Day four--Tokyo to Hakone

Hakone Travel Blog

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The Onsen

This morning we had our last “breakfast” in the New City Shinjuku Hotel! Sad! I’ll miss the French fries and rice��"this morning I ate three bowls of rice to make up for the fact I might not get to have that again! We checked out of the hotel but left all our bags there since we were spending the morning in Tokyo and heading out to the mountains that afternoon.

We had to take the local subway instead of the JR lines to get to our destination today, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, so that was a little confusing.

John playing piano in the guesthouse
But, we arrived safe and sound and were surprised to find out that the museum was right next to the national Sumo Wrestling Stadium! Unfortunately, the big sumo wrestling tournament was going on the next week and so we wouldn’t be able to see it even if we could have afforded tickets!

At the museum we had to take a really long escalator, I didn’t think escalators could go that high! It was funny, like the escalator to heaven or something. Inside the museum it was really cool because one side of the replica of the famous bridge was dedicated to the pre-opening of Japan and all of it’s cultural heritages while the other side was dedicated to everything that has happened since the beginning of the Meiji era. It was really great to see the differences laid out in that fashion and to also see how the pre-Meiji culture continued to exist even as Japan became more and more westernized. They had scale models of buildings which really added to the experience as all the buildings’ compounds had dozens of unique miniatures of the people scattered about them. From samurai to jugglers to fishermen to businessmen.  We were all congregating near the model of the Kabuki theatre around eleven thirty when a demonstration started! It was a short demonstration showing us the different maneuvers of the puppets. Japanese puppet theatre, Bunraku, is a very sophisticated type of puppet theatre which is much different than what westerners consider puppet theatre (like the Muppets which are hand puppets.) These puppets were mechanized to do simple tasks but were impressive nonetheless. I would like to someday actually see a Bunraku show.

After leaving the museum, we went to the heart of the Asakusa district and visited the senso-ji Buddhist shrine located there. I think there was some sort of festival going on at the time as the place was teeming with people! It was hard to go anywhere, especially when we kept wandering over to the wrong side of the walkway! I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to walking on the left side whilst I’m here! Anyways, I thought it was pretty cool to see how much the Shinto religion has seeped into the Buddhist religion in Japan. For instance some of the things you do at a Shinto shrine, you also do at a Buddhist temple, such as washing your hands and mouth out with water and dropping money into a collection box before bowing and praying, or ringing the bell. You can also get your fortune at both places. The temple was different from the Shrines we’d visited previously though, here you could also stand around a pillar where incense was burning and waft it onto yourself. You did this before entering into the actual temple. When we were there a service was going on, but we didn’t join in.

I was also surprised to learn that the shops that lined the corridor up to the temple were actually very traditional! Not really in what they sold, but the mere fact that they were selling things. Apparently shops had been located there for centuries, selling trinkets to pilgrims as they walked to the temple. We decided not to do any shopping today however as we didn’t want to carry everything around for the entire rest of the trip, but determined that we’d come back on our last day when we would be in Tokyo again.

The two of us, Nadean and I, ate lunch at a place called “Miami Garden” where we ordered a Magherita Pizza and garlic bread. It was nice to have a taste of home! It’s also a tradition of mine to try the pizza wherever I go, so it was fun to compare the quality of the Japanese made pizza to that of the US and Europe. Sufficed to say it was good, but certainly not the best.

Finally we started on the long journey to Hakone. First we had to venture all the way back to the hotel to pick up all of our luggage and carry it to the station (unfortunately we’d chosen to leave at the exact time when the Shuttle Bus wasn’t running, so we had to walk all the way to the station!) I was regretting bringing only my backpacker’s backpack, but I survived and that’s what counts! From Shinjuku we had to go to Tokyo station and hitch a Shinkansen train to Odawara. From Odawara we’d commandeer ourselves a bus. The bus was the real adventure as it took us at a blistering pace around the seemingly dangerous curves of the mountains. It didn’t help that it was dark and slick outside!  Everyone else seemed to be getting motion sickness, but I was fine! I always love driving in the mountains��"just so long as I’m not the one doing the driving! I also had my headphones on and was listening to some music which really fit what little of the scenery I could actually see outside. One of my favorite bands, Bedouin Soundclash, and their song “Dub of Kalmanden” which is a dreary sort of subdued reggae song that really emphasized the foggy and wet night outside, especially as we passed through the small, dimly lit towns along the way.

At long last we arrived at the Fuji-Hakone Guesthouse we were delighted to our rooms which were traditional Japanese styled! The futons were sooooo comfortable! The girls decided to sign up right away to use the outdoor Onsen, or hot springs bath. It was a really different experience to say the least! I’d never done anything like it before, but I was glad to try it out! The water was extremely hot though, and none of us could stay in for very long! It felt really good on our aching joints and muscles after a long day of travelling. I thought it would be nice to live near a hot spring and be able to get used to the heat. It would be a nice end to the everyday rigmarole.

It also was nice to be out of the big city and into a small mountain town. Things just move a bit slower, and everyone is more laidback and friendly. To end the night, we stock up on some food supplies and I wrote the postcard I promised to write for my friend in Durham, England. I hope there is time to go to the post office soon so I can mail it to him!


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The Onsen
The Onsen
John playing piano in the guesthou…
John playing piano in the guestho…
photo by: reikunboy