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Published: November 18th 2014
Our hotel in Hakone is a holiday stay for Japanese, complete with a volcanic spa and traditional Yukatas to wear in the hotel. A few staff speak English well, a few can get by and for the rest we resort to gestures and our very limited Japanese.
Our room is quite generous and includes a tami mat area as the lounge and a selection of traditional Yukata robes and sandles for use in the hotel. The one size Yukatas work OK but the footwear is small. It took a long time to work out how to use the urn for hot water and of course our bathroom has a multi function toilet and sink. We are lucky that we can access hotel wifi from our room as most guests have to go to the reception area.
We were given a westernised version of the menu although this just means english descriptions for Japanese food. Bookings and preordering are essential for evening meals. The breakfast buffet has some western elements but is also predominantly Japanese. It is interesting to see a division between traditional and modern Japanese food choices.
After breakfast we set out to explore further up the
mountain. First the funicular to the end of its run, then on to the "ropeway" (gondola) stage 1. It was here, as we rode over a crest that we got our first view of Mt Fuji. The conditions were perfect, often Mt Fuji is hidden behind cloud. A pair of Japanese girls were so excited for us that they offered to take our picture.
At the end of this ropeway was a changeover station overlooking what appeared to be an area mining volcanic steam. The smell of sulphur was noticeable, and we realised we were staying on the slope of a volcano. At this high altitude the wind chill was very evident. In the station we noticed huge Fuji apples for sale, 200 yen each or about $2.
The second gondola took us down into the caldera where Lake Ashi was surrounded by autumnal forrest.
After a quick look around we headed off down a walking trail through the forest and sudddenly we were alone. Japanese typically do not stray far from the fold and we met only a few brave souls on the trail. Exclusive and very modern holiday cabins were discretely located amongst the trees.
The trail led us to a summer camping area with many outdoor BBQs. There was also a conference area and the attached restaurant attracted us for lunch. We were the only customers, not surprising as it was pure luck we noticed it as we walked by and stopped to look at the architecture.
In the evening we bravely dressed in Yukatas for dinner.
Tomorrow we will explore Lake Ashi.
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