An early morning breakfast – rice and jam, and apple. And back to the train station.
Back to Kyoto.
And only 10 minutes to get to our Shinkansen train. But we made it.
Zooming out of Kyoto at 8.30am towards Odawara. It took 2 hours.
From Odawara, we caught a small local line train to Hakone, which took 15 minutes and was again so busy that it was cramped standing room only. Hakone is a small onsen resort town, sitting on the Suko-mo river.
We are staying at an onsen, but not visiting until later. The rail station does a luggage delivery service, so we dropped our bags and they will be delivered to the hotel later today! And we got on a bus headed towards the Ashino-ko lake. I hadn’t realised the bus would take an hour. It wasn’t the most comfortable of buses. We got off the bus at the southern point of the lake. And climbed a small hill in a park, for a view of Mount Fuji.
Unfortunately the clouds had other ideas and were totally obscuring the view. Disappointing. We sat up here for a while and ate some lunch (more inari for me!) and some of the clouds began to part. We did manage to see the mountain, which was lucky! Covered in snow.
From here, we walked along the edge of the water, past an old fort and through a small shopping street. The local art is wood craft. They make intricate designs and secret compartment boxes. The guy gave us a little demonstration – the boxes were clever. As usual, the day had been poorly timed and we had a 50 minute wait for the next ferry – as we had just missed one.
There was an icecream shop on the corner. They had all kinds of unusual flavours; including sweet potato, wasabi, pickled plum, black sesame, Sakura, green tea (these are kind of normal now!). I have pretty much given up with icecream. So I was shocked they had soy! Amazing!! It was so good. And cheered me up!
The ferry arrived at 2.30pm, it was a pirate ship! And packed out. I managed to get a seat, but was just lucky. It took about half an hour to sail up to the northern end of the lake. It wasn’t too exciting. You couldn’t see much really. From here, we caught a cable car heading up a mountain. In theory you are supposed to be able to see Mount Fuji. But the clouds were really over now. There are two cable cars heading up this mountain. But the second one is closed due to volcanic activity. So we had to get a coach to the end.
There was a really strong smell of sulphur up here (from the volcano). And from here, a funicular heading back down the hill. And then a train. Crazy. We haven’t stopped moving all day!
We arrived to the ryokan around 5pm. It was a large hotel, mostly full of Japanese tourists. We were each given an informal kimono to wear. These can be worn to the onsen, to dinner, to sleep in and to breakfast. Multi functional! Our room was small and cute, a grass mat floor, a table and a toilet. That was it. The beds are just small roll away mattresses that get laid out on the floor whilst we are at dinner! Aside from no beds, the room also had no shower. This is because there are communal showers – onsen.
Men and women are on separate floors. You leave your clothes in a small locker and have just a small towel (about 2 x the size of a flannel) to take with you. From the locker room, you enter the shower room. Here are small waist high half cubicles, with a stool and a shower. You have to shower yourself before you can enter the pools.
There were some pools outside. These were so pretty. Steam rising up from the water, into the cool air. And views of the surrounding pine and bamboo forests and a small temple. We moved from pool to pool – but they were each so hot! Crazy that this is a normal way of life here! And so unusual for us. It was good though. It felt so weird. But also so cool.
There was a sauna and a steam room. So had a sit in those too! Then another shower and back into my robes.
At 7.30pm, it was dinner time and we had a private dining room. They had been pre-warned that I was vegan. And I had no idea what they would produce. Food at a ryokan is typically Japanese style haute cuisine. And it did not disappoint. I was given – a salad of avocado, lettuce and tomato. A small salad of pickled vegetables. A potato thing, with tomato sauce. Tofu on sticks with weird sauce. Miso soup. And rice. Crazy. It was mostly really good, but the tofu was the weird potato jelly style one. We even had some fruit for dessert.
Back in our room and our beds had been laid out, they were actually pretty comfy! Much more comfy than the floor beds in the monastery a few days ago.