We’ve seen a lot of the big city so far on our trip, now its time to see a bit of the countryside.
As we get on the train, I see another hilarious sign.
More eccentric earlier that day. We stood waiting for our train, as another passed through the station really quickly. I’ll always remember him saying stand back! stand back! in progressively higher pitch, until he was almost screaming.
Using a combination of trains and buses, we arrive at Hakone, in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
No flashy hotel this time, but a comfortable guest house with friendly staff.
But were not here to sit in living rooms, we head straight out in search of adventure…
And what do you know, it’s a main road.
Not exactly what I’d expected, but we wandered around a bit and found this nice spot to have some lunch.
Exploring further, we find a botanical garden.
On the way, we see this truly horrible looking car.
A sort of “wardrobe car” if you will. Worse, they were everywhere we went in Japan!
Back to our bedroom to get changed for the evening.
The bed was made up in a funny sort of way but very comfortable.
Another thing worth mentioning. We were in the high mountains. The window was open and it was freezing!
They had a hot tub at the guest house.
It was possible to book it, they seemed surprised that we didn’t want to do shared bathing.
But that just meant everyone else got to enjoy it for longer.
Earlier in the day, we’d found somewhere nice for dinner.
The table had a barbecue built in, and we were able to cook our own meat.
Nikki and I stop to have this fun photo at the boat station on lake Ashi.
The valley “circuit” can be done using various forms of integrated transport.
First stop a “Pirate Ship” across lake Ashi.
As you can see the weather was appalling. We were meant to have views of Mount Fuji. We didn’t which was a real shame.
Arriving on the other side of the lake at Hakone Machi, we find that most of the coffee houses haven’t opened !.
We do the walking part of the journey along the old Tokaido highway, which used to connect Edo (Tokyo) with Kyoto.
It has 400 year old Cedar tree’s on each side.
The weather improves temporarily and we visit the Hakone checkpoint on the Tokaido highway.
The Emperor made each of the warlords leave children and wives in Edo (old Tokyo) as hostages.
The checkpoint was there to stop them sneaking out, or “farmers” smuggling weapons in.
A small museum nearby has old artefacts including the first passports and reconstructions showing women and children’s hair being examined.
A fantastic sign there said translated English “The exit is narrow. Please say ‘After you’ to each other”.
A bus ride is our 3rd means of transport, then we get onto a funicular.
The crazy thing in Japan is that a funicular is called a “cable car”.
A cable car, which we travelled on next to complete our circuit, is actually called a “ropeway”.
Back to our starting point at lake Ashi for some refreshments and then the bus back to our guest house.
In the evening we wander out in Hakone again and find this fab pizza restaurant, with a wood burning stove and an extensive wine list.
The next morning, we break up our gear pack our daysacks with stuff for a short trip, and have our bags sent on to Kyoto.
Were going to be walking a section of the Nakasendo trail.
Our walk will begin in a place called Magome, where we will be staying over for the night.
The village has gone to great lengths to maintain its authenticity. As you can see form the photo above, all cables are hidden, and cars only allowed to be driven at night.
Even to the point that in its day, Japanese would have been the only language spoken.
There are no printed signs in English, each guest house has a symbol.
We were told to wander up the street and look out for a Racoon (which we found).
In the main room, an open fire and hot tea.
Superb food and accommodation, although communal showers weren’t popular in our group.
The next day, we eat a hearty breakfast and head off.
The route quickly opens up in the countryside and bamboo forests open up on each side.
A sign warning of bears (we didn’t see any, which was good).
A bell to ring at the start of each leg of the trail to “ward off” bears.
We head higher into the mountains, and bamboo is replaced with pine and cedar.
The kind of thing I love about Japan.
In the middle of a long distance footpath, a small shelter where you can stop for lunch or drinks.
No facilities as such, but amazingly has Wi-Fi !.
But we continue on and found a family run tea house where we stop for refreshments.
A working farm, they even had an old rope making machine that I thought was cool.
As we sit down inside to drink our tea, the old man there is singing.
Shortly afterwards a number of Japanese men come in (they look like executives on a weekend walking break).
They join him in song (I’ve no idea what it was) but all the excitement in the middle of the day is one of my happiest memories of the trip.
We continue our journey. The route isn’t long at about 13k, but it’s the experience and the things you get to see that mark a good walk from a bad one.
Speaking of which, this nice waterfall that we saw.
The trail passes through another village called Tsumago.
So far from civilization, they’ve adopted some strange habits (a bit like the people in deliverance).
Can this really be what passes for fashion!
A nearby sign seems to indicate that extra terrestrial families are welcome in the village.
Most of the homes, businesses and restaurants are in buildings like this one, with sliding panel doors.
We stop to eat some traditional food (it’s so nice, that I have 2nds and 3rds!)
And obviously some Asahi beer to wash it down, then we continue.
An hour or so later, our adventure sadly comes to a close.
We arrive at Nagiso, which has this superb wooden bridge.
We wander across the Momosuke bridge where a nice park gives us somewhere to relax.
Back to the railway station and we’re meant to get a taxi to our hotel.
But, it’s still early so we jump on the train and explore the village of Kiso Hirasawa.
Early evening and we arrive our new hotel.
Having spent the day on the trail, a bit of luxury is welcome (I’ve been asked to point out that the buffet was nice, but they didnt have a “propper” bar).