For the uninformed, Hakone is a very small town located around the base of Mt. Fuji which is world famous for its “onsens” or hot springs. Dont confuse this with a hot tub, they are two very different things. The chief difference that hot tub water is essentially warm pool water, whereas a hot spring is exactly what it sounds like, water heated by the core of the Earth. But I digress, I started the day much the way I started my trip to Japan, leaving a place of comfort for an unknown. A shot of my room prior to leaving:
This is actually a Courtyard by Marriott located in Ginza and let me tell you, it was the greatest thing in the world for me. I really recommend this approach when backpacking across a country; go to a place to start that is some what familiar. This hotel had English speaking attendants, which where able to point me to local points of interest.
But the main goal for today was to meetup with Sam and Dave at Shinjuku train station and head for Hakone via a special Limited Express train. For the uninformed Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s largest districts and holds the busiest train station in the world in the main Shinjuku station.
We had a rather funny moment when we found a door used to permit access to the shops when they are closed, but it was placed right in the middle of the hallway so it appear to be a door to nowhere. We successfully caught the Limited Express train which took us to the Hakone-yumoto station. It was quite comfortable and so much better then the normal trains we took when Dave and I went to Hakone the first time.
After about an hour and a half of travel we finally arrived at Hakone-yumoto. It was good to be back in Hakone, though it looks completely different when its not late, raining, or dark as was the case the first time I was there.
From here we took a bus to our Ryokan. Now this bus ride was actually quite scary. In Japan, they have a lot of roads, but not a lot of newer roads in older areas of town. Many of these roads were designed for horses and people and fitting two cars on them is quite difficult. Our bus driver nearly got in about 5 accidents on the way to our Ryokan. But in the end we made it, Our Ryokan is totally awesome, easily the nicest hotel (if you can call it that) I have ever stayed at.
See a Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn, so for a period of a couple days you can live like traditional Japanese used to live. Its quite fascinating, and you get served breakfast and dinner for you both a dedicated room helper. Its pretty neat and as you can see, tends to result in a lot of food being served. Now I must admit, I dont mind Japanese food, the only problem is that when you are an American you tend to eat a lot and be used to doing so. This is a problem as portions are smaller in Japan and the food isnt quite as filling, so I a still hungry from yesterday, despite eating several large meals today. For this reason, my friends and I decided today that we will stop at the Hard Rock Cafe in Ueno as we head back to Mito on Monday. As for tonight, after relaxing and eating the complimentary dinner we hit the onsens and it was awesome. Big thing to remember is that a bath in Japan is used for relaxation not bathing. This is because the water here is shared so it must be kept clean and cannot be recycled as we see in Japan. Each person showers before entering and sits in the tub totally naked to prevent dirt on the bath suit from being introduced into the onsen.
And yes, because it is traditional we also wear traditional Spring Men’s Yukata which is an outfit meant for lounging or going to festivals in Spring time. When in Japan you NEVER wear your shoes into the dwelling, you wear small cheap slip-ons usually. So at any given time in the Ryokan I may have to change my shows as many as three times as I move through the establishment.
So far I have stayed at the Courtyard in Ginza and now for tonight and tomorrow night I will be in Hakone, after which I am off to Mito to stay with Sam and Dave at their place. Feeling very tired, definitely not a relaxing trip, though it was never intended that way. I do know that without Dave and Sam this would be significantly more difficult. Its hard though, there is a lot of stress on me. I really dont think I could ever live here, just too different and I like much of my American upbringing; plus the lack of hockey here is sad and would make me sad.
I feel the jet lag almost completely long, but the lack of a sold meal really has made recovery very difficult. Hopefully our travels tomorrow will yield a better meal. Tomorrow is also the first day of the trip in which no major traveling is planned, just leave our stuff at the Ryokan and explore Hakone. Until tomorrow everyone, good night and look forward to tomorrow, which is probably today for you.