Trip to Hakone with the Grants
After alot of planning (on Richard's part, he did an awesome job) we all finally got together to do a day trip to the Hakone Region, which has a very deep volcanic lake called Lake Ashi in the center. . It's one of the most heavily toured areas of Japan. We started with a very early departure by train from Fussa and headed to Tokyo's Shinjuku Station.
There we got on the private rail line Odakyu, and took the Romance Car Train towards Hakone. It's called the "Romance Car" because there are no arm rests between the seats. It is very wide and comfortable seating tho! During the trip, Richard's mastery of Japanese made the trip much more enjoyable and quick.
We were able to swivel the chairs to face each other for the first leg of the journey to Soshu Odawara Castle. It took about an hour to get into Tokyo, and about another hour on this very fast train to get to Odawa City on the coast.
We got off the Romance Train and walked a few blocks from the Odawara Station to the Odawara Castle. This castle was founded in the mid 15th Century by the Hojo Family, and encompased 9 kilometers of fortress. Following the downfall of the Hojo Family, the Okubo family occupied the castle from 1603 to 1867.
Most of the castle wa destroyed in a 1703 earthquake, but was restored. It was was dismantled in 1870, and rebuilt in 1960 according to orginal models and drawings. The castle withstood many seiges and attacks during it's long history.
The castles location overlooking the coastal harbor, as well as a transit overland point between large cities made it a very strategic fortification. Inside the rebuilt castle is many floors of historical artifacts of weapons, armor and antiques.
We then got on another train and headed up into the mountains. We took this local train for about 30 minutes up into the river valley.

It was a bit crowded, but not nearly as bad as we have experienced in other trips.

We then transfered to another train which switched tracks back and forth working up the mountain. It was fairly steep. We then got off high in the mountains to take this cable car, which went directly up a very large part of the mountain range. This journey so far took us up several thousand feet, but we are were not done yet! Here is me taking a photo of Richard taking a photo of someone taking a phot of the cable car coming down the mountain side to pick us up.
Here we all are at the top of the Cable Car station, and about to get onto the gondolas for the last portion of the trip up into the mountains. Richard had gotten us "day passes" so one fee took care of all the charges. It was much cheaper that way, and the pass was very easy to use. (WWW.ODAKYU.JP/ENGLISH)

We then boarded the gondolas for the last portion of the journey up over the top of the volcanic mountain and down into the high lake area.

Up and up we went, even higher up into the mountains. This is a shot looking back and down at one of the cable relay spots. We had to change cable cars several times as we went up further and further.
Looking down you can see an exposed area of the volcanic hillside that is steaming out vents of hot water heavily saturated with sulpher. Over the centuries, sulpher collection has always been in progress over these vents.
Here is a closer look at several production areas where pipes and collection points are condensing sulfer into harvestable amounts.
Here is a shot looking back at some of the sulpher mining areas.

Nearer the summit are other hot vents, and a local history is that if you eat the eggs cooked in these vents, (which turn black) you get 7 years more life per egg. But you can't eat more than two, or it's bad luck. From what I've heard they taste pretty bad, so I didn't try any, but they were for sale all over. There is a visitors center, bus park, etc. just to the left in this photo.

Finally looking down into the high mountain lake of Hakone. The tram will eventually let us off down to the middle of this photo by the lake. This is the port town of Togendai-ko.

There are 4 large ferries on lake Ashi, each one made up to look like a 17th century wooden dreadnaught. I thought originally there was only one, but there are 4, each painted a different color and having a different theme. Here is the red one...

And here is the green one. We stopped at this point for lunch, and then got in line for the ferry. There is first class and economy, so we got economy. First class has better views and locations of course.

While waited to board the ship, we looked at some local cats, the row boats and this pirate figure. Of course we had to pose...

I decided to hamm it up for the camera..."Ouch, don't rap on my noggin!".

We finally started to board the blue ship, and it started to rain.

After a few moments it became clear that all the economy seats inside were taken, and it was either stand in the rain or pony up some more money for first class tickets...which we did. I decided to take some photos, and here is one looking back at Teresa, Richard and Jennifer.

It doesn't look like it, but it's actually raining pretty hard right here, as we steam north to one of the historic towns along the coast. All along the lake are golf courses, resorts and fishing villages.

We got off at the port town of Hakone Machi-ko to visit an ancient road guard house. It was raining still, but luckily Teresa and I still had our rain slickers from our trip last year to Hawaii. In the background are those suspicious Grant people.....
There are lots of little shops and stores outside of this historic guard gatehouse. This checkpoint's name is Hakone Sekisho, and was established in 1619 to control arms and goods entering the Edo area. It was considered to have been the biggest and most important guard house. In the background you can see the gate at the end of the street.
Before we got to the gate, some of us posed in the wood cutout photo things. Here is Samurai Richard looking like he is in pain.
And here I am looking at a fly on the end of my nose....
And here I am as a traveler, probably looking at either food or Teresa! The expression would be the same!.
The buildings have been rebuilt, and stocked with swords, spears, guns and supplies to outfit the garrison that was stationed here. They also had horses, and had to accomodate officials. The manequins are pained grey, as the outfits and colors used here by the staff are unknown.
Racks of guns, arrows, and all sorts of military gear are evrywhere. WWW.HAKONE.OR.JP
After the gate house area, we walked along a cedar lined path to the town of Moto Hakeno-ko. The paths had cedar trees planted along it, by order of the Edo Shogunate in 1619. The trees were planted to give travelers much needed shade during the hot summer months as they traveled along the road.
Just past the town was the shrine of Hakone-Jinja. It has a red Torii or temple gate standing in teh water of Lake Ashi, as was built in 757AD. Many famous Japanese war lords and shoguns were said to be devotees of this temple, including Tokugawa Ieyasu, the warlord who established the Edo Shogunate. I wanted to get a shot w/o people, but there was always a group in front of it.
Here is a shot of the ladies before we hike up the steps to the shrine. It started to rain slightly at this point.
By the time we got to the top of the steps (about 100 or steps) it was hailing very strongly. The hail was small, but stung, so we took shelter under the eves of the shrine. Inside this area you can see a Shrine Maiden, who sells good luck charms to tourists.
Other visitors sheltered from the hail as well. It was very fascinating, and the sound of the hail on the tile roofs were also pretty cool. After about 10 minutes the hail stopped and the sun came out again.
I've seen a number of bronze water dragons at shrines, but I never get tired of photo graphing them. The cups are used to take the special waters of the temple and used to wash your hands, giving you a blessing as well.
There was also a wedding going on. This area is very popular with traiditonal wedding minded Japanese.
We walked back a little ways to the town of Moto Hakone-ko and got on the Red Ship for the return trip to Togendai-Ko, to get back on the gondolas.
Here we are on the return trip on the gondolas. It was good to sit down again.
From the Gondola, to Cable Car, to Switch Back Train to Local Train and then finally to the Romance Train. It was a good chance to relax and look at photos we had taken.
Here is a last shot of the Romance Train before we headed off to eat Shakey's Pizza before getting on the last Chuo train back to Fussa and the base. We got home about 11pm, having left about 5:30am. A long day, but a ton of fun.