Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Hakone Loop

One of the sculptures at the Hakone Open Air Museum

In the early morning, we dipped into our private onsen for the last time and tucked into our last prepared and served breakfast for a while. Barracuda was on the menu and this meant poor Raman had to field a million questions from young Jonah. With sadness, we farewelled Raman and Yamanochaya as we made our way around Hakone.

Breakfast will be self service for a while from here on :(


The steamed selection

Goodbye Raman! Goodbye onsen!

The Hakone Free Pass allows for easy sightseeing of the Hakone area in a loop and can be done in one day if needed. We made our way back to Hakone-Yumoto Station and utilised the station's left luggage service. This service is actually cheaper than the coin luggage lockers if you have a single piece of luggage. Small coin locker 400JPY large coinlocker 600JPY. The left luggage service charges 320JPY for one small luggage and 510JPY for a large piece of luggage.

At Hakone-Yumoto Station, we hopped on the Hakone Tozan train. It is a train which zigzags up the mountain using several switchbacks. I should just make a general statement here that the views of the mountains from all modes of transport taken today was beautiful! We stopped at Chokoku-no-mori Station for the Hakone Open Air Museum, a museum full of sculptures in a mountainous setting. Hakone's version of Sydney's Sculptures By the Sea. The Open Air Museum also houses one of the largest collection of Picasso's work. Some were good, some were strange, and quite frankly some were hilarious. Although I suspect this was not the museum was aiming for! The museum was the surprise hit of the day for the children. They had several fun and interactive "art" which the children loved including a huge diamond like climbing structure and a star-shaped garden which was also a maze. Unfortunately, being winter, the garden plants itself was not so attractive but the hide and seek within it took us a while...There is also a hot springs foot bath should you be so inclined to sooth your aching feet.

Hakone Tozan train allows for scenery to be enjoyed no matter where you sit

The train uses switch backs to zig zag up the mountain

Let's tackle some art!

The children were actually intrigued by the sculptures!

A wide variety of sculptures dotted around with a stunning mountainous backdrop

A wide range of sculptures were on display

Even the lifts were architecturally a visual treat

Having fun in the maze

A large 2 floor collection of Picasso's work

Seemingly dull on the outside

A burst of colour on the inside

The sails swayed with the breeze. Strangely hypnotic...

Illusion of flight

We hopped back on the Tozan train to the end of the line. At Gora, we changed modes of transport and got on the Hakone Tozan cable car for Souzan. Unfortunately, due to recent volcanic activities, access around the Owakudani crater area was restricted. This included part of the ropeway route between Souzan Station and Togendai Station (where Lake Ashi is). It also meant that we were not able to walk to the geothermal park. I'm still undecided as to whether or not I was pleased about this...
There were replacement bus services which took us to the next available ropeway station and we still managed to get at least one ropeway ride between Ubako Station and Togendai Station. This was where we were supposed to get our first view of Mount Fuji. Although the rest of the sky was blue. There was one patch of cloud exactly where the top of Mt Fuji was! Cloud fail!!!!

Tozan cable car

Ropeway down to Lake Ashi

You can just make out the base of Mount Fuji. Where the clouds are is the famous peak! Argghhh!

We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking Lake Ashi within Togendai Station whilst waiting for our pirate ship boat cruise. Yes you read correctly. There were even "pirates" onboard who people took photos with. The cruise was our second spot where we were able to view Mount Fuji. The cloud was still there! By this time, we had accepted the fact that we would get a clear view of dear Fuji-san and so abandoned the walk that would take us to the third viewing spot. We remained on the cruise until Motohakone-ko. The last mode of transport was the Tozan bus back down to Hakone-Yumoto. A word of warning, the roads are very windy and those prone to motion sickness might not fare so well.

As you do when you're in Japan, you go on a pirate ship

Mount Fuji fail number no 2! Cloud still there!

With two of our walks for the day cancelled, we had spare time up our sleeves. Fortunately, at Odawara Station, we were able to get reserved seats on the next shinkansen and sprinted for our train. 28 minutes later we were at Shinagawa Station, Tokyo.

Our rental apartment was a welcomed place to be. We were glad to finally be able to stay in a one spot for more than 1 or 2 days. Our home for the next 9 nights was roomy by Japanese standards and had a great view. As with all of our accommodation to date, it was also spotlessly clean. The rest of the evening was completing the mundane tasks of groceries, unpacking and laundry. Until tomorrow!

Our spacious Shinagawa apartment

Our view!

Remember these kit kats from earlier?!?!

We now have the required equipment!

Heat element, put kit kat in

Wait for it to melt

And enjoy! Almost like a baked creme caramel with crispy bits

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