pistachio tarts, and almond cake.  The profiteroles were quite nice, the filling wasn’t overly strawberry flavoured and was made with real vanilla beans.  The tart base for the pistachio tarts was a little hard, but it’s possible we ate them after they had cooled down a little too much.  The almond cake is something you don’t see too often in Japan, so it was nice to have an old favourite for me.

Strawberry Profiterole

Strawberry Profiterole

Pistacio tart

Pistachio tart

Almond cake

Almond cake

While you are eating from the stand, the staff also come around and offer other petits fours and finger foods.  The petits fours offered were a cherry jelly, chocolate profiteroles, and the best berry panna cotta that I have ever had (I think I even had seconds of this).

Cherry Jelly

Cherry Jelly

Chocolate Profiterole

Chocolate Profiterole

Fresh Berry Panna Cotta

Fresh Berry Panna Cotta

And for finger foods, there were mini quiches, caramelized onion on french bread, pesto penne, and chilli mixed nuts.  Both the caramelized onion on french bread and the pesto penne were my favourite, and a lovely savoury counterpoint to all the sweet dishes.

Mini Quiche

Mini Quiche

Caramelized Onion on French bread

Caramelized Onion on French bread

Pesto Penne

Pesto Penne

Chilli mixed nuts

Chilli mixed nuts

By now we had finished our first cup of tea, and were sampling some of the green teas.  I had the green tea with orange peel (pictured), and Lauren had the green tea with lemongrass.

Green tea with orange peel

Green tea with orange peel

And all the while we were enjoying the changing colors of the sunset over Tokyo!

Sunset

Sunset

Details: Afternoon tea is available at the Peak Lounge on the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo from 1400 to 1700 on weekdays, and from 1200 to 1700 on weekends and public holidays.  The price is 3,000 yen, inclusive of tax and a 10% service charge.

edit may 19: woops, who forgot to spellcheck…





To all those twitter naysayers…

11 05 2010

You know who I’m talking about…  Yes, you!  Now, how many of you have won something off Facebook eh?  *crickets chirping* Yeah, I thought so….

I am a bit of a twitter addict.  I tweet a few times a day, and I read my feed far more often than that.  So, when Lauren and I were in Hakone, of course I was checking my feed on my iPhone.  And I saw tweet from @jtbjapanican with details of a competition to win a trip to the snow.  This competition was a first-in-wins kinda deal, so Lauren and I were quick smart to get down the hotel’s computer room to apply.  And the next day, well, we were some of the happy winners!

The prize included bullet train tickets from Tokyo to Echigo Yuzawa, and one night’s accommodation at the Takahan Ryokan (Japanese Style Inn) including dinner and breakfast.  Now I have been to Yuzawa before, and it really is a great place for Tokyoites to take a quick trip to the snow.  It’s about 60 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train, but, the only problem I had was finding tour packages in English.  It makes me really happy that JTB seems to be looking towards offering tour packages in English.

So, on a Sunday morning, we dragged our sleepy (and slightly hung-over) heads out of bed to catch the train.  We arrived in Yuzawa shortly after 11am, and rang up Takahan to have their shuttle bus pick us up.  Takahan, like most places in Yuzawa, was only about a 5 minute drive from the Station.  Yuzawa Town is really easy to get around.  It’s quite small, but well geared for skiers and boarders, with a free shuttle bus taking you to hotels and ski fields.

Takahan Ryokan

Takahan Ryokan

Since we were far to early to check in, we caught the free shuttle to Yuzawa Kogen to play in the snow.  Unfortunately neither of us ski or board, but as we come from a place with no snow, it’s a bit of a novelty to play in it.  We bought a pass that allowed us to ride the ropeway to the summit, and enter the play zones to do a bit of tubing and tobogganing.  At the summit there is an Italian restaurant and food hall, along with all the ski slopes.  We had a lovely lunch at the Italian place, before building a snow-kangaroo.  After playing about a little more, it was time to head back to the ryokan.

Snow-kanga!

Snow-kanga!

Takahan Ryokan is actually a little famous, as it has a history of about 800 years, and a famous novel ‘Snow Country‘ was written there.  There is also a natural hot spring and a small museum about the novel’s author in the building.  Staying in a ryokan is quite an experience unto itself.  After signing the register you are given a quick tour of the public areas before being taken to your room.  Once you have settled in a little, an attendant comes and serves you tea before confirming what you are having for dinner.  We were asked whether we liked natto, if we wanted our fish fried or salted, and if we prefered sake or beer.

Tea service

Tea service

After that we were able to relax for a little before heading down to the restaurant for dinner.  A lot of ryokans will serve your dinner in your room, however as Takahan is quite large, dinner was served in private rooms in the restaurant.  And dinner was quite lavish, with a selection of regional and seasonal foods.  Here’s what we had-

Salmon Sashimi

Salmon Sashimi

Raw salmon with fresh asparagus, devils tongue, and wasabi

Tofu and mountain vegetable

Tofu and mountain vegetable

Green tea tofu with fresh mountain vegetables and dipping sauce

um....

um....

Not quite sure if this was cold chicken or raw fatty tuna, served with greens

Rice pudding

Rice pudding

Sticky rice pudding with seafood

Crab nabe

Crab nabe

Crab nabe (steamboat or one pot)

Salted fish

Salted fish

Salted freshwater fish

There was also a small bowl of zarusoba (cold buckwheat noodles), pickles, warm sake, and a digestive drink which I haven’t shown.  Overall, a really yummy dinner, of which the crab was my favourite.  A small dessert with tea was also included, but it wasn’t anything special.

After dinner, once you return to your room the futons should be laid out.  We sat and watched TV for a while, before I decided to see what the hot spring was like.  Takahan’s hot spring is a clear sulphur type, which dries your skin out a little, but also makes you feel very very soft.  In the lady’s bath there was a rotenburo (outside bath) that looked down at the Gala Yuzawa station.  So I spent some time admiring the lights and watching the snow fall.  Nothing beats sitting in a piping hot bath outside in the snow!

oyasuminasai~

oyasuminasai~

The next morning it was down to the dining hall for breakfast.  Breakfast was a far more casual affair, with everyone dining together.  It was also a very big!  We had rice, miso soup, grilled salmon, natto, mushrooms, tofu, tea and orange juice.  After that, it was time to check out.  Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and it was snowing pretty heavily.  So, we decided to go to a strawberry picking farm, which is open in all weather.  I’m not a huge fan of strawberries, but these were really sweet and tasty.

Echigo Ichigo!

Echigo Ichigo!

It was still morning, and the weather had improved, so we decided to check out Gala Yuzawa, a ski resort where the bullet train stops right at the base.  Gala is actually very foreigner friendly, and if I have the chance to learn to ski next season, this is where I’ll do it!  We caught a gondola up, and up, and up to the summit where we had lunch looking down on Echigo Yuzawa.  It was freezing cold, so we opted to stay inside and watch other crazy people skiing and boarding.

Echigo Yuzawa

Echigo Yuzawa

And then finally, it was time to head back to the station, buy a few souvenirs, and catch the train back to Tokyo.

I would like to send a big thanks to JAPANiCAN for such a great trip.  Although nothing truly is for free, and we had to fill out a short survey, who wouldn’t mind that when you get train tickets and hotel accommodation at no cost.  I would be glad to be a guinea pig for JTB any day!

And again, Lauren made a video, and you can check out her YouTube channel here!





Yokohama Ramen Coma

4 05 2010

Continuing on with the Australian Invasion (of one), the next day trip Lauren and I took was to Yokohama.  Our main reason (my main reason?) for going there was the Ramen Museum, however no trip to Yokohama is complete without a visit to Chinatown.  The Yokohama Chinatown is one of the largest in the world, and its a very bright and lively shopping and restaurant area, with a couple of shrines thrown in. 

Chinatown Shrine

Chinatown Shrine

So we wandered around there for a while, and I stocked up on Chinese pork buns and egg noodles.  Since we were going to the Ramen Museum later we didn’t have lunch at Chinatown, and we made our way along the bay side to the Minato Mirai area.  There we took a ride on the ‘Cosmo Clock 21′ ferris wheel. 

Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel

Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel

It really struck me how much the Minato Mirai district has changed since my first visit in about 2002.  It’s a much more international tourist friendly place, and there are more things to do.  From the ferris wheel we spotted a couple of things I want to try next time I’m in Yokohama, like the foot bath at the Manyo club, and putt-putt at Vivre.  Both of which are on top of the buildings! 

 

From Minato Mirai it was finally time to get our late lunch (or early dinner) at the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum.  The Ramen Museum is one of my favourite places to go in Yokohama.  Once you enter the Museum and walk downstairs into the basement, you enter a mock-up of what Japan was like in the early to mid Showa era (1925 and onwards). 

Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum

Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum

At any one time, there are about nine different restaurants showcasing different varieties of Ramen from all over Japan.  You can buy large or small bowls of ramen, and traditional Japanese sweets.  We were only able to fit in two small bowls of ramen, so we had Tonkotsu ramen (broiled pork bone soup) from the Kumamoto shop ‘Komurasaki’ 

Tonkotsu ramen

Tonkotsu ramen

and Miso ramen from the Hokkaido shop ‘Eki’  

Miso ramen

Miso ramen

 Both were very delicious, but pretty heavy.  I love trying different types of ramen, and tonkotsu still remains my favourite.  Alas, living in Kanto, the regional flavor of ramen is soy sauce, so I don’t get to satisfy my craving very often. 

And, after rolling ourselves home, that was our day in Yokohama! 

Once again, Lauren made a video, and you can check out her YouTube channel here





Hakone – Princes, Pirates and black eggs!

27 04 2010

About a month ago, my best friend Lauren came to visit.  We had a really busy schedule because this was probably the last chance she will have to visit me in Japan.  One of the first things we did was to visit Hakone using a package from JAPANiCAN.

I’ve been to Hakone so many times that I’ve lost count, but this was Lauren’s first time.  The package from JAPANiCAN was really really good value.  For 11,900yen we had bullet train tickets from Tokyo to Odawara, and one night at the Hakone Prince Hotel.  Using the bullet train to get to Hakone was really quick, cutting a 5 hour journey from my house in half (I live in the sticks!).  Once we were in Odawara we bought some Odakyu Freepasses and we were off!

Hakone Checkpoint

Firstly we caught the bus to Hakone-machi were we had some lunch at a restaurant overlooking Lake Ashi.  This is also the start of the Ashinoko hike, but this time I wasn’t there for hiking.  Our next stop was the Hakone Checkpoint Museum.  This is a recent (2007) replica of the Checkpoint along the Tokaido Highway, and it’s pretty interesting because it illustrates how difficult it was to travel in the Edo period.  Only people who had documents and legitimate reasons were allowed to travel from Tokyo.  And anyone caught trying to sneak by the Checkpoint were arrested and tortured in some very gruesome ways.  Although the Checkpoint buildings themselves are new, the attached museum is a bit…  aged…  and doesn’t have much English signage.  But its pretty easy to guess things like ‘this instrument was used for torture’, etc, etc.

Inside the Hakone Checkpoint

Inside the Hakone Checkpoint

Old Tokaido Highway

Old Tokaido Highway

From the Checkpoint Museum we walked along a small section of the old Tokaido.  The old highway was lined with cedar trees to give some shade to travellers, and even though it’s right beside a roadway, you can still get a feel for what it must have been like to walk from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Certainly something that didn’t exist back then is the Pirate Ship Cruise we caught across the lake.  I had high hopes that while in Hakone we would have fine weather, but we were not lucky, and there was no views of Mt Fuji that day.  But despite that, the round trip from Hakone, on the Pirate Ship, then ropeway, and finally cable car is still fun, and an interesting view of Japan for those who have only really seen the cites beforehand.

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

Egg Ice Cream

Egg Ice Cream

Of course, our next stop on the round trip was Owakudani, an active volcanic area.  From the ropeway station we were lucky to catch a glimpse of the top of Mt Fuji, and then it was up the trail to try some Kuro-tamago, black eggs that have been boiled in the sulphurous hot springs.  Each egg you eat is said to add another 7 years onto your lifespan, and if that’s the case I managed to add another 17.5 years to my life that weekend.

What got me really excited, however, was Egg ice cream!  I’ve mentioned before how there is a lot of variety of ice creams in Japan, but this was the first time I had ever seen Egg flavour.  Thankfully the ice cream didn’t really taste very eggy, but more like pudding.  I truly think it was pudding flavor, but re-named so that they would sell more….

Owakudani

Owakudani

As we were staying at the Hakone Prince Hotel, we backtracked on the ropeway to the lake, and caught a bus around to the hotel.  The Hakone Prince is kind of like a resort style hotel.  It is on a large piece of land (there is even a golf course), and all buildings and attractions were owned by Prince.  But unfortunately the isolation ment there wasn’t even a convenience store to be had, and dining options were either the two restaurants at the hotel or room service.  As we had a late-ish lunch and eggs, we weren’t starving, so we decided that room service was the best option for us.  It also gave me a bit of a thrill as I had never ever ordered room service before.  I had the seafood curry, and it was the best seafood curry I had ever had.  Plus it was really novel to have my dinner wheeled in for me (^-^)

Seafood Curry dinner

Seafood Curry dinner

The next day the weather had turned bad.  It was 3 degrees C and raining, and being in the mountains, the clouds had set in.  We had already decided to go to Yunessun, a hot spring theme park, so the turn in weather wasn’t so bad for us.  Yunesun, although a little expensive at 3,500 yen, is really great for people who don’t want to bathe naked, because it has a swimsuit zone with many different kinds of baths like wine, sake, green tea, charcoal, and more.  Although, the outside area is a bit trying when you are running from bath to bath and it’s only 3 degrees!  The most interesting bath for me was the Dead Sea bath, it has a very high salt content which makes you float very easily.

By the time we finished at Yunessun it was time to head back to Hakone Station and on to Toyko on the bullet train.  So, the goals of 1- see (a bit of) Mt Fuji, and 2- go to an onsen were achieved.

Lauren also made a great video of our trip – you should also check out her YouTube Channel!  (er, also, language warning!)








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