Japan - Day 11

Hakone and Mt Fuji

Well today was an early start for us explorers, as we had a day tour arranged for a visit to Mount Fuji and Hakone. We were all pretty excited about this. The tour was due to pick us up from another hotel at 7:50 and from there we took a tour bus to a central location where the tour was to depart from.

We found the other hotel easily, a lot easier then I thought we would anyway. We had prethought the earlier start and had all stocked up on breakfast items from Family Mart the day before. After we had, had some breakfast the bus to take us to the tour group came.

We set off from the main bus station at 9, after we visited the toilets, because we wouldn’t be stopping for 1 and a half hours, and found that these were not only heated, but that they had a fake flush sound. I was later told this is for when you need to cover up other toilet noises (hah! they’d have to crank it up to 11 to cover my “other toilet noises”). When we were on the road to Fuji, the tour guide informed us that today we were lucky, as we would be travelling up to the 4th station of Mt Fuji, which is rare during winter.

The tour guide filled in the long trip with some interesting facts about Japan. For example, did you know that Japan does not have an army, and that the top Sumo Wrester earns as much as the Prime Minister. The rest of the time on the bus was spent rather wisely. I think we all had a sleep.

We finally got our first glimpse of Mount Fuji after about an hour on the road. It is hard to find words which describe it, it was beyond beautiful. There was also no cloud covering Fuji this morning and we could actually see the whole mountain. The mountain was also heavily covered in snow.

We arrived at the visitors centre first, after one and a half hours on the road. The visitors centre was not really exciting. We watched a video and brought some souvenirs, but that’s about all that was there. You couldn’t even see the mountain from the visitor centre.

Very excited we hoped back on the bus and headed on the 30 minute trip up to the 4th station. Anthony got very excited on the way to the 4th station, because there was alot of snow on the side of the road. He has always waned to throw a snowball and see snow and it looked like today was going to be his lucky day. When we reached 4th station we were all happy to see that there was snow everywhere.

They all laughed at me this morning when I packed my snow gloves. “Why would you need those?” they asked. Well I struck a deal. If there was snow, I’d get to throw snowballs at everyone. Whats that saying? Oh yes, revenge is a dish best served cold. Well if a snowball to the face isn’t cold, then I don’t know what is.

The view of Mount Fuji was still really good and a few snapshots were taken. Anthony had fun and threw snowballs and snow everywhere, including in my pocket, then made packed snowballs and rolled some down the big hill.

We tried to get some action shots of the snow, and it worked rather well. Anthony also picked up the biggest snowball ever and Rob thought it would be a good idea to head butt through it. I looked funny but I think Rob hurt himself. He was also covered from head to foot in snow (funniest thing I’ve ever seen). After some more photos and more playing in the snow, we had to get back on the bus and head to our traditional Japanese lunch.

Lunch was at a restaurant that overlooked Mount Fuji. It was all traditional Japanese food and was very nice, although I am not sure if everyone in the group would agree to that though (the Occhipinti’s! :P). Lunch consisted of miso soup, tofu, rice, tuna and salmon, some shrimp and a few other bits and pieces. Anthony and I tried the local grape juice which was ‘oishikatta’, very delicious. After a dessert of mango gelati, it was time to hop back on the bus and head to Hakone. Anthony was still very excited from the snow and we had all had the best morning at Mount Fuji, we could only hope this afternoon would be as good.

It took us a while to get to Hakone, I think another hour or so. Hakone was as cold as Mount Fuji, but we braved the cold and headed to our first stop, Lake Ashi. Lake Ashi is really beautiful, normally you can see Mt Fuji over the lake, but the clouds had covered it again and it was barely visible.

We headed onto a boat to travel across Lake Ashi. The boat trip was freezing, but we toughed it out and stayed on top of the boat to get some pictures. The trip across was really scenic and the water glistened surrounded by all the mountains. As we crossed the water we could see the Ropeway we were going to take. It looked big and old, we hoped it would take us safely to the top of Mount Hakone.

The Ropeway was interesting. It was a weird sensation to be hanging off a few cable lines and dangling over forest which we were told had bears and deer and who knows what else. Nevertheless we arrived safely on top to the most breathtaking view I have ever seen.

It was really peaceful, quiet. Too quiet. I couldn’t stand it. I let loose a call, “Chipi!”. Everyone looked at me funny. I guess it wasn’t the best idea. Although, it did make it easier to catch up with him.

It was as if we were above the clouds, surrounded by mist. Below us, however was Lake Ashi and small towns hidden away. We had a look around, got some hot chocolate (it was freezing now) and took photos. Steve and Lee headed up the hill to a Shinto shrine while the others decided to head back down and look at the shop.

It was after shopping that the most wonderful thing happened. It started snowing. Where we were at the time had no snow around it, which made this even cooler. Seeing snow fall is always something both Anthony and I have wanted to see and this did not disappoint (such tiny flakes! I tried to get some shots, but they were too small and weren’t falling rapidly enough. This really made my day). We stayed out in it for a while, tired to eat some snow and then made our way back to the bus to go to the station. We were to catch the bullet train home.

The bullet train may have been fast but I didn’t see what the fuss was about. It was a smooth ride and I think we were travelling well over 200 km/h. They boys seemed to enjoy it though, maybe it is just a boys thing. Either way we got home fairly quickly and then headed out to dinner.

The whole experience today was really magical there is no other way to describe it. I hope one day I am fit enough to climb to the summit of Mount Fuji. I am also glad we got to play in snow and see it snow. Such a wonderful day.