Having your own private hot tub in a hotel is a pretty slick luxury, and when its outdoors as this one was, that’s even more awesomer. You can commune with nature as you sit in the warmth of the water and look through the very thin grass mats at the trees and recite haiku .
To get in-to or out-of the hot tub you have to shower, and the only shower for the room is outdoors. Which is fine when you need a quick rinse, but when you also are stumbling around first thing in the morning, it gets a little strange to open the sliding glass door and stumble outside for your cleansing routine. And then when you start hearing the traffic on the road not 8-feet from you, and hear the people walking just on the other side of the hedge as you lather up your junk the haikus begin to lose something from the night before and now you are waxing poetic about just how thick ARE those hedges anyway? And how much taint-showing is considered improper (pro tip: 39%)?
Day four began with a lovely breakfast of…something. The fish was amazing, and everything else was absolutely edible, especially the soft-boiled egg made in the natural hot-springs. The Japanese as a country have figured out how to make perfect soft-boiled eggs. We have yet to find one we didn’t devour. We generally enjoy it when they place we are staying makes an attempt at a local breakfast rather than a weak attempt at a western one. And this one was fantastic.
After another onsen session (because, why not) we headed out for our day of transportation. The thing to do in Hakone (the only thing it seems) is to try out all the different methods of moving around they have.
First stop was the ropeway. Now, the name “ropeway” is misleading…..its actually cable cars. Here’s the thing, though: Every once in a while I would forget where we are and think we were back in China. And in China a “rope way” of some old rusty carrier buggies on literal pieces of rope dangling hundreds of feet above the ground would NOT surprise me, and in fact would be a tourist attraction. So I got a little freaked out that this would be approximately 85% the way we would die, until we rounded the corner on the bus and saw actual cable running, clean lovely cars and the general Japanese-iness running the whole show with professionalism and aplomb.
The ropeway is actually 3 different stations, and it goes a very long way. The first stop is at the Ōwakudani Boiling Valley. An interesting place where massive plumes of sulfured steam are constantly being belched into the air. With the concentration of sulfur being so high the entry of the vents have large patches of yellow around them where the mineral has precipitated out onto the ground. It also means the smell is incredibly strong and there are notices everywhere about what to do if the concentrations get too high becuase your lungs will start doing bad things like turning to liquid with high acid content being breathed into them.
Luckily this didn’t happen and we were free to wander around and enjoy the other thing this place is known for: black eggs. Thats right, for only 500¥ you can have gross, nasty looking black eggs, cooked in this highly sulfurous water. So naturally, we bought a bag.
The eggs are hard-boiled, and contrary to the statement I just made above about the Japan as a nation figuring out soft boiled eggs, hard boiled was another story. It was, really, just a bland hard boiled egg.
The next parts of the ropeway were just gorgeous views. You have an unencumbered view of Mt Fuji, the gorgeous valley below and the natural part of Japan you don’t really think about too much. I mean any place that has massive buildings with 4-storey TV’s on them at nearly every intersection and lane upon lane of glowing neon you think “clearly this town communes with nature”.
At the end of the ropeway is a funicular, which is a word that is very hard pronounce, and also a railway that goes diagonally down the side of a mountain.
At the end of the funicular is a tiny little town where we caught a bus down to the lake, where you can catch a pirate ship back to where we started this whole adventure. Before doing that, though, we made the pilgrimage to 7-11 (of which there are thousands) for some snacks, and then took a lovely walk down the beach past seniors doing watercolours, men fishing while being harassed by tourist French children, and families out for a walk before being accosted by the sound of a band of German tourists sounding like a Pink Floyd album being played backwards.
On the way back to the ships there was a little house on the street that had a sign with 3 sentences in English:
These are midget Shibas feel free to pet them they are very nice
Please don’t feed them
So we stopped and had a coffee with those two. And this was another moment where we felt like this was such a foreign place compared to other places we had been. There was no “buy food for the dogs for $5” or some guy wandering the streets trying to sell trinkets to tourists. None of that, just a lady selling coffee from her business who brought her nice dogs with her. That’s it. In fact it made us realize that we could mutter “no, thank you” in a dozen languages (mostly Spanish *cough*Mexico*cough*) but here the only time we had said that phrase was someone asking if we wanted more skewers of something. There was no exploitation, no annoyances, nothing.
We wandered back to the boat which, I may have mentioned, was a pirate ship. Because…..Japan. Along the way they pointed out gates in the water and Mt Fuji, of course.
At the end of the boat ride we were at a loss for what to do now that we had ridden cable cars, a funicular, buses and a pirate ship so we climbed on another bus and tried to head to a local brewery. Turns out the bus that runs to the brewery doesn’t run on whatever day this was so we decided to go to Gotemba City instead. Google suggested a yakitori (grilled food on skewers) place so we headed down some dark alleys and found a great little place. The owner/chef was in the tiny kitchen with an open charcoal grill and we ordered a variety of chicken parts, chef’s choice. Heart, blood vessel, liver, gizzard – it was all awesome. We had tofu two ways and another round of skewers and loved it all. We were the only ones in the restaurant so the chef came out to talk to us. After that we headed back to the bus depot to find our way back to Hakone and our onsen, where there were a couple of sakes waiting for us.