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Published: November 6th 2017
A very long day! I was up not long after 5 am to get ready for our day trip to Hakone. Since my flight was leaving at around 2 am, I had decided just to take my stuff with me as we would be going to Hakone via Shinjuku and it would be too much effort to return to the Asakusa area to collect my bag. I'm glad I was only traveling with hand luggage. It was pretty cold as I walked down to Ueno station. The streets were really quiet. I met my friend at Ueno station and we took the train to Shinjuku. Shinjuku station was busy as always. We headed to the ticket office and bought the Hakone Freepass, this covered all our transport for the trip, so we didn't have to worry about anything. We took the train for a couple of hours. We had to switch trains at a train station somewhere, it was too early for me to take note, and since there was a cafe/bakery there. We prolonged our layover by getting some breakfast and hot coffee there. The second train was a lot smaller, and more crowded. It wound its way slowly up
the mountain. it was really warm as well so it was difficult to stay awake. There were also a few switchbacks which added time to the journey. We had arrive at the smallish town of Gora.
From Gora we took the cable car up to Owakudani. I really enjoyed the cable car ride. The weather was pretty clear so we had some great views. I could see Mt. Fuji sitting majestically in the distance. I still am in awe that I managed to reach the summit in the summer. It's cool to look at the mountain and know I've been up there. The views looking down were also amazing as the cable car goes over the Boiling Valley, Owakudani. It was cool to see all the steam coming from the landscape. We got off the cable car at Owakudani and took a look around. We headed out to the viewing area to get a better look at the sulphur pits. There was a lot of steam, it was cool to see. Owakudani is famous for black eggs, kuro-tomango. They are on sale in the cable car station, so we bought some, well it would be rude not to. The
eggs are cooked in the sulphurous water on site, which causes the shell to turn black. They are meant to ad seven years to your life if you eat one, according to local legend. They tasted just like normal boiled eggs, but it as fun to try them. I loved the black eggs stools and Hello Kitty, that were on display there. After eating our eggs and taking a bit of a look around, we headed down the other side of the mountain in another cable car. The views were really good on this side too, we got to see Mt. Fuji a bit better and the countryside as we headed down towards Lake Ashi. We exited the cable car and joined the queue for the boat ride across Lake Ashi. We had to wait quite a while for the next boat. I wish we had been able to take a walk around the lake.
The boat trip across the lake was a disappointment. We just sat in our seats and the views weren't too great from the windows. I'm not sure if you can, but it would have been nice to go out on deck and see the
views better. We did get to see some nice views when we got off the boat. Lake Ashi is pretty. Then, it was onto a bus that would take us back to the main town. I was gutted that we didn't get to see the tori gate in the lake up close, it looked really pretty and I would have loved a photo of it. Once, we were back in Gora, we went to look for the restaurant, Tamura Ginkatsutei, that I had found online that I wanted to have lunch at. When I had sent the link to my friend, she didn't need any persuasion and said it looked great. It was a short walk from where the bus dropped us off. The restaurant had a couple of buildings as due to its popularity, it has outgrown its original premises. We got to the newer, bigger premises an were shocked as there were loads of people outside waiting to go in for lunch. We had arrived towards the end of lunchtime, I think just after two, but it was still really busy. We got a ticket from the machine and waited for our number to be called. We had
to wait quite a while, I hoped the food would be worth it. I think we were the second or third last group to be let in. We both decided to order the restaurant's specialty, s tofu and pork dish. We ordered it as a set so that it came with rice and miso soup. The food was delicious. The tofu and pork was served in a eramic/clay pot to keep it warm and it had a nice light gravy with onions. It actually reminded me of home cooked English food, not that we have tofu, but the pork, onions and gravy. It was the perfect, warm comfort food for a cold winter's day.
After our lunch, we decide to head to an onsen to have a relaxing soak. There are some famous, really pretty ones to visit in the area. But due to our limited time and having to rely on public transport, it just wasn't feasible to visit one of the really nice ones. My friend found a hotel nearby that had an onsen so after a quick convenience store coffee, we headed there. The hotel that the onsen was in looked really nice and I was
envious of the people who were checking in and getting given traditional robes to wear to lounge about in. We headed down to the onsen. We went through the usual routine of washing before the bathing pool. It was really nice to spend a couple of hours there relaxing. the onsen was pretty small and a few hotel guests came and went. I was actually glad that I had all my stuff with me, as it meant I could get properly ready afterwards. I would be nice and clean for my flight later that evening. the hotel offered tea and coffee so we had one of those and continued our relaxing in the reception lounge area. Finally, we tore ourselves away and headed back to the station. We had a little while to wait for the train and I could see some lanterns shining nearby, it looked really pretty so we walked a little closer to investigate. We didn't get much further before my friend realised it was a funeral. I'm so glad she was there and knew what was going on as I would have been the totally insensitive foreigner gatecrashing.
We spent most of the train ride
back to Tokyo, dozing. A woman, who had obviously been attending the funeral we had just saw, had been chattering away on the platform, well she got in our carriage and continued to chatter the whole journey back. I don't think she stopped for breathe. We were glad that when we changed trains later on, she didn't. the trains were nice and warm, so that made resting easy. It was a long journey back to Shinjuku. In hindsight, I wish that we had done this trip over two days, as it felt really rushed. Also the three hour travel time just to get there was enough for one day. Having to do the same commute back was just a killer. I was knackered by the time we got to Shinjuku station. Since my flight was leaving at about 2 am, I still had plenty of time. We decided to go for dinner together, since I love Japanese ramen and hadn't had it on this trip that is what we decided to go for. Well, I had actually said to my friend that in all my trips to Japan, I had never ordered a meal from a vending machine ad really
wanted to try it. My friend, of course, knew just the place and I got to kill two birds with one stone, order a meal from a vending machine and have a piping hot bowl of ramen. The place we went to was on one of the backstreets in the Shinjuku neighbourhood. We ordered our meals from the vending machine. There were a few different types of broths that you could choose from, I can;t remember what I picked now. We also ordered some gyoza to share. We handed the coupons we were given into a member of staff and waited on the bench until we were called up to take a seat at the counter. Then our food was placed in front of us. The ramen was delicious and a perfect last meal for my trip in Japan.
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