Happy in Hakone
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
17Trip End Oct 20, 2009
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Where I stayed
Well we rose fairly early and finished packing our gear as we prepared to leave Tokyo. We bid farewell to the oh-so-friendly staff at the Sakura hostel in Asakusa. We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay and can recommend the place to any traveller to Tokyo. It suited us heaps as it is laid back and friendly, they all spoke great English and were just the nicest and most helpful folk we could have imagined.
Now seasoned travellers in the Tokyo subway system, we had no trouble making our way to Tokyo station and got our first taste of the bullet train. It is smooth, sleek, and fast; and like every train we have been on in Japan it is clean and efficient to the max. When the timetable says it is leaving at 12:06, it leaves exactly on 12:06 to the second.
It seemed that Tokyo stretched on forever, and it is just one huge megalopolis beyond Yokohama to the south. As suburb after suburb whizzed by we really wondered if it was going to be a built up area all the way to Hakone. Eventually though, the cityscape began to turn into green spaces, farm lands and speckles of forest; and for the first time all week we actually saw a horizon that was not buildings... The mountains here make our mountains back in Australia look like hills really.
Sooner than we anticipated we arrived in the small city of Odawara, a regional hub connecting us with the Hakone area. We left the bullet train for now and jumped onto a packed train heading for Hakone Yumoto. This area has been for ages a holiday destination for Tokyo residents – it has hot natural springs, dormant (and not so dormant) volcanoes, mountain settlements and views of Mt Fuji. Just our luck, this weekend is a holiday weekend in Japan as they are celebrating national sports and health day (yeah seriously).
There are holiday makers and day trippers everywhere; the roads were clogged up and into it all appears a family of five from Australia with luggage enough for a month's stay. As usual though, everyone was friendly and helpful and despite waiting in line for ages with all the locals we boarded a small bus for the climb up the mountain
Arriving at a small place called Sengukara, so glad to off that bus, we had a minutes’ walk to the Fuji Hakone Youth Hostel. This place is wonderful. Greeted by a charming family we felt welcome and comfortable straight away. The same family run an equally charming guest house in the same location and the dear lady who runs the place gave us a quick guided tour of our lodgings and an introduction to the famous Hakone tourist loop. We will write more about this tomorrow after we travel on the mountain cable car, the ropeways and the boats on Lake Ashi with views of Mount Fuji (weather pending of course).
Our room is the traditional Japanese room with tatami straw mats on the floor, futon beds rolled up in the corner, rice paper panels covering the windows and a central table low to the floor with cushions around it. We have a beautiful view out our huge window overlooking scenic bushland and a stream flowing down the mountain. We have fallen in live with this place already.
Feasting on a sumptuous meal of rice, noodles, vegies, soup and pork (oh you really have to come over here and try their tucker) at a local restaurant, we had a relaxing stroll soaking up the mountain air and scenery
We soaked in the waters and all our travel aches, pains and weariness seemed to just disappear. We’ve reserved the huge tub here again early tomorrow morning and are already planning to ask Santa for one of these for Christmas (not sure how he’s going to manage the hot natural spring though!!!). Rejuvenated, content and excited about tomorrow when we venture further up the mountain and play on four other forms of transport, we are all just about ready to hit the futon.
Folks you really have to come and check this place out. Anyway, that’s it for today. Thinking of you all in Oz as we ponder coming back here again...