Saturday, January 17, 2009
We had a lot of fun on our first trip to Hakone National Park! This was the big trip we took while my mom was visiting us...and we all enjoyed exploring this area together :)
Hakone is one of the most popular destinations among Japanese and international tourists. It is a beautiful national park that covers not only Mt. Fuji, but also, the Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone, parts of the Izu Peninsula and all of the Izu Islands.
Our morning started off really early...we had to board our tour bus at 6:45 am. We could have driven ourselves, but the MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) office offers many tours and overnight travel trips throughout the month for a reasonable price, so we thought we would try a guided tour. And it was well worth it!!
Although we were worried that being on a bus with the kids and having to keep them on schedule throughout the day would be hard, they did extremely well. Actually, they were SO well behaved the whole day.
The drive to Hakone was beautiful, eventually leading us into the snow-topped mountains. Our first stop on the tour was the Open Air Museum, filled with famous sculptures from Henry Moore, Picasso, and more. There was a great artsy playground for the kids to play in as well. The scenery around the musuem was incredible and the beautiful weather made the day even better :) There was a lot of walking to do around the museum, but lucky for us, there was a 'Hot Foot Bath Spa' waiting for us to try. For just 100 yen (approx. $1), we got a souvenir towel and soaked our tired feet in a hot bath for as long as we liked! I think every museum, amusement park, etc, in the states should have a hot foot bath for parents' tired feet at the end of the day.
After the foot bath, we squeezed in some souvenir shopping just before having to leave the museum.
Our next stop was Owakudani. Owakudani is a volcanic valley filled with active sulphur vents and hot springs. It is located along the Hakone Ropeway (aerial tram) between Sounzan and Togendai. This area is most popular for Kuro-tomago, eggs that turn black when cooked in natural spring waters. Eating one black egg is supposed to add seven years to your life. You can eat two for 14 years more, but eating 3 is not advised!
During lunch, we purchased a bag of 5 eggs for 500 yen. We each ate one, so here's to the extra 7 years of life!
After lunch, we rode the Hakone Robeway aerial tram across Owakudani. The views were gorgeous, esspecially of Mt. Fuji. It's always during moments like these when I think to myself, "I can't believe I'm living in Japan."
When the tram ride, (rollercoaster ride according to Rowen) was over, we prepared to board a boat cruise around Lake Ashi. Lake Ashi is the result of Mt. Hakone's last volcanic eruption 3000 years ago. Today, the lake, along with Mt. Fuji in the backgroud, is the symbol of Hakone.
I think Rowen was a little scared to board the boat at first but once he was on, he was excited for the ride. He did pretty well on the boat considering how tired he was...it was about 3pm.
Since we've left this morning at 6:30 am, Rowen hasn't taken a nap yet!! Arjun had taken a small one, so they were both running on low fuel...
After the wonderful boat ride, we boarded the bus to our final destination, the Hakone Shrine. To be quite honest, I would have been perfectly happy heading home at this point. While the day had been filled with lots of fun sightseeing, the boys were exhausted and we were too! But, there are plenty people/couples on our tour that did not have children and wanted the sightseeing to continue...and of course, I totally understand :)
The Hakone Shrine was beautiful; we've been to shrines before but this was a first for my mom and she enjoyed it. The was a purifying fountain at the entrance. You are supposed to take a drink and wash you hands to purify yourself before entering the shrine. I think what surprised my mom the most, was the the 85 steps up to the shrine entrance! Even more so, was how out of breath she (and me & Tim carrying the kids up) were once we got to the top, but elder Japanese men/women walking up the stairs had no problem at all!!
We were given 1 hour at the shrine before meeting back at the bus, but since it was getting so cold after the sun went down, everybody was ready to leave in half the time.
Just as the bus departed Hakone, the boys fell asleep. Ahhhhh.....
The drive should take approx, 2 hours, I thought to myself. This will be a nice long nap for the boys!
But, what I didn't know, is that the bus stops along the way, at various souvenir shops and food plazas to give the tourists a chance to get off the bus...
And guess what? The boys woke up at the first stop and they weren't very happy the rest of the way home.
Oh well. They were so well behaved the whole day, that a little fussiness on the ride home was alright. When we finally got home that night, (not late, prob. around 8 pm), we put them straight to bed and they slept like logs :-)
Enjoy the Hakone pics!
Posted by TMRAS at 10:10 PM