Published: January 15th 2012November 6th 2011
Day 3 - Shizuoka
We caught the iconic shinkansen (bullet) train from Osaka to Shizuoka today. Travelling at speeds over 300kph, we arrived about 2 hours later and picked up a Mazda rental car. I was a bit nervous about driving in Japan but the driving itself turned out to be easier than I'd imagined as the road rules are quite similar to ours and the traffic wasn't too bad (probably helped that it was lunch time on a Sunday). Anyway, we made our way out along Highway 1 towards Mt Hakone. Unfortunately, we only had Japanese GPS and even though I had maps that I'd downloaded from Google, it was still difficult trying to find our way due to the lack of signs in English.
We eventually ended up where we wanted to go which was a restored section of the Old Tokaido Road, the main "highway" (walking path) from Tokyo to Kyoto during the Edo Period. We walked for a short way along the restored section of the road but didn't end up seeing the checkpoint because we couldn't find it. Not a sign in English anywhere.! And it was drizzling and foggy and we just wanted
to get going. So we headed north for Mt Fuji and once we had descended a little, the fog cleared and it was a much nicer drive.
We arrived at our hotel at Lake Kawaguchi just on dusk and checked into our ryokan for the night. Our lodgings were all that we had hoped - a traditional style building with beautiful traditional gardens, the simplicity and minimalist decor of our room offset by the attention to detail within the room. After heading into town for some Macca's, we took a drive aroun the lake. Back at our room, we made up our futons (which were suprisingly comfortable), got dressed in the robes they supplied and made ourselves some green tea using the beautiful japanese tea set that was supplied. Caitlyn decided to brave the onsen (you can't wear bathers, it's not allowed) but even though there are separate onsens for men and woman, I gave it a miss.
Surprisingly, it was one of the best nights sleep I've ever had.
Day 4 - Mt Fuji to Matsumoto
We woke up to a glorious clear autumn day. I started off the day with Tai Chi and couldn't
help but smile and be thankful that here I was, doing Tai Chi in a beautiful traditional ryokan in the shadow of Mt Fuji. Apparently Mt Fuji is often shrowded in cloud so we were fortunate to get to see the top, even though it looks quite different when it's not covered in snow.
We headed up to Shosenkyo Gorge, where the Arakawa River winds its way through a beautiful little gorge. It would be beautiful at any time of the year but the autumn colours of the trees really made this place very special. At one point along the walk to the Sengataki waterfall, there is a rock overhang above the pathway and there are thousands of 1 yen coins wedged into the cracks in the rock - not sure why but it is obviously something that is done for good luck, like throwing coins into a wishing well.
We decided to try to avoid the toll road as I'd read somewhere that the tolls were quite expensive. However, the downside was that the "highway" to Matsumoto ran through every village/town for the 100kms to Matsumoto. So a drive that would take us about an hour in
Australia, took 3 hours because we were only able to drive 60k/hr most of the time. We eventually arrived at our hotel around 4pm which is about 2 hours later than I had planned. This put our plans to go to the monkey park at Nagano in disarray because I had only allocated about 4 hours the next morning to get there and back. If it took longer, we might not be able to get the car back to Nagoya by 7pm which was the booked time. So we decided to give the monkey park a miss.
There are more photos below