Monday, June 11 started early, as we boarded our Shinkansen “bullet train” at 8am. I was excited about my first ride on these super fast trains I’d heard about as a child. We grabbed breakfast on the platform to eat on the ride to Odawara station, where we took a local train for a bit, and then a bus to Hakone.
My oldest looked a bit green on the bus ride and filled a large percentage of an empty convenience store bag with her partially-digested breakfast. When we exited the bus, it was pouring rain. We stood, frustrated, where the bus had dropped us off, trying to decide whether to walk through the rain to a shrine by the lake or to a path of 400-year-old cedars. Either way, we had a couple of hours before our pirate ship ride across Lake Ashi. My son took a step back and kicked over a ceramic Dalmatian in front of a local shop whose overhang we were using for shelter. A lady walked onto the front stoop, visibly angry at him for knocking over her decoration. Startled, my sickly eldest dropped her convenience store bag full of vomit. She froze, watching the bag drop to the concrete and spill its contents. “Umm…I’m sorry?” She felt terrible, and she wasn’t even sure this angry woman spoke English. The lady glared at her. “Just—sorry?!” and she went back inside as the children trudged away.
We ducked into Kotolier Cafe for hot coffee, a clean restroom, and to hide from the angry shopkeeper down the street. After a half hour or so, the rain lessened a bit, and we decided to visit the path of cedars.
The strong winds and pounding rain storms made small work of the cheap umbrellas we’d brought, but made us glad we’d bought Disney ponchos the night before. We hiked through a 400-year-old cedar-lined path leading to Hakone Checkpoint; the trees were planted to mark the road by the then-reigning Shogan.
We skipped the hike to the shrine and arrived early at Motohakone port to board the ship (the Royal) that’d take us on a scenic cruise across the lake.
We disembarked the ship and were supposed to take a ropeway to have black eggs and noodles, but the sulfuric acid fumes were so strong that the ropeway was closed, and a shuttle took us instead. The black eggs’ shells are so colored because of the sulfur, and eating one extends one’s life by 7 years, but you’re not supposed to have more than 5, which is why they come in groups of 5. We bought a pack and had one each, since I figure I don’t need another 35 years anyway (because we eat organic at home).
Given my extra 7 years, I suppose we should start planning my 50th birthday party. I want it to be “black egg Hello Kitty” themed.
The hot noodles after our hot eggs were delicious, because we were cold, wet, and starving by this point, and hot Ramen noodles in Japan are awesome.
The Hakone Ropeway at Owakudani was open, so we proceeded high above the yellow-from-sulfur Valley of Hell, which would have provided awesome views were it not pouring rain, but we could still look down upon Hell, and how often do you get the chance to do that in life? We took a couple of cable cars down the other side of the mountain and then hopped on another bus that stopped right by our inn for the night: Senkyoro. This would be our first experience at a traditional Japanese inn.
Before we talk about the inn, I’d like to clear up some variant terminology we saw in Japan. Variant to me, at least. The “ropeway” was what I’d call a “cable car,” as it was a little metal container with benches that was carried by cables that ran above the metal container and took us across a ravine, high in the air, like we used to do at Opryland in the ’80s. A “cable car,” in contrast, is what I’d call an “inclined railway,” because that’s what they call it in Chattanooga, which is the only other place I’ve ridden what looks like a trolley that’s pulled up the side of a mountain by metal cables while the “car” is on tracks. Now back to our story.
We removed our shoes and had our bags taken to our room, which consisted of a large room with tatami mat flooring and a dining table in the middle of the room. Outside sliding glass doors was a lanai, and to the left of it was our own onsen. By the time I’d put on the slippers outside our room, my youngest was naked and in the onsen, which is, as she says, “how she rolls.”
We were invited to don yukatas and enjoy tea, which the inn hostess prepared for us immediately. What kind of fool turns down green tea and robes after a day spent in the rain? Not this guy.
Room service consisted of an entire kaiseki meal brought to us on the table in our room. It was amazing.
After dinner, the staff removed our table and replaced the floor space with futon mats for sleeping.
At which point, I decided to enjoy the onsen for a bit.
It was a wonderfully relaxing afternoon and evening. From 4pm until we checked out the next morning, we never left our room (they brought breakfast in the same fashion as they’d done dinner in our room).
When we left, as we did in our AirBnB in Tokyo, we left some Georgia jam as a thank you gift.
The next day, we were headed to Kyoto!