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Hot Springs and Naked Baths!

After some fairly hardcore sightseeing in Kyoto we moved on to Hakone for a few days of relaxing. This meant another trip on the bullet train, which is both very easy and very fast! On the two hour journey we passed close to Mount Fuji, which is quite an impressive sight!  We’d heard we might get to see it from our hotel in Hakone but only if it was a particularly clear day.

We arrived at Mishima station, where we had to catch a bus to connect to Hakone.  Details on what bus and where from were a bit hazy, but after asking several people and learning how to pronounce “Hakone” we managed to get our tickets and a couple of seats on the right bus.  The Japanese have been so kind and helpful, we’ve been really lucky.  The journey to Hakone from Mishima is only about 20km but it took about 50 minutes to climb the fairly steep mountain.  It was a bit like getting to a ski resort, but without the snow!  We saw lots more glimpses of Mount Fuji on the way, and Dan was hanging out the window of the bus trying (and failing!) to get some good photos!

The bus dropped us right outside our hotel, The Fujiya Hakone, which wasn’t the best looking building but was in a perfect location just on Lake Ashi.  We’d booked online and managed to get some special offer which meant we were upgraded to a suite with a balcony looking out to the Lake.  I, in particular, was thrilled with the room because it had an amazing bathroom with a really big bath in it.  Heaven!  God knows what reception thought when we arrived with our backpacks, but they let us in anyway!  The views of the Lake were amazing and we could just about see Mount Fuji from our balcony so all was well!

Hakone is an area renowned for it’s hot springs, and most of the hotels in the area have their own onsen baths.  Our hotel had inside and outside onsen, which is basically a really hot communal bath.  Because people are naked during the bathing there are seperate times for men and women. It was a bit weird getting naked with a load of Japanese people but the baths were very relaxing and after a while you forgot about the nakedness! We managed to have three onsen sessions each, so were thoroughly relaxed by the time we left Hakone!

During the next day we explored the area a little bit; there were pirate style tourist boats that took you across the lake, and from there we caught a cable car that went up the side of Mount Hakone, a still active volcano. At the top there are hot springs in the dramatically named ‘Great Boiling Valley’, and you can wander around between the geysers enjoying the slightly eggy smell, andwatching steam pouring out the ground! There were plenty of warning signs telling you not to hang around for too long due the toxic gases in the air, so we did as were told and moved on! Before we did though we had to try the local speciality, which is eggs, hard boiled in the hot spring water. The sulphur in the waterturns the eggs black, and eating one is said to add seven years to your life. They didn’t look the best, but tasted little different to a normal egg! Hopefully we’ll both live a bit longer now; I managed 2 and Dan had 3!

Hakone was a pretty sleepy place, with everything closing at around 4 o’clock, so there wasn’t much to do in the evening but enjoy the views and the baths, so that’s what we did!  It was great to have a couple of days of relaxation before hitting the craziness of Tokyo!

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