Day Five: Hakone

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I woke up yesterday around 4am and took two hours to write my blog post then went for a hot tub dip before starting my day. That naturally resulted in my falling asleep immediately after dinner around 840pm. A very long day! We started with our hotel’s Japanese style breakfast, which I was not a huge fan of. I would’ve preferred cute donuts but oh well. Then we took a little too long getting out of the hotel as we were trying to figure out our route, which ended up being very easy because our hotel could shuttle us to the nearest train stop rather than us trying to walk on a narrow, winding mountain street.

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First: Take the cable car

The point of Hakone, I feel, is to ride several different modes of transportation,  all to end up taking a bus back to your hotel. Thankfully being in Japan, all these modes of transportation run seamlessly and only because of this were we able to see everything (in America,  I think we would’ve up ended stranded with no way to get home along the middle of the trip)

First we got on the Hakone Tozan Cable Car and rode one stop to see the Hakone Open Air Museum, which is a large, mostly outdoor modern art museum. This is the kind of stuff Robyn likes that I normally hate but am ok with if she’s with me. Lots of random art pieces.

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Hakone Open Air Museum

It had snowed here a few days ago but luckily wasn’t too cold after I put on two layers of jackets.

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Why don’t these modern art pieces ever have descriptions with them?

The museum included a free foot bath where you could just soak your feet in hot springs water,  which is ingenious! I couldn’t imagine ever doing this in America as I’m sure it would end up becoming disgusting, but it was very cool here.

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My favorite thing was a tower with stained glass.  I almost didn’t walk up it because it looked very boring from the outside. There was also a decent sized, permanent Picasso exhibit that had several pottery pieces, sketches, and other mediums. Sometimes with his drawings and sketches,  I just picture a crazy child drawing the same thing and people thinking it’s hideous but with Picasso it’s ~amazing~

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Tower to look out from above

By the time we finished, we were getting hungry but there’s not too much near the museum. Hakone seems very tourist run. We took the cable car to Gora Park, and I asked a nice old Japanese woman where there would be restaurants,  and then we started walking up a hill toward the Gora park entrance. Right outside we found a Japanese restaurant we both liked. It had a very cozy,  super clean interior.  Robyn got a katsu don which she’d never had before and I got an oyako don which I pretty much eat every other Friday with my coworkers in Los Gatos. Priced at ¥1300, even though I suspect that is expensive for Japan,  that’s cheaper than America after including tip and tax and it was delicious!!!

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Eating a quick snack at the Gora Park cable car station

Then we went through Gora Park, which was pretty and tranquil even though it’s winter and not as much in bloom. Normally I think they are famous for hydrangeas, but again, not much was out.

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Then we walked over to the funicular stop. Here we realized that literally everything, shops and modes of transportation, would stop running around 500pm and it was already 300pm!!! We were about 1/3 done with our journey at that point. We got on the funicular, which goes up and down the mountainside and only goes one direction at a time. Then we got off and transferred onto the Hakone Ropeway aka gondola.  The gondola has I think three stops but everyone gets out at the first, Owakudani, which is a crater left from a volcanic eruption and there’s steam vents everywhere.  I’m bummed I didn’t get great pictures in the gondola,  even though the windows probably would’ve made them less crisp anyway.

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Robyn really wanted to eat one of the famous black eggs here, and when we got out the gondola, the shop was open. However, in the three minutes she stood outside taking pictures, they closed shop !!! It was only 346pm so that was frustrating.  I distinctly remember all these times because we had to catch the last ship at 420pm!!!!!! And we still had two gondola stops to go!!! Timing was CRITICAL!!!!!! While walking through the line to get back on the gondola, Robyn spotted a statue of a black egg and made the decision to run down, get a picture with it, and risk missing our ship! It was a decent substitute for a black egg I guess (they’re black because of the sulfur in the water)

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Riding the Hakone Ropeway aka Gondola with Lake Ashi in the background

Back onto the gondola, where we then got to the last stop which drops us right at the last mode of fun transportation, pirate ships to take us around lake Ashi! The ships make two stops but the first has the most to see (views of Mt Fiji which were already obscured, shrines and a cedar grove we didn’t go to), and from there you can take a bus back to the hotel, which is what we did.

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Our sunset cruise

The port we got off was Moto Hakone and there were several grand looking buildings clearly for tourists. Tons of coffee shops. We walked to the Hakone shrine and even though it was dark, the path was lit with lantern lights so it was cool.

Walked back, went to a 7/11 while waiting for our bus, got home, went in hot tub,  napped, got up, ate dinner, fell asleep, woke up, went in hot tub and went to sleep for real at 1030pm!

Dinner was hot pot, soba, and four other appetizer plates including the best sashimi I’ve had this far on the trip. YUM. This was one of my favorite meals because we could just take our time with it. And maybe because I bookended our meal with naps and hot tubbing.

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