Sunday, April 29, 2007

Japan - Day 4 - Hakone

The next day, after a great breakfast with Mitsue, I went to Hakone. I knew it was going to be a little adventure because I didn't make any reservation there and I didn't really know exactly where I was going to spend the night. The goal was to go near the mountain Fuji, have a bath in a hotspring and do a bit of hiking in the Japanese mountains.

My adventure started when I got off in Odawara and decided not to take a train to Hakone but going on foot! Odawara is a city in the East coast of Japan and it is situated just at the entrance to the Hakone area, a big valley surrounded by mountains.

As the day before I wrote down the GPS coordenates of a central crossroads in Hakone I tried to go there. I wasn't an easy task because it was quite far (7km in direct line, but I had to make a big detour and there were also this.. mountains). So I started walking with my two bags (and a spanish dictionary!haha!More on this in the next post..) and after two hours or so, in the middle of nothing, I noticed that the path I had taken was starting to divert and get me away from my destination. You know, I had enough food, water and tools to spend the night in the mountain (including a roll of toilet paper XD), but it wasn't exactly in my best dreams. So, I got a bit worried and started to walk faster and faster to check if the path changed to the right direction again. As I was thinking on leaving the path and go through the forest, I had the luck of bumping into a couple of Japanese hikers. They were very nice with me and showed me a path through the forest that I could use for going to Hakone-Yumoto. They told me it was a very old path used by the Samurais.

While I was going trough the path I felt lucky for having got lost because, otherwise, I wouldn't have had the opportunity of talking in Japanese with those nice hikers and I couldn't have walked this great Samurai path through the middle of a beautiful forest. Sometimes the direct path is not the best, you need to fail if you want to learn new things.

I climbed up and down some mountains and eventually I saw concrete again, a beautiful temple in the lower slope of the mountain (in Japan there are two types of temples, o-tera and jijan, and this one was an o-tera). A little bit more walking leaded me, finally, to the town of Hakone-Yumoto. This town has a lot of hotels and there is a bus that takes you to the nearby Moto-Hakone, famous because of its lakes and its views of the mountain Fuji.

I found a good hotel, thanks to a conversation (japanese=useful!) with a local person, with traditional Japanese style rooms and hotsprings. It was a bit expensive compared to what I have paid for the hostels, but definitely VERY CHEAP if you compare it with a european hotel of that quality (9.500 yens, 60 Euros). This is another good thing I loved from Japan, they are fair with prices, they never try to overcharge you in turistical zones (a coke is the same price in every vending machine, and with lower prices than in Spain), so you can spend your money without worrying about the price, because its a normal price (we should learn about this, because I think that having different prices for the same thing, depending on where you are, is counterproductive). Outside the hotel there was a beautiful waterfall where I took a picture of two Japanese guests that I had the opportunity to chat with.

The room was better than what I had expected, in a word: GREAT! It was big and it had a lot of things:
  • Two types of toilet, Japanese style and Western style (my choice, definitely). Notice in the picture, the cable that ends in the toilet. In Japan, they usually heat the toilet, so when you sit down its quite pleasant (more on Japanese toilets and bathrooms in a future post).

  • Bathroom accessories: shampoo (a big bottle, not a little packet like in Spain), gel, shaving tools, hairdrier, towels, toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • TV with 20 channels plus 5 pay-per-view channels
  • Yukata
  • Locker
  • Air-conditioned and heater (a good quality machine)
  • Tea
  • Freezer
  • Bathroom with o-furo
  • Futon
  • and the price also included several hostsprings ("onsen")

I left my luggage in the room and tried to go on foot to Moto-Hakone instead of taking a bus (yes, I like to use my feet) but it was a bit far. On the way, I stopped to eat the fantastic o-bento (japanese take away food) that Mitsue's parents prepared me from the dinner and some sweets they also gave to me. (thank you!).

While walking on one side of the road I was about to bump to a snake, I was scared!! XD. I took this picture from a prudent distance because I didn't want to get closer.

After this "incident", and since I was kind of tired I decided to go back to the hotel and have a relaxing bath in the open-air hotspring. When I entered the hostpring there was already a naked old man there. You have to leave all your clothes at the entrance, and wash and rinse yourself very well before entering the water. It was very relaxing. After that, I had a shave and I went to my room where I lay down and wathed some Anime on the television.

As a conclusion I think I got to do all I wanted to do in Hakone except, unfortunately, that I couldn't see mountain Fuji because the weather was not good enough (summer is probably a better season if you want to see it).

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