Since we were in the neighbourhood of Mt. Fuji, we decided to head there to get a glimpse of the mountain. Unfortunately, the weather was planned for rain, however, when you have the luxury of a Japan Rail Pass, the more you use it, the better value it becomes, so we decided to make the ~100km trip towards Odawara.
Odawara is the nearest bullet train, or Shinkansen, station to Mt. Fuji, and the Kodama Shinkansen stops there. There’s three types of Shinkasen, one that stops only at major stations, Nozomi, one that stops at most stations, Hikari, and one that stops at every station, Kodama. Nozomi isn’t valid on a Japan Rail Pass, but the rest are. You can reserve seats at the train station in advance, or you can risk it, and grab a seat in an unreserved car. Unfortunately, if they’re all full, you’ll have to stand.
Anyways, from Odawara, it’s a transfer to a local train to Hakone, then another local train, then a cable car, then two ropeways, to get to the views of Mt. Fuji. However, the rain was coming down this day, which meant that the mountain was shrouded in cloud. While this may seem a little disappointing, it’s very dramatic to see the mountain ranges and hills poke out behind clouds, with the pine trees on the hillside all covered in mist, it’s very serene, and peaceful.
This is in contrast to the actual trains itself, which were packed. This wasn’t surprising as this was a Saturday, and Hakone is a popular day trip from Tokyo. In some of the trains we were packed in like Sardines standing, while in others we managed to grab a seat. The most enjoyable views were from the Hakone Rope way. Ascending through the clouds all you could see was cloud and the cables, which made it a very heavenly experience. Kathryn was freaked out about Rope ways, so my comparison about ascending towards Heaven wasn’t really appreciated by literal Kathryn.
At the top of the Ropeway was a restaurant where we had lunch. In Japan, “set” means including drinks, and we decided to have a “Sausage Set”, which was a few mini frankfurters, some wedges, and an iced coffee. We also ordered a Minestrone Soup Pan (or bread) set as well. All up, by sharing mains, we’re having smaller portion sizes, and enjoying different types of food.
One type of food we didn’t try was Tamago, or boiled egg, that had been boiled in the geothermal waters. This made the eggs turn black, which seems like a wholly unappealing colour for an egg. Really by definition they should be white. If they’re not white, they’re not alright. That’s like a slogan for parts of the South Island. At the end of the rope way is a lake. It looked awesome, but we decided not to go on it, since once you’ve seen a lake, going on it for an hour doesn’t add that much more to the lake views.
We then decided to head back into Tokyo and have a walk around Shibuya. Whenever you see pictures of Japan with hundreds of people crossing at an intersection, that’s a picture of Shibuya. The place is famous for having lots of people. It’s also famous for a dog that waited for its owner long after the owner had died. So all around Shibuya are references to Hachiko, the remembering dog.
It was time for dinner so we headed to a family restaurant chain. We ordered Gyoza, or Pork Dumplings, Miso Ramen, Fried Rice, and two beers, which came to about $20. This was amazing value, considering the same thing in New Zealand would cost about $40. It was delicious, or Oishi in Japanese.
We headed to one of the massive variety stores in Shibuya, Loft. Loft is like going to Iko Iko, except it has 6 floors. There was half a floor of notepads. Japan believes in choice when it comes to goods for purchase. And yet, all the pricing was really reasonable. There were some amazing tables that would be $400 in New Zealand, for sale for $90 NZD here. New business idea, import all goods from Loft into New Zealand, add 20% markup, profit.