Monday, January 31, 2011

Hakone and an Unexpected Trip

Two weekends ago, my friend Saba and I went to Hakone. We met up Saturday morning at Mishima Station and took a bus from there. As we neared Hakone, we saw some snow on the side of the road. It wasn't much, but it was exciting because it was the first snow I had seen all winter (besides on mountains in the distance). 

It took about an hour to reach Hakone. We got off at the final stop, which was at the southern side of the lake. We soon found out that there's not much on that side of the lake. We wanted to go to Owakudani (a place where steam comes out of the ground!). We saw a pirate ship (yes, a pirate ship) that goes to the northern side of the lake, but it was a little pricey so we looked into taking a bus in that direction. We couldn't find a very direct bus route without having to switch, but we found one that would be okay. While looking at the bus routes, the boat left. Then we looked at the bus schedule and there wasn't another bus coming for a long time. Then we looked at the boat schedule again and there wasn't another boat coming for about an hour or so. What is with these schedules? It's a popular tourist area so why is transportation so sparse? Maybe it's a winter thing.

So we weren't sure what to do. We considered just leaving, even though we had spent money just to get to that point. But during lunch, we decided to go ahead and take the next boat across the lake.

 There was a guy dressed up as a pirate who took pictures with everyone. They tried to sell the photos later. It was a fun picture, but overpriced of course, so I didn't buy one.

The boat was pretty nice, but it was cold so we didn't spend much time outside. I think it would be a lot nicer on a warmer and sunnier day. It was pretty gray and gloomy. :(

From the north side of the lake we took a cable car to Owakudani.

The cable car was really cool (literally too) and we had a nice view of Mt. Fuji. It would have been really awesome on a clearer day, but it was neat how it was so gray out, but Mt. Fuji was illuminated.

When we reached Owakudani, it was actually snowing a little bit! The scenery of the snow and steam (which smelled like sulfur) on the mountainside was really pretty! At that point, I felt like the trip had been worth it. Here are some pictures from Owakudani:

That hut is where they boil eggs in a hot spring. The sulfur in the water turns the eggshells black!

Hehe! It's a Hamtaro hat! Saba and I both bought these hats in the gift shop.

You could only buy the eggs in packages of five for 500 yen. It was a little pricey since Saba didn't want any, and I wouldn't eat all five. But I finally decided to go ahead and buy some though. When else will I have the chance to eat black eggs boiled in a naturally boiling hot spring? Plus, they're supposed to make you live longer! lol

They tasted like normal eggs, but they were good!

 That thing on a rope is how they send eggs down to a gift store below.

We spent some time in the gift shop before getting back on the cable car to start heading back to my apartment. We weren't paying attention though and got on the cable car going the wrong direction.

We got off at the next stop and turned back around. As we approached the final station, we saw the last pirate ship of the day heading off across the lake. So we had no choice but to take a bus back to the south side of the lake.

There wasn't a very direct bus though. So we had to take one bus that went east and then south and then switch to take another bus that went back west. The bus took a long time and I knew we wouldn't make it in time for the bus back to Mishima. However, there were a couple other bus routes that would take us to nearby stations including Atami.

When we got off the bus and walked over to the bus terminal, it looked very dark. During the day there had been several buses sitting there, but now there was not a bus in sight. We looked at the schedules and all of them had stopped running (I think it was only about 6:00 at this point so that's pretty ridiculous) except for one to Odawara Station. We asked a nice woman working at 7-11 the best way to get to a train station and came to the conclusion that Odawara was the best place to go.

We knew that by the time we reached Odawara it would be too late to get back to my apartment. Odawara is only about an hour from Tokyo, so we went to Tokyo! :) It's too bad that we hadn't known that the buses wouldn't be running anymore because we could have taken a bus from where we got off the cable car all the way to Shinjuku in Tokyo. Ugh!

When we arrived in Tokyo we checked into a capsule hotel in Asakusa and then ate dinner in Ueno.

After spending a day in the cold, it was really nice to have some hot food!

After dinner we wandered down a nearby street a bit and found a really tiny arcade with a couple interesting claw machines.

Downy? In an arcade machine? I can understand playing the ones where you can win cute stuffed animals that you can't find anywhere else, but you can buy Downy at many stores! I guess it's a good deal if you do win on your first try. Downy for 100 yen is a good deal. But still... really?!?!?

So the Downy one was weird. Then I saw this one...

Tools???? That seems even weirder than Downy! At least almost everyone can get use out of Downy, but if you need tools, you might need specific tools. Why would you get them from this machine?

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a konbini so I could get a case for my contacts. We also bought ice cream.

I bought a grape ramune soda popsicle. The flavor was pretty good (it was a very fake grape taste which I like) but there were these little mushy fizzy pieces inside which were just kind of weird. Overall, I still enjoyed it, but I wouldn't buy it again.

There's my capsule! When I woke up in the morning, the light coming into my capsule was kind of shimmering on the ceiling. When I opened the curtain I realized that it was the sunlight reflecting off the river. It's kind of funny that the view from the room of capsules is better than any view I've had from a regular hotel in Japan.

We went to Starbucks for breakfast and then went to a toy store in Ueno called Yamashiroya. It's the best toy store I've ever been in!

The puzzle section was amazing! There were soooooo many puzzles!

I had a little trouble deciding on a puzzle, but I finally picked out this one:

Next we went to Shibuya to shop in 109. It's an awesomely girly mall. They don't have any men's clothing. I had been on the first floor one time, but I had never seen the rest of it. I loved it! I bought a really cute dress. :)

When I checked out I was excited to get a cute bag. I love how that store actually has cloth bags instead of the normal paper and plastic bags.

We saw these guys as we were going into Shibuya Station.

Overall, it was a pretty crazy weekend. Owakudani had been really nice, but it probably wasn't worth the money and trouble. I think it would be better to go to Hakone from Tokyo and stay in a nice hotel with an onsen. It's just way too inconvenient from the south side of the lake.


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