Thursday, July 28, 2011

Perfect Day Hakone

Last weekend I went to Hakone with my new friend Dezza. (Nickname alert!) Dezza just moved here in June and hadn't left Tokyo since arriving. So we got on the Odakyu Romance Car to Hakone and had ourselves a day of fun and nature. 

One of the best things about going on a trip is starting the day with an eki-ben, a bento from the departing station, and eating it on the train while enjoying the views of the countryside. This bento was on the more expensive side, but it included 3 pieces of chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) so in my eyes, it was worth it. 

Our itinerary. 

Cooled off with a free footbath and kakigori (shaved iced) with ice cream on top at the adorable Naraya Cafe outside the Miyanoshita stop on the Hakone-Tozan Line. 

After a short ride on a cable car and a scenic stroll across a ropeway, we got to Owakudani, which translates to "great boiling valley". And that's exactly what it is! Hakone is known for its natural hot springs and at Owakudani, you can see (and smell) the source.

If you go to Owakudani, you might as well make the mini-hike up to where they sell the kurotamago, black eggs. These eggs are boiled in the hot springs and turn black due to a chemical reaction with the sulphur. I'm sure my dad can pop in and let us all know exactly what the reaction is but let's move on. 

They say that you'll extend your life by 7 years for every egg you ate. I had 2, generously dipped in salt so...with my math that's something like 13 and a half years. Not too bad. 

Other things that are not bad: clear views of Mt. Fuji! We picked the perfect day to visit Hakone. On clear days, it's a great place to see Fuji but many people are left disappointed because it's usually too cloudy to see anything. Earlier in the week, we had a lil typhoon sweep through Japan. Generally speaking, typhoons are bad. But it did clear away the clouds and drop the temperatures for a few days.  

There are lots of "black" themed foods around Hakone, including this black steamed bun. Looks gross, but it was delicious. 

Of course. 

After taking the ropeway down, we crossed Lake Ashi in this ridiculous boat. Beers, boats and Japanese pirates. Just another day in Japan. 

And finally back down to the main station for some tenzaru soba (tempura and soba with cold dipping sauce) and cold sake at Yama Soba

This little dish is a specialty of Hakone. It's goopy and slimy, which is a good sign that people in Japan love it. It was very yummy and wish they had given me more. It's a mixture of wild mushrooms from the area on top of grated daikon radish. 

And of course, it wouldn't be a proper trip to Hakone without a dip into an onsen, or hot spring bath. We  went to the Yumoto Fujiya Hotel and relaxed in their indoor and outdoor baths before taking the last train back to Tokyo. Obviously, you can't take pictures in the onsen because everyone is naked, but this is the path to the hotel. Isn't my camera kind of boss?! It's a Samsung TL500 and I highly recommend it. 

And in case you doubt that I actually went to Hakone, here is proof! A certificate from the Hakone Tourist Association!

Hakone is only an hour and half away from Tokyo on the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku. You can do it all in one day like we did, or you can book a night in a traditional ryokan and really experience Japanese hospitality and cuisine. It's a great trip either way.

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