So Sunday the 14th January was by far the funniest day I’ve had in Japan so far – and I’ve had a LOT of fun days.
Even though it was a max of 5 degrees all day with the temperature slowly dropping, it felt genuinely like the warmest day I’ve had in Japan in while – not to sound cheesy, but maybe because I was genuinely having so much fun all day. It was a wild, wild ride from start to finish – Waking up at 6am and only returning back to dorms at around 10pm.
Hakone is truly the Japan that people might envision from Ghibli films or paintings. It’s super close to Mount Fuji (I took my best picture of Fuji yet on my phone while on the train) and takes about 1 hr 40 minutes to get to from Shinjuku station. Mountains and mountains all decorated with thousands of trees, dotted with a few Eastern styled buildings. Lakes and shrines and temples, no trains, only buses – a complete countryside to the extent that I couldn’t even believe Tokyo existed in the same country. The natural beauty of Japan is absolutely otherworldly and I seriously can’t wait to see more of it!
After a ride on a bus from the station that felt like it took an hour (filled with so many twists and turns up a mountain that I thought I was going to simultaneously vomit and feel my ears explode), we reached Hakone Jinja and the lake that surrounds it. And thank everything that it was a sunny day, because the sun shining down on that lake was some of the most stunning stuff I’ve ever seen. I wanted to stay there all day and just enjoy the beauty of the water…
And then we found ourselves on a pedalo swan. A swan in Tokyo, actually in Hakone, on another swan. And somehow; I think the swan we got on was haunted or something; being inside that swan activated absolute rage in all three of us, as we worked our thighs to pedalo aggressively across the ocean toward the shrine, stopping every so often to race savagely toward other pedalo-ers or take scenic pictures of the horizon while screaming out songs every so often. I don’t really understand what happened, but as soon as we got off that swan we were back to normal and pretending like nothing even happened. Anyway.
The shrine itself, sitting on the lake, was huge and (my favourite word) beautiful. However, it might well be as haunted as that swan was, considering along the way we found children’s gloves and hats on branches. Somehow we managed to blame this on the wasps of Hakone.
1) We didn’t see an wasps, and 2) I don’t know why wasps, or why we had to specify they were from Hakone, but if you’re ever in Hakone keep an eye out for weirdly placed children’s accessories.
Our next destination – considering that we all last ate maybe 6 hours ago – was to find food, and luckily with our good friend HappyCow we were able to find a place that served a wonderful platter of both Inari Sushi and standard Maki with an assortment of vegetables. Of course, we overestimated our hunger, allowing us to enjoy the sushi we took as takeout later on the train back to Tokyo. (Also, part of the journey to the restaurant involved meeting a beautiful and friendly cat, who at one point refused to get off the zebra crossing.)
The big event of the way – as in, the whole reason we wanted to come to Hakone – was the Yunessun hot baths. I’ve talked about the Onsen next to my dorms before – but this was next level. Situated in an incredibly fancy looking building/hotel-thing, you’re given a selection of different baths to sit in, including but not limited to sake, red wine, and chocolate. I don’t really recall any of those making my skin better, but it was a cool gimmick and now I can truthfully say “I’ve bathed in red wine”.
I also received my first fish pedicure, which was definitely a weird experience. And when I say weird, I mean it was horrifically ticklish, and actually pretty horrifying in that the fish loves my feet SO much. Clearly I’ve needed this. I’m glad I fed them, and my feet actually became softer afterwards. (I also think we screamed so much collectively that they decided not to charge us the 100 yen we were meant to pay…)
There was also an outside section that had a water slide. It was about 3 degrees when we went outside in nothing but our bikinis (which in hindsight was an awful idea, but there were outside hot springs too, and I REALLY wanted to go on a waterslide in the middle of the winter season.) We stayed outside for maybe 30 minutes, and it was only when the water on the ground below us turned to ice (yes, genuinely) that we decided it’s maybe not worth catching our death and returned indoors.
So, here’s a daytrip idea out of Tokyo – go to Hakone, and check out the Yunessun baths.
I genuinely found myself not wanting to leave. I love big cities, that’s why I chose to come to Tokyo, but there’s a big chunk of my heart that understands that as humans we can’t survive in the man-made world of skyscrapers and office blocks forever. A part of me that genuinely feels happier in the wild of the world, connected to the nature that sentient beings are born from and will inevitably return to. I suppose if you were to ask me what I love about cities, It’s the way that they’re so full of different human lives all congregated. There’s something magical about that for me.
Very soon I’ll be able to have other out-of-Tokyo adventures – only a little over 2 weeks till Sapporo! – so until then I’ll keep studying hard!