Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tokyo ’12, Day 6 – Mount Fuji and Hakone

On Saturday morning we woke up early and got dressed. The night before we had decided to have breakfast again at the restaurant on the 25th floor, so as soon as we got our things ready we took the elevator up. But when the doors opened we got an unpleasant surprise: the line in front of the restaurant was huge! As we had to be on time for our tour, we didn’t really know what to do. My mom suggested to stand in line for a while to see if it would take long. After a few minutes we realized it went pretty fast and not long after we were allowed to enter the restaurant. We got seats at a bar at the window and we could see so far away! The weather was really clear.
Our breakfast was delicious and we got downstairs right on time (my dad prefers to stay close to his schedule). We waited with a group of people next to a poster of the tour. The group consisted of some elderly people and a tall man who I immediately called John Cleese, because he sounded just like him and talked to anyone who would listen. He wasn’t unfriendly, just a bit annoying. Not long after, two ladies came up to us and started to check if everyone was present. We all received a fabric sticker with a mountain on it. It felt like a field trip! ^^
We went downstairs, left the hotel and entered a bus. My parents sat next to each other, I took a seat left of them. Slowly the buss got filled completely and after a while we started driving.

Field trip
I swear, it was like going on a field trip again!

We drove through the streets of Tokyo, passing the bridge, Lumine, MyLord, MaruiOne... We also passed the big square in front of the Imperial Palace my dad and I had been last year. In the meantime, John Cleese was talking and talking to his poor neighbor. XD
Not long after the bus stopped again. One of the ladies said some of us had to get out to get to the right bus for their tour. There were two tours: one of Tokyo itself and one Mount Fuji and Hakone. There was some confusion about whether we had to stay in our bus or not, but my father went to check it and we were good. :)
Then a new lady got in and introduced herself as our guide. Her name was Miyuki, or Mikki, but we could also call her Gaido-san (as in ‘Guide-san’), which we did because we loved the word. XD The driver was Abe-san, but to us he was Driver-san! XD
Gaido-san was really nice and she was superfunny, especially the way she laughed at everything she said herself. She had a very Japanese accent, and she pronounced ‘are’ as ‘er’. So cute!
While we drove she told us about the tour (constantly emphasizing how she was hoping traffic wouldn’t be too heavy so we could catch everything on the right time) and she told us all kinds of interesting things about Tokyo and its inhabitants. About the heat of summer, about the expensive part Ginza, about the backpushers (men that push people into crowded metros), about fruit, all kinds of things! Although I had to get used to her accent, I loved hearing all those interesting facts!
Unfortunately not long after we had to slow down: traffic was heavy after all. Luckily we made everything on time, I can tell you that in advance.
Slowly we left Tokyo and the surroundings got more green. After a while, the bus drove up to a big parking lot, where we could buy things and go to the toilet. Incredible how many toilets there were and all so clean! It’s really unbelievable!
While my dad went to get something to drink, my mom and I browsed the little super market and I finally found them: separately packed eggs! I had been dying to show them to my mom and now I finally could!

Packed Eggs
Finally: proof they really exist!

We bought two kinds of Pocky for me (chocolate and strawberry), a pack of gummy bears (hehe) and some kind of small pancakes.
We went back to the bus and not long after we departed again. We ate some of the gummy bears and the pancakes (which had a really nice filling). I also ate some Pocky, my parents didn’t really like it.
We drove for a long time and I was pretty tired. I even might have slept a little. Behind us were some people who slept the entire time on the bus. When we were allowed to get out, they joined us, but when we went back again they slept.
Gaido-san came by to collect the money for the trip and to ask whether we wanted to have lunch at the restaurant. We decided not to do that.
After quite some time driving past forests and mountains, we could see it! We could see Mount Fuji! Some clouds were floating around it, but we could still see the enormous mountain with the white snow on top. It was like I was looking at a picture, but I knew it was real! That was such a surreal moment.

Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji! I swear, it just rose up from the land as if it came out of nothing!

Taking pictures of ‘Fuji-san’ was quite hard from a driving bus, but it was also funny. We especially laughed for some time when my dad took a picture just as a big fence blocked the view.
We drove through a small town in the direction of Mount Fuji. It was so strange to see the mountain rise up from the ground!
The bus drove and drove and we entered a forest. The road went up and it was clear we hit the foot of the mountain. The bus drove past cliffs, trees and a lot of curves, but clearly Driver-san had driven a bus here before: we went very fast (after we finally passed a slow car)! The trees flashed by us.
Slowly we drove into mist, which were of course the clouds at the top of the mountain. After what seemed to be ages, the bus stopped at the fifth station, the highest possible point for non-climbers.
We got out of the bus and oh my God! It was freezing! They had told us to bring warm clothes, but we didn’t expect it would be 0 degrees Celsius! XD
We looked around, but there was nothing to see. From where we stood, you have a beautiful view over the valley. At least, when there are no clouds. XD All we saw was mist and white. Still, we were quite lucky, because we saw the mountain from the bus. Mount Fuji is completely covered in clouds most of the time.

Feet on Fuji-san
Our feet on the famous mountain! XD

We walked up a set of stairs, where we entered a gift shop. They sold tons of Mount-Fuji related stuff, from keychains to food. My mom bought my dad a keychain in the shape of a coin, with a picture of the mountain on it and its total height. I bought a similar one and an adorable keychain in the shape of either a squeezable cat’s paw or a dog’s paw. It had nothing to do with the mountain, although it has a cutified picture of Fuji-san (with anime-eyes) on the back.
We walked around a bit and took some pictures around the sign that said how high we were up the mountain.

Fifth Station
Mount Fuji sign! ^^

Despite the fact there was not much to see because of the clouds, it was fun taking pictures nonetheless.

The Mist
The view from the mountain! The first picture is quite depressing, don’t you think? XD

Then it was time to return to the bus. While we were walking back to the parking lot, my dad picked up a little rock. He collects little rocks and stones from different places and a piece of rock from Mount Fuji is awesome of course!

Piece of Fuji
My dad with his piece of rock with the wonderful view in the background!

When everyone was back and seated, the bus started driving all the way back down. It was strange to return to beautiful sunlight when you had just been freezing in cold and thick mist.
Gaido-san told us some interesting things about the similarities between Japanese kanji and Chinese writing on the way. Some of the kanji she held up I recognized. I felt quite proud! She also showed us a beautiful wooden secrets box: a box that can only be opened if you know how to move the hidden parts. She told us that this kind of woodwork is typical for Hakone, where we headed now.
We drove through the village again, but in a different direction. My dad quickly fell asleep and missed out on the several white buildings that we passed, including a windmill and a Buddistic-like temple. This part of the trip was quite frustrating: while driving up and down across from Mount Fuji, we passed several places with a beautiful view on the mountain, but we didn’t stop anywhere. I really wish we had. :( Oh well…
After driving for a very long time again we arrived at a very deserted place: an old hotel where I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to stay. It was located in the middle of the mountains and there didn’t seem to be anything in the vicinity. The hotel turned out to be the place where everyone who had ordered lunch could eat in the restaurant. There really wasn’t anything other than a tiny gift shop.
This really was our ‘down-moment’ of the day. We had expected to be able to eat something too, but we ended up buying some crisps and drinks from a vending machine. We were quite annoyed and tired already and we waited for a long time until we could finally leave again. My mom did buy two tiny wooden dogs and I bought a delightfully useless but cute key chain. XD

Down Moment
We look sooo happy here! XD Can you tell we were a bit down at this point?

Finally we left again. After being counted, the bus started driving. For about 200 meters. Then we stopped again. It turns out there was something close by after all, we just didn’t see it. XD
We arrived at a beautiful lake and we walked into a building to stand in line to board a fancy-looking ship to cross it. While standing in line, our energy started to return and my dad took some silly pictures of my mom and me making weird faces (especially me). Then we walked up the dock, where two ships were located.

Hakone Ships
The two big ships!

We boarded our yellow and black ship and walked up the stairs to the deck. There were some adorable swan-shaped boats floating in the water a little further.
After a while, the ship started moving and it went pretty fast! My mom took a lot of pictures. The lake lay in the middle of the mountains, which created a wonderful view. I also saw a red torii (gate) near the waterside.

Leaving Shore
The lake had such a beautiful colour blue.

Suddenly I heard my dad talking in English and it turned out he had started a conversation with John Cleese (or JC-man started it, very possible too). He turned out to be very friendly and we talked a little about Japanese manners and culture, he was actually quite funny. I should have known: someone who sounds and talks like John Cleese has to be funny! XD
We passed many little boats and our boat’s colleague. The shore came closer and closer.

Ship Girl
Creative picture taken by my dad. ^^

Finally it was time to get off the boat again. Driver-san had driven the bus all around the lake so he could pick us up again. We followed Gaido-san to the right bus and departed again. We were quite tired and just stared out of the window.
We stopped not long after, but we didn’t really know where we were. My dad thought we would return to Tokyo, but I had heard Gaido-san right after all: we were going to take a cableway! I love cableways, so I was very excited! I quickly snapped some pictures of the beautiful mountains and then we followed our group to board our cabin.
The doors closed and we took off. The cabin went up and up over green trees. Two tiny windows in the sides were opened and the wind blew through the cabin. We noticed the cabins in front of us disappeared behind a slope. Just when we were wondering what was behind it, our cabin flew over it and I couldn’t help but let out a soft scream. We were floating above an incredibly deep valley filled with stones and smoke! The wind wooshed through our cabin and we shook from left to right.

High Heights
Just look how deep the valley seems in this picture. It was even worse in real life!

I am so glad Gaido-san had told us the cableway was designed by Swiss engineers! Somehow it reassured me a bit. The air strongly smelled like sulfur and it turned out we were passing a sulfur mine. It’s hard to describe what this experience was like, but let’s just say it was scary and cool at the same time!

Capturing the Moment
Capturing everything! I look quite worried. XD

We arrived at the station and left our cabin. The station was cold and windy, but luckily we could follow Gaido-san quickly.
She told us we had some ‘time off’ to do things, but to be honest there wasn’t that much: we could walk up to this old house that was special for a reason I can’t remember, or browse around the gift shop. We decided to do the latter after walking around a bit in the cold air and taking a picture with a big Hello Kitty and a mascot dressed up as a black egg, a Hakone specialty.
At first the gift shop gave me chills. I can’t really explain why, but the pre-packed food they sold looked too strange, even to me. Luckily they also had a beautiful little department of the wooden secrets boxes and my dad bought my mom and me one. I also bought another key chain (naturally) and I also got a wooden turtle one. I called it Henkio. XD (If you have no idea what that means and you are curious, read my previous post).

The woodwork corner. They even had woodwork mugs!

Outside it had become dark and it was time to go back to the bus. We drove for a long time and I slept until we arrived at a train station where the people who had signed up to return by Shinkansen (the bullet train) could go and find their train with Gaido-san. I noticed there was a big bookshop and since I still hadn’t bought a Gothic & Lolita Bible, I joined my dad who went to get some food.
We entered the station, where I went to the toilet first (not taking the Japanese style one, I just don’t like it) and then my dad and I walked up to a little bakery. While ordering, we suddenly heard a strange sound that sounded like wind coming towards us really fast and then there was a loud blast and a lot of woosh-like noise for a long time! It turned out a Shinkansen train passed the station. Whoa, it was so loud! The shop girls didn’t even seem to mention it anymore though. XD
After ordering I walked into the bookshop and to the counter, where I tried to pronounce ‘Gothic & Lolita Bible’ as Japanese as I could, but I had to write it down for the shopgirl after all. Luckily they had some and I could finally buy one.
My dad and I went back to the bus. Clearly a lot of people had taken the Shinkansen (which was quite a waste in my opinion since it was dark outside and you wouldn’t be able to see how fast it was), since the bus was quite empty. However, some people from another tour joined, including a couple with two little girls that literally got stuffed with food the whole way back to Tokyo. You wouldn’t believe how much the parents shoved down their throats. o_o
Finally, after a long drive we arrived back at our hotel. We were quite hungry, so we dumped our coats in our room and went to MyLord to have some food. It clearly was a Saturday, because there were quite some lines in front of the restaurants. We had decided to go to the restaurant my mom loved the most, the one from the first evening, but there was a line too! We decided to wait until it was our turn and sat down on some chairs next to the entrance after my dad wrote our surname on the waiting list.
We waited for a while until a waiter called out our name (in a very interesting new way. I have never heard someone pronounce my surname that uniquely XD). We were seated next to the wall in front of the bar. It was fun to see all the food being made.
My mom ordered the dish she had chosen the first time too, I chose my dad’s previous dish and my dad chose the same as my mom. We were very hungry (it was 9 pm already) and the food was so delicious~! *_* ♥

Yummy Food
My parents and our delicious food! ♥

After dinner my mom and I decided we wanted to try one of the ice cream sundaes on the back of the dessert menu card. It looked really interesting, with its green ice cream, green sponge cake and white shiny balls. XD When we ordered, it seemed the waitresses tried to warn us for something. They pointed at it and told us it was ‘matcha’ (green tea), but I said it was okay. Maybe they thought us Westerners wouldn’t like it?
We received the big sundae and it looked amazing. Japanese food really always looks just like what’s on the menu or in the window! My mom and I started our ice cream adventure!

Ice Cream
Our amazing ice cream! *_*

I must say I can understand a bit why the waitresses tried to warn us: the flavours were very different from what we are used to. The green ice cream was bitter and sweet at the same time, the red beans were sweet and bean-like (huhu) and the shiny white balls were soft and gummy. Although the flavours were very strange and new to me, I really liked it!
After finishing our dessert, we left the restaurant and went back to our hotel. It was past 10 pm by now and we were very tired. When we returned to our room, we went to bed immediately. We needed our sleep, because for the next day my dad wanted to go to the Sky Tree!

Purchases of the day

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