After de-mobilizing from the gnome home we got on our favorite subway stop (also, the closest one) and headed off to Osaka station which was the closest one that would exchange our mail-order voucher for the Japan Rail pass. The process of exchanging this piece of paper for other pieces of paper was excruciating……ly easy. At nearly every opportunity to screw us or make life difficult Japan would continually find ways to make life not hard. A young lady from the JR lines approached us in line, took our documents, showed us where to fill them out, then told us which line to go in to receive the passes. In short, the whole process took little time, was insanely efficient and left us with not only a sense of wonder but also how this tiny country had not yet managed to conquer the world with politeness and ruthless time management. My theory is the time they save doing mundane tasks is put into creating the weirdest comics and merchandise on earth (but I’m getting ahead of myself).
After getting our passes it was time to find a snack and something to take on the 3-hour train ride. Through a huge market specializing in just such things we went to the box lunch place pictured above. I recommend you zoom in on that picture because you will get better detail at what can only be described as Japanese Art. Every single item is plastic. All of it. The rich attention to detail is stunning…..gravy, bits of corn, clear sauces, rice noodles….down to the smallest detail.
We settled on one that looked good and headed off for the train. We booked seats on the Shinkansen, which is the famous Bullet Train. Trains in Japan are famously punctual, which made our train being 6-minutes late a bit of a hullabaloo (anecdotally we had heard if you were more than 5-minutes late for work because of the train you could get a note from the train company stating it was their fault. Compare this with Translink who will happily help you out if you are an hour late by telling you to feel free and use the other public rapid transit option. Oh, wait…..)
Once we got going we pulled out the GPS and started clocking our speed and we got the peak around 285km/h which is super crazy fast. How fast? Here are two videos of a few seconds of entire towns going by in a blink.
And after a short 3-hours (no, really, it felt very quick, no pun intended) we arrived one minute EARLY to Hakone. That’s right the legendary system had made up not only the 6 minutes it was late but added an extra becuase it could as an extra little “screw you rest of the train world!”
And just like that, we were in Hakone! After an interesting 45-minute bus ride through winding mountain roads, with a bus driver that basically narrated the entire thing, we arrived at the only hotel we will stay in this whole trip. Hakone rolls up its streets around 5, and it was already after 4, so the only thing we could do is sit in our private hot tub. I mean…..I guess if that is the ONLY option we have it will have to do. Luckily we had also picked up some sake to go with our hot tub, so we made do.