Monday, March 11, 2013

Mt. Fuji and Hakone

The weather here last week was beautiful!  We spent several afternoons hanging out at the park and took a walk before dinner a few nights as well.  When we saw that Saturday was supposed to be 70 and sunny, we thought it would be a perfect day to go take a look at Mt. Fuji.  After looking at train rides and prices (2 hours on the train for almost $28 in tickets, one way) and then thinking about lunch, the thought came to us that maybe we would drive.  I mean, it's only 60 miles from here, and we could pack a cooler and a picnic basket and have a beautiful adventure!  So...we packed the car and headed out of the house at 945.

I don't quite remember the roads we took, I think it was 16 to 134 to 1.  134 and 1 ran along the shore, so we had beautiful views while we sat in traffic for HOURS!!!!!  Moving 20 feet and then stopping for five minutes, moving 20 feet then stopping for five minutes!  Oh my gosh!!!!  It took FOREVER!!!!

We finally found the road up the mountains of Hakone.  I don't think I've been on switchbacks as crazy as these!!!  Kris had a blast driving up the mountain.  Once we got to the top of Mt. Hakone we had a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji and the caldera lake below, Lake Ashinoko.  We wanted to find a park to relax, eat, and take lots of pictures.  So, we pulled out our map and searched for parks in the area.  We found one and headed in that this point (the three hour mark in a trip that was supposed to only take 1 1/2 hours to drive 60 miles) we all needed a restroom and FOOD!  So, we got to the entrance of the park and tried to talk to the lady at the gate...she spoke no English and Kris knows enough to say, "I don't understand".  We understood her to say "park" and "blanket" so we thought we were in the right place.  We asked about a restroom and she shook her head no and pointed to the restroom on the map that had an X on it.  But, luckily, there was another one in the park, or so the map said.  So, we drove up the road and found the restroom....doors were locked.  OH NO!  We drive a little further and find a parking lot to pull into.  We park and get out and realize that we are in a dog park!  Dogs everywhere.  It was a beautiful view, but not really somewhere we probably wanted to put down a blanket and stretch out on the grass. 

So, we throw together four sandwiches, pull out drinks and pretzels and desperately search our map for another bathroom.  Deciding that there were no others in this park, we decide to just head back down the mountain to the city of Hakone.  As we got to the park entrance, Kris said, "You probably need to say 'toilet' not 'restroom'.  I gave it a try, and, SUCCESS!!!!  Woo hoo.  Kris thought this is probably one of those places we heard about in our AOB class where there was just a hole in the ground.  So, I ventured in first, and, he was right.  Oh, how do I convince Mackenzie to do this....I'm lucky the child is smarter than me...she found that the last stall had a full toilet in it.  Yay!

Waiting for our turn
Now that we all feel better, we head off to see if we can find the steam vents and hot pools of Mt Hakone.  By looking in my book, I think that Owakudani is the area with the vents, so we start on our way.  About a mile from the steam vents we hit a traffic block.  After sitting here for a few minutes and not moving anywhere, we decide it's best to just give up and try another time.  We head back down the mountain, all the way to the lake.  We decide to park and take a little walk.  On our way, we see that there is a ropeway from Togendai (where we were, at the bottom by the lake) up to Owakudani.  It's a little pricey, but so far this trip was a cheap one, so we decide to spend the money.  They let the kids get on free, which I'm pretty sure Mackenzie should have paid a fair, and Kris and I paid 1800 Yen each.  We pay for our tickets and head on up to the loading station.  Garytt was sooo excited!  Mackenzie was quiet, probably a little apprehensive.  But, she hopped on and took in the views. 

A view of Lake Ashinoko

The Boy looking down on the trees

Fujisan hiding behind a bit of smog

Looking back towards where we started

Checking out the view

Fujisan is the highest mountain in Japan, at just over 12,000 feet.

On our way up to see the vents

It was hard to see Fujisan in my camera with the steam and fog, so I didn't realize they were standing in front of it.

Again...couldn't tell we were in front of Fujisan

Boiling hot spring.

I read that it is tradition to buy and eat these eggs that are cooked in the natural hot water.  The sulfur in the water turns the eggs black.  It is supposed to add 7 years to your life to eat one egg.  They came in batches of five....I thought Kris and I will be eating a lot of egg because I didn't expect the little ones to eat.  Well, Garytt ate most of his and Mackenzie even ate most of hers...all but the yellow stuff.  :)  Then, Kris and I had one each and split the last one. 

The egg and it's packaging
Garytt peeling his egg

Miss Picky eating her egg

Once we arrived at Owakudani, we squeezed through the crowds and headed to the steps up toward the steam vents.  The walk was a little tough on Garytt's legs, especially since it was after 2 and he hadn't had a nap.  So, we walked slowly to the top of the steps, and he only fell half a dozen times...which, is typical.  Wow!  What a view!  If only it was a clearer day we would have had amazing views!

My fabulous husband thought to take a panoramic shot.  I'm so glad I keep that guy around!
After inhaling about as much of that yucky smelling sulfur as we wanted, we jumped back onto the ropeway and headed back down to the river.  Once at the bottom Kris and the kids headed to the car while I ran down to the river to get a shot of the ships that take a tour of Lake Ashinoko.  Pretty cool!  Maybe next time.

Lake Ashinoko tour boat, with canons and everything!
Now, it's almost 4 o'clock so we head back home.  OH MY GOSH!!!!  Lesson learned about why most people use trains in Japan.  We only had to drive 60 miles!  We decided to avoid the route we came in on because we thought we'd go crazy if we had to move inch by inch for three hours.  Well, that would have been better that the four hours of inching we did on the other road.  We got to the base around 8 o'clock, grabbed McDonald's for dinner and went home. 

It was great to see the mountain and ride the ropeway.  The kids had a blast, and actually did pretty good in the car for 8 hours.  And, it was nice that we just finished a lesson on the earth's layers and volcanoes, so it gave a nice finish to the things we talked about all week. 

Best line of the day:  Kris:  It sure is a good thing I had two eggs on that mountain, because I'm sure all this traffic has taken years off of my life!