Sunday, 17 August 2014

Mount Fuji and Hakone

Today we had booked on a guided tour to see Mount Fuji and Hakone so it was an early rise to meet our pickup in reception ay 08:00.

We were taken to Hamamatucho bus station where we boareded the coach and met our guide, Hiroaki Murofushi. We were soon on our way, Hiroaki kept us a great commentary - in excellent English - as we covered the couple of hours to our first destination; Station 5 on Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji is a dormant volcano and is the highest peak in Japan at 3776m. It is of great cultural significance to the Japanese who try to climb the summit at least once, apparently though once is enough.

Station 5 is where many of the climbers start. The usual ritual is to start from Station 5 at lunchtime and visit the shrine there. Then they climb up to Station 8 and rest for a few hours before setting out for the summit which is to be reached just before sunrise so that the mountain can be viewed at dawn before setting off back down.

Apparently it takes about 9 hours to get to the peak from Station 5 and about five to get back down, it did look very steep.

As we disembarked the coach it was very misty, you could only see a few meters.

Victoria and I visited the shrine first, Victoria tried another O-Mikuji, this one was much more favourable than those at Asakusa. We took in the sights and grabbed a few photos as the mists were clearing and you could see quite a lot of the mountain.

We then popped into the gift shop and sent a few postcards home before boarding the coach and setting off.

We noticed that at this stop and all the others a lot of our fellow travellers get off the coach, take a photo or two then hit the gift shops. A lot were saying that you don't see much in the mist, well if you had been looking the mists cleared and there was plenty to see.

Fourty minutes after we arrived we were on our way back down the mountain to our lunch destination a hotel at the bottom. As veggies we had not booked the lunch so found a little resturant.

The Japanese love theming things and this was an Italian resturant themed with the Gaspard et Lisa cartoon characters. When I say themed, they really do go the whole way, pictures all around the place and a Gasparde et Lisa tea party set up in the middle of the room with giant cuddly toys.

We each has a Spaghetti Pomodore, lots of lovely fresh veg in a tasty sauce and ony 1250¥ch (about £9.00).

We were soon back on the bus for our next destination. The scenery was beautiful and Hiroaki kept us informed of the sights and their history. After about an hour and a half were were at Hakone and at the base-staion of the ropeway to the top of Mount Komagatake.

We boarded the huge gondola, it holds about 100 people, and were soon on the seven minute journey to the top, the views from here are awesome. We were told to catch either the next gondola in ten minutes or the one in thirty - you can guess what most of the party did!

The mists soon rolled in and you could see bugger all, but we walked around the path to the other side of the summit and realised that we could see the sea from here. When we walked back to the station the mists had cleared again, we still could not see Mount Fuji but the views of Lake Ashi were brilliant.

For the gondola back we were pretty much at the front of the queue, so managed to bag a great view from the front window on the descent.

At the bottom, Horoaki gathered his charges and we then walked through to the jetty to board the boat for our Lake Ashi cruise, about 25 minutes to another wharf with some excellent views.

We boarded the coach again for the last time,  final stop was to be Odawara station where after a few minutes wait we boarded a N700 bullet train for the half hour trip back to Tokyo.

The first thing you notice is how quiet the thing is, it zipped into the station and you hardly noticed, Victoria was facing the wrong way and I had to inform her that the train was here.

The bullet train is ace, wide bodied there are a bank of three seats and a bank of two, Victoria and I grabbed a pair. The train speeds back at about 165mph in air-conditioned spendour and all the announcements are in Japanese and English.

We disembarked at Shinagawa station and I had the opportunity to have a geek shot taken at the front of the train.

We changed platforms and boarded the JR Line to Sinbashi station and from there caught the monorail back to Diaba. We were pretty knackered but needed feeding so we hit Aqua City and chose the Éggs n' Things resturant where we both ordered pancakes with fruit and a drink.

Bloody hell, these things are huge, you get five pancakes on your plate and a lashing of fruit, I managed mine but Victoria only got half way through the pancakes. With my beer and Victorias Mango Lava Flow cocktail it only came to about 4500¥ (about £28.00)

We went to Starbucks so Victoria could try one of the local specials, a Machi Chai Latte, she said it was repulsive, I was not going to even risk it so it went in the bin.

A long and tiring day, we were soon crashed out back at the hotel.

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