The Japan Journal - Day 7

H A K O N E 18/12/15 The night before, we agreed that we would go to the onsen one more time before we left the next day. Since ...



The night before, we agreed that we would go to the onsen one more time before we left the next day. Since we were planning to check out after breakfast, we decided to have our last onsen session early in the morning once our eyes fluttered open. Mum was the first to wake up, with her 'melodic' voice saying "wake up! Look at the beautiful sunrise! Oh its so beautiful.." as she drew the curtains open, sun rays flooding into the room. 

I was immediately awoken from my deep slumber, feeling rather sleepy and slightly annoyed. But once I saw what my mum was so hyped about, I had the power to get out of bed, grab my camera, and capture one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever woken up to.

Even the view from our bathroom was beautiful. 

After our final dip in the onsen, the fatigue left my body as my blood circulation was palpable through my tomato-like cheeks. We dressed in our robes and headed to the restaurant where a traditional Japanese breakfast set awaited us. A typical Japanese breakfast is always a balanced meal, consisting of your carbs, protein, good fats, and vegetables. Although it may seem like a heavy breakfast, it was pretty light considering each dish was small in portion. 

Once we were filled with all this nutritious goodness, we decided to head outside of the hotel to admire the picture-perfect landscape that surrounded the hotel. There were remnants of ice that settled on the grass from last night's snow shower, but the intense heat from the sun soon became responsible for its disappearance. 

Here's a photo mum took of dad taking a photo of me looking like a Japanese boy. 

And here's a photo mum took of me looking into the distance pondering the mysteries and complexities of the universe, because she thought my hair bun looked cute.

In the distance, we noticed large clouds of smoke coming from the mountains. The hotel's receptionist said there was another hot springs resort there and this was the effect of the outdoor onsen. 

After checking out, we decided to explore Hakone before we made our way back to Tokyo. Since our hotel was quite secluded, there was a shuttle bus that took us to the nearest bus stop, and we had to follow a map and figure directions out for ourselves. It was a pretty interesting experience as the bus stop looked like it was in the middle of nowhere, and it felt unlikely that a bus would along this barren road. Thankfully, we did not have to wait too long for a bus to arrive. However, we had to make sure that we would be heading in the right direction. After repeating our intended destination to the bus driver several times, he assured us that the bus would be stopping there. 

Our first stop was the Hakone Shrine situated on the border of Lake Ashi. Surrounded by glistening waters and accompanied by perfect weather, we had a great time walking along the shores of Lake Ashi and absorbing all the beauty and Vitamin D.  

When we got to the entrance of the Hakone Shrine, everything felt so magical. During our time in Japan, we had come across many shrines in Tokyo. However, none of them could compare to the Hakone Shrine which is surrounded not only by water, but by a forest. Walking through the red arches made me feel like I was in a Twilight sequel, where everything felt so serene and surreal. 

Further ahead, there is flight of stairs that leads down to a 'floating red gate' called Torii of Peace. The setting was captivating but it was hard to get a good photo as the sun shone directly on it, blinding not only visitors but my camera lens as well. However, I managed to resurrect the photo with some exposure edits. 

As we climbed back up the steps that lead us to the main walkway which was on the same level as the entrance, there was another gate called the Fourth Shrine Gate consisting of 90 steps that led somewhere.

My brother and I, considering our young and fit stature (jokes), went to explore what was tucked away at the peak of the stairs. There were a number of shrines, a sacred dance hall, and a 9 headed dragon water purification basin that is popular amongst the Japanese as a hand washing ritual. 

Our next destination on our agenda was to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. Getting there was tricky, involving hopping on and off a bus that we weren't too sure which direction it would be heading, embarking on a bush-walking trail, walking through housing areas, and passing through a railway track. 

After Google maps told us we had reached our destination, we were a few metres from the railway tracks with no sign of the museum. Thankfully, we stumbled upon two Japanese men who seemed to live along this beaten track. The language barrier made it quite hard to communicate, but once they heard 'museum', they nodded their heads and gestured towards the the direction further down the railway tracks. We walked for about 50m, still not seeing any sign of a museum. Little did we know that the two Japanese men were actually following us on the opposite side of the fence adjacent to the railway tracks, making sure we would not get lost. HOW THOUGHTFUL! So they gestured once again towards this obscure stairway that we were meant to climb, that finally lead us to...

We made it! Once we had almost reached the top of the stairway, we turned back as we wanted to show our gratitude towards the old men. However, they were out of sight. They really were our guardian angels for the day. The open-air museum was truly one of a kind. Numerous artworks and art features were scattered throughout this huge space. You will need at least 2 hours to stroll through and cover each section of the museum. 

This is actually a playground. How cool right?!

There were many other art features there were chic, quirky, unique, and certain eye-catching. There was also a separate building holding Picasso's artworks, with an inescapable black inked 'PICASSO'  slabbed onto the white walls. Most of Picasso's artworks featured his unique style of 'cubism', which I wasn't too intrigued about. 

After trying to appreciate Picasso's work, we stumbled across a tall spiral staircase inside a dome like structure. When I looked up, the image of the sun's rays shining through a mountain of stained-glass windows was absolutely mesmerising.  

My brother and I were struck by curiosity, so we decided to check out the view from the top. Our reward was a panoramic view of sections of the museum, along with mountains, green pastures, and a sunlit sky.  

downnn we go ~

It was time to leave the quaint museum grounds, and head into the main town of Hakone.

We took a train into the main town, but it wasn't an ordinary train. The train tracks were hidden between towers of trees. Hence, the scenic route taken felt like we were in a wildlife documentary as nature's beauty constantly flashed before our eyes. 

As we got closer to town, our surroundings began to change, and we saw more vehicles on roads and bridges. We only had about 2 hours to spend in the town before we had to board the train back to Tokyo. 

Before exploring, we had to feed our stomachs. There were rows of restaurants and small stalls that primarily sold bento boxes or rice with dishes. It was quite late in the afternoon, so some stalls had closed and some turned us away as the kitchen was closing. We settled for a quiet restaurant after scanning their menu as their gyudon looked appealing. 

With time to kill, we roamed around this old-fashioned town, embarking on narrow streets that lead us to these sights:

It was time to bid farewell to the serenity and quietness of Hakone, and board the shinkansen back to the scurry and scramble of Tokyo. Upon arrival at our hotel, we rested our tired eyes and feet for a good 15mins. I on the other hand, went down to the reception to ask whether they could help book a reservation at a teppanyaki restaurant I picked out. The told me the earliest booking the restaurant could offer was 8:15pm, which meant that I had 15mins to get everyone up on their feet and make our way to the restaurant. 

Thankfully, the restaurant was only about a 10min walk away, and Google maps had not failed us. The restaurant was called Teppanyaki Ten, and by the looks of the crowd and limited reservation spaces, I would say they are doing exceptionally well. These were some of the delicacies we ordered:

Prices were very reasonable, portions were generous, and ingredients (especially the seafood) was fresh. I highly recommend Teppanyaki Ten for those looking for Japanese food of both quality and quantity!

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