This past weekend I went to visit Mt Fuji. I went with four other JETs. On saturday morning, we boarded a bus at Hamamatsucho train station. Then drove through Tokyo and out towards Mt Fuji. It is only meant to be an hour and a half drive but we drove for over three hours. Turns out that we were travelling with many Japanese who were out enjoying the last weekend before school goes back. Anyway, we finally made it to lunch. Which was at a hotel across from an amusement park. The view was really awesome. Behind the huge and i mean huge roller coaster was Mt Fuji. We couldnt see the summit all the time because there were clouds covering it. Our Japanese lunch was really good and just what we needed after so long in the bus.
4th Station of Mt Fuji
The first thing that we did was to drive in the bus up to the 4th station of Mt Fuji. There are 10 stations in total but the last one you can drive to is the 5th one. Then you have to climb. The best time to climb is overnight so you can see the famous fuji sunrise. The air was so nice and cool here and after the weather in Tokyo was very refreshing. It was really beautiful with the clouds and mist all around us. We couldn't see anything down below because we were up in the clouds.
Next we took a 20 min ride on the ropeway, also called a gondola ride. Bascially, a ride in a fairly big capsule. The view was really great. We couldn't see Mt Fuji but had a great view of Lake Ashi (one of the five fuji lakes) and the town of Hakone. Once at the top we could see many cracks in the mountain with steam coming out of them. And a place where they mine sulphur to put in the Onsen (hot spring/open air baths).
Boat Cruise on Lake Ashi
This was only a short cruise but it was really beautiful. The wind was blowing and was actually cool. We went past a red torii gate in the water that shows the entrance to a Shinto shrine. The mountains were surrounding the lake and it was a really relaxing time.
After that we were dropped off at our hotel and left to our own devices. Our hotel was nice and our room was right near the open air bath. We went out to dinner at a Japanese resturant in the shopping plaza in Hakone. We were definately in the country. Everything was basically closed which was nice because it was very quiet and peaceful. Just like in Alice Springs when everything slows at night. Where i live nothing slows down because we are so close to Tokyo. Also one of the nicest things about the whole trip was how quiet Hakone was at night. No noisy bugs other than some crickets. There are millions of ciacadas where i live which i am now used to but didn't realise how nice the quiet was. For dinner, I had a Japanese set dinner with grilled prawns, fish and scallops, rice, miso soup, veges and a salad. For dessert there was rockmelon/cantelope. It was a huge meal but very yummy.
Then we headed back to the hotel to go to the open air bath. I thought it was gonna be weird to be naked in front of strangers and my friends. But Megan, Kara and I went in giggling and then felt bad because these ladies looked at us funny. We stripped off and then went to wash our bodies. You have to wash yourself really well before going into an Onsen (hot spring/bath) or open air bath. Basically, you sit on a little stool in front of a shower head attached to a hose and wash yourself. There is body wash and shampoo/conditioner provided for you. I think we were supossed to bring a big towel from our room and use the little (hand towel size) towel to cover yourself. Cause all the other women had bigger towels. Then we also realised that we should have woren our yukata (summer kimono/robe) because it was yucky to put our sweaty clothes back on afterwards.
Kara, Megan and I got into the hot open air bath and it was wonderful. I almost forgot that i was naked. It was actually a really nice experience.
I got up earlier than the others to have a good look around the hotel grounds. I went down to the private dock and had a look around and a feel of the water. It was humid already but at least abit cooler than here in Tokyo. Then I went and had a nice breaky in the hotel and then headed off to explore Hakone.
This was the ropeway right near our hotel. I went up and found that there was a Shinto shrine up there with a torii gate. I also met a man and his parents who were visiting from the next prefecture over. He is a teacher as well and so is his mum. So they offered to show me around their town and he is going to take me on a hike up in the hills near Nikko. It was a short walk to the shrine but i am glad that i went. The walk is a loop which goes from the ropeway station to the shrine and then past the original ropeway station and then along the ridge. Couldnt see Mt Fuji but the view was really great. I could see Lake Ashi and the surrounding mountains. Then i headed back down the mountain.
Here i got to see lots of really great tropical fish. One of the areas had a huge ship in it that looked like a sunken pirate ship. The fish and rays etc all swan around it. There was a shark tank which was really cool. There was an area with Penguins and i mean big ones. Like the ones that they have on Antarctica. There there was a seal tank and one type looked really weird. There were also pirahna and an electric eel.
Rest of the arvo
I went and had a nice curry lunch then to a great craft place to make somethings. Can't say what they are because they are presents. And then i went to the Onsen at the other end of the hotel complex. This one was also open air but there was a great view of Lake Ashi and the mountains. Very relaxing. You also have to wash before you go in etc etc. There are lockers to put your stuff into and once you get out there are face washing lotions etc and hairdryers etc so that you can look good when you leave. I also had a really good massage. All i remember is thinking focus on the music and then the next thing was the lady saying that we were done. I fell asleep which was so good and my back and shoulders felt much better afterwards.
We took the Shinkansen back to Tokyo and then headed home.