24 July 2009

The View of Mount Fuji From Hakone

I mentioned in the previous post that we went to Hakone as well. Frankly, we would probably never have chosen to go to Hakone if not for the fact that it was recommended by various guidebooks if one wants to see Mount Fuji without having to actually go to the mountain itself.

We started out rather ambitious, thinking that if we had time to visit Mount Fuji, we would. Even more ambitious, we thought we could have a go at climbing the colossal creature for 'just' an hour upwards before turning back. Of course, the plan started crumbling the moment we reached Tokyo and ventured around the Ikebukuro region and spotted numerous eateries we wanted to try - we ended up attempting to 'restaurant-hop', eating only one or two dishes from each restaurant. There was simply insufficient time to explore the entire city, especially since we ventured out into Kyoto for a couple of days.

And so we decided to just go to Hakone, sneak a peek at Mount Fuji, then go back. But what was meant to be simply an afternoon at a park eating our Onigiri-s while gazing lovingly at Mount Fuji, turned into a full-day affair. Hakone had an inexplicable charm about it that made my companion and I a little reluctant to leave.

Walking out of the Hakone-Yumoto station, we simply ventured straight down the path, thinking that Mount Fuji would be so huge that it would be impossible to miss and visible from many points in Hakone. Of course, that was not true. Walking past a long row of shophouses, we thought this must be the way to wherever it was that one could see Mount Fuji since shops usually line strategic pathways.


I was most excited when we spotted a shop selling handmade rice crackers (aka Wang Wang biscuits) and couldn't resist a taste. Using our handy 'Yubisashi (pointing) sheet of expressions', we pointed to the Japanese translation of 'Is there a recommended dish?' and was immediately directed (more pointing) towards two types of rice crackers in the shop. We chose one of each, which were put into a brown paper bag, and went on our way.

Munching our deliciously savoury, crunchy biscuits, we soon found ourselves following 3 old ladies walking purposefully on a narrow strip of grass by the side of the road. Thinking they must have know a secret route none of the people in the crowd at the train station knew, we carried on along the path with them. That is, until we spotted signs of hot springs. And the old ladies disappeared.

Worn out and disappointed, we turned back and walked up the path leading to the row of shophouses again. Feeling like we needed a break from our tiring walk (yes, I can't believe we wanted to climb Mount Fuji), we went to the 2nd floor cafe of the first shop from the train station.


It was elegantly serene and all we needed to distract us from our disappointing trip so far. It also doubled up as a boutique for beautiful home accessories and clothes. Our iced tea and adorable red bean pancake (see inset) was yummy and comforting, and inspired me to want to set up a similar cafe of my own that would make people feel the way I felt at that time - at peace. After a good rest, we set off again with renewed resolve to look for Mount Fuji.

Consulting the tourist information centre, which we really should have done at the beginning, we were advised to take a Hakone Tokzan bus to Lake Hashi where they said was a viewing point for Mount Fuji and where there were sights to see. It cost us almost SGD$30 each for a return ticket on the bus, and considering we were running out of cash and no atm nor money changer in view, it was expensive.

But it was well worth it. Even the long winding journey was worth it.

Even if only for this.


The lake was beautiful, and... peaceful. But most importantly, at least to us, was the small Coffee and Sausage Restaurant we chanced upon that was run by two endearing old men in aprons. It was the sign that first caught our eye and curiosity. The cafe was quaint with some good smelling sausages and coffee. Having eaten a pancake a mere hour ago, we thought it would be best to share a hotdog.

It was one truly delicious hotdog. Everything was perfect - the slightly toasted soft buns, the juicy flavourful spicy sausage, wholegrain mustard and tomato ketchup. We couldn't have asked for more. It was truly fate that we alighted from the bus just steps away from this Coffee and Sausage Restaurant. If we were not already so stuffed, we would have eaten in and ordered more.
So our trip to Hakone was eventful, from taking the wrong path to finding awesome food. But what happened to trying to see Mount Fuji? Sadly, it was a cloudy day and Mount Fuji was out of sight from Hakone, no matter where we stood. With the hotdog and each other, standing at the edge of Lake Hashi however, I don't think we would be any more happy even with a view of Mount Fuji.