Day 2: 18 December 2012 (Con’t)
Elected to do the recommended course in the counter clockwise direction, and so set off from Hakone-Yumoto!
Preview of the recommended Hakone Round Course (Source: Japan Guide http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5210.html)
Took the Hakone Tozan Railway to the next major stop – Gora!
Passed by a few minor stops along the way …. As it was basically a slow moving slow train, even managed to slip a cat nap in the 35min journey ….
On the top right is the Hakone Tozan Cablecar that will bring us to the next stop – Sounzan …. while on the bottom right is a Swiss Train exhibit (I believe this is how they model the various modes of transport in Hakone after) …..
Time for some lunch 1st. It was about 1250 hrs …..
Quickly looked around the streets surrounding the station. Saw some restaurants on the left side of the station, but that will require some walking (around 10 min). Walked around a bit more before finally locating a small restaurant by the corner. It was a godsend as I was very hungry (after breakfast at 9+) and at the same time wanted something fast in order to be able to finish as much of the planned sights as possible.
Not able to make out the kanji/hiragana which is basically the name of the restaurant. Nevertheless, walked in and saw a few other tourists seated waiting for their food.
The menu ….. Thank god for the English menu! Kinda spoilt for choice as I noted many of the patrons were having soba/buckwheat noodles ……. However I opted for a Jo Tendon aka Tempura with rice instead as I was really really hungry!!
5 mins after ordering, I kind of regretted not ordering the warm soba instead (1000 JPY versus 1500 JPY for my Jo Tendon set) …… In the end though, it turned out to be an inspired choice as the tempura turned out to be delish. The added bonus was that the set came with a small bowl of soba (so I still got to try the soba in the end!) …. and the side dishes (bottom of picture) were delish as well. Little did I realise much later on in the course of my trip that this would turn out to be the only tempura I had in Japan 😛
After lunch, instead of heading to Gora Park (supposedly a 5 min walk from the station but I did not see any signs/directions, sigh) ….. elected to continue onto the cablecar to my next destination – Sounzan!
Along the uphill cable car ride, another major attraction is the Hakone Art Museum but opted to skip that to go Sounzan straight in order to cover as many attractions as possible for the day (the early sunset is a constant motivator in the race against time) ……
At Sounzan, we change to another major transportation mode – the Hakone Ropeway!
The ropeway (similar to the Ngong Ping 360 ropeway that we took to Lantau Island in Hong Kong) will bring us to the major attraction – Owakudani …… All modes of transport covered by the Hakone Free Pass so far without topping up extra yen ……
Some sights from inside the ropeway …… as you can see, a pretty gloomy/cloudy day!
First sighting of Owakudani – the next major attraction!
Owakudani is actually an active volanic zone – hence you can see the ‘fumes’. Read also from the guide brochures that Mount Fuji can also be seen from Owakundani as well …… The below picture is probably a more accurate and concise definition ……
Saw a rest stop which is a 5 min walk from the ropeway station and so walked over there to further explore. As I walked out the station onto the road ….. Brr, it was so-so windy (definitely the coldest and most windy weather that I have experienced on the trip so far. On hindsight, it was probably got to do with being part of the volcanic crater) …… So this is the time when beanie and gloves out in full force to ‘protect’ against the strong winds ……
Inside the rest stop ……
There’s actually a cafe serving ramen (didn’t know about it as this could be another option for lunch). The cafe seems to be famous for the volcano (chilli-based) ramen which came with a NHK recommendation stop …… At the side, there were souvenirs and foodstuffs for sale. 2nd sighting of the black eggs – which are cooked in nauturally hot water, and blackened by the sulfur. It is said to prolong one’s life by 7 years …. but did not try it in the end because …… I do not like hard boiled eggs!
Walked out of the rest stop and saw that there is a walking trail behind …… Also saw another stall selling the eggs (hot version) ……
From Japan Guide, there’s lots to explore within the walking trail where one can see the steam vents and bubbling pools close up …… However it seemed like a really long walk that would take a good 1/2 hour and up. Feeling very time-strapped (an inner voice/intuition tells me I should hurry and quickly head to the Lake Ashi cruise before the sun sets at 4+pm) ….. I elected to give up exploring further the walking trail and decided to 上路 onto the next destination – Togendai, where the Lake Ashi cruise awaits!
To be continued in Part 3 ….