Friday, 20 July 2012

Hakone, onsens, ninja volunteers & Mangoes.

19-20th July.

As usual we went for our start trip to Hakone for some quick onsen (hots springs) joy.  The train ride to Hakone was uneventful.  We went for lunch at Gora Koen (Gora Park) which was all the way in the hills, which isn’t surprising considering how hilly Hakone is.  Here is the most interesting train ride as the train has to zig zag it's way through the mountains, There is only one track for the returning and  going trains to use so one will have to sit in the station while it waits for the other to meet up.  Very interesting! 

One thing I was IMG_4706surprised to see was there were some umbrellas at the station with a sign saying they were free to use, as long as you brought them back!  Wow, couldn't have that in Perth!!  They would get taken home and forgotten about! 

 

 

 

 

Gora Park was at the top of a hill as it turns out.  The brochure stated that there was a restaurant inside and so we hadn't bothered with lunch, deciding that lunch in a nice park would be nice as it was a clear day. although rather hot.  Keep that in mind.  Hot.

 

So after getting in, having a quick look around and deciding to have some lunch first, we made our way to the restaurant.  It was more of a cafe style place, but unperturbed, we had a looked at the menu.  Curry,  curry, famous stew.  Hmm.  Hot and lunch for curry....  No sandwiches, onigiri (rice balls) or sushi to be found.  Just Curry and stew.   Hot day.  Curry or stew?  No thanks.  Luckily there was a kiosk on the other side of the park so we ventured over there. 

 

Unfortunately no real food, mostly snacks, rolled tacos (I thought that was a burrito), hot dogs and Ice-cream.  So we settled for a Hot dog.  Which we finished off with some Ice-cream afterwards.  The Ice-cream here was well known as they had flavours based on flowers.  Most popular was their rose flavoured Ice-cream, which the better half had.  I chose the hydrangeas flavoured one for me.  The rose was by far the best, but the hydrangeas (or Ajisai in Japanese) wasn't too shabby in itself. 

 

After getting refreshed there, we headed off to explore the rest of the park.  I think it was originally a garden founded by a Frenchman and it has grown from there, up the back was a huge rose garden and heaps of other flowers were throughout.  There was also a Craft house where you  could make some clay cups and plates, or do a bit of glassblowing and make a wind chime.  On the other side was a traditional Japanese Tea house which had tatami rooms and a Traditional Japanese garden.  Enjoyed walking through there very much.  there was also a couple of green houses, one tropical and two for herbs.  From the park, one could clearly see the big "Dai" kanji that they will ignite during a festival which has been copied from Kyoto.  Very cool and I wish I was still going to be here for it.

 

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It means ‘Big’

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Hydrangeas.

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I think there must have been a landslide on that hill above.

 

The Japanese garden was very nice and mossy, as to be expected.  The tea house was pretty old looking and could probably have done with some new tatami mats.

 

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A lonely flower. And a flower with a face.

After messing about there and with the rumblings of thunder in the mountains, we made our way to the Ryokan to check in.

 

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Once checked in we assessed the situation and made a bee-line for the onsen.  This particular one “Yaeikan”  had  a Family onsen (Private onsen) two public onsens and a rotenburo which you had to book in thirty minute blocks.  A rotenburo is an outside bath.

 

They alternate the times for men and women between the two public onsen, as one has a rotenburo as well as an interior onsen.

 

The booked rotenburo was a little bit disappointing being about the same size as a large bath.  Onsens and bathing in Japan is almost ritualistic and I take great joy in rocking up to an onsen that rarely ha any foreigners in it and watching the staff wonder if I know how to use them.   Many a time I have been and a fellow foreigner has washed themselves in the bath, much to the dismay of the staff…

 

First thing first and off to the family onsen.  After that we had a bit of relax time while waiting for dinner, which comes to your room.  The room was up a load of stairs, which were small and tiresome.  The good thing was that the view from the room was pretty darn spanking.

 

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We had booked the rotenburo for after dinner.    Dinner arrived, it is set in the tatami room.

 

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Some kind of extremely yummy Ginger sake in that glass!

 

After dinner, we had the rotenburo booked and went to it, it was OK, but nothing special.  Just a large bath with a small courtyard really, not much to look at and not really worth booking…

 

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The washing area and the outside section.  Slightly sad, yes.

 

Having used up the half hour there, we headed off to our respective public baths.  The men’s was empty except for me.  It was large and despite lacking an outside area fairly nice.

 

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Then sleep time.

 


Morning!  getting up early when in a ryokan is the thing to do, why?  So you can fit in one more bath before you go.  I think this has to be a record for me, yesterday I had 3 baths in one day!  Each in a different one!  Anyway, In the morning, the ladies had the larger bath and the men got the chance to use the rotenburo and bath.  It was small and although this rotenburo was better than the bookable one, it wasn’t all that great.  I did stay a while as again I had the place to myself and then it started to rain.  Nothing like a hot bath in the rain!! 

 

Breakfast arrived and it was of a Japanese nature.  Sadly natto(fermented beans to eat with rice usually) was hidden in there.  It smells, once eaten we prepared for the day's adventure and left for the Natural history Museum, in the rain as it had cooled down about 10 degrees since yesterday and was raining.

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On the way to the train station, I saw this awesome old building that reminded me of the bath house from Sen to Chichiro, or Spirited away, the cool Ghibli Movie, which I highly recommend.

 

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That front totally pulls it off, one would just need to hang some red lanterns off it at night time!!

 

And thus we made our way to the museum

 

And so half the areas Primary schools judging by the huge amount of little kids running around the place. 

 

The first  area had a section on the creation of the earth and stones, meteors and the like, which we both fund very interesting.  What I found more interesting though was a knowledgeable volunteer old lady who had been taking lessons from non other than Batman himself.  It was a bit like this:

 

Looking at a rock, lady appears from nowhere to explain  bit about the rock blah blah blah, story ends, look at rock, look back again and she's gone!
Next display, and same thing again, in my imagination, I assumed she had a bat-grapple and she would zip up to the roof somewhere observing if anyone looked like they wanted some more and she'd then float quickly, but silently right behind the person, explain, then zip back up to the roof!  It truly was efficient and magic!

 

The museum turned out to be quite interesting in more than just the amazing skills of their volunteer guide and we spent a number of hours dodging little kids and looking at the stuff.

 

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Some souvenir buying later and we were heading back, stopping off at Odawara for some lunch.  I felt in the mood for some coffee and a sandwich, and "Beck's Coffee Shop" seemed to be doing a special with toasted sandwiches.  So we entered.  And coughed.  And Choked.  I decided that I couldn't eat in there, they had a smoker's area that was stinking out the whole place so badly that my eyes had begun watering and we were just at the door.  No thanks and thus we left for pasta instead.  I did manage to get my hands on something cool!  A long time no see "Blend Coffee"  Oh the joy, I haven't had once since, aaages ago.  Well the last time I was in Japan anyway.  However this was at a pasta place across the way… So no toasted sandwiches for me.

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Blend is on the left, before and after cream, it has quite a bitter, strong taste, but I likes it!

 

With that important thing done, we jumped on the train back home.

Stopping off on the way to grab some taiyaki.  :D  Lucky me.

 

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When we got home, time for a little relax, a cup of tea, taiyaki and I discovered a brochure on the ground.

 

First the taiyaki.

 

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Red bean paste on the left, custard on the right.  Read bean is traditional, but the custard was THA BOMB!

 

I will say this right now, I did a major double take.  The brochure was for Mangoes, that tasty tropical fruit that when at the end of the season is nice and cheap.  Over here in Japan, apparently it is not the same.

In fact it almost the complete opposite.

Have a look at what I first saw,

 

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Now have a look at that price!!

 

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HOLY!  That's at least a good $30 for 1 mango!  WHAT THE HELL?  As nice as Mangoes are, um, sorry, but that's a bit too pricey.  Incredibly the stock for the brochure has limits on the amount they can sell, so they only have 18000 mangoes...  Well, I would limit my stock if selling it at that price.  I have it on good authority that they sell out too....  Oh my.

 

And with that stuck fresh in mind, I settled down for a relaxing night on the couch.

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