Today was a day to prove that particular aphorism – spoiler alert, only one good bit, and the rest is tedious.
Hubby woke me at 7, because the morning was going to be sunny and clear until nine, and it offered the best opportunity to see Fuji-san. Now, normally I am not a morning person, but to come to Hakone and not try to see Mt Fuji would be like going to Paris and never going near the Eiffel tower….
So I dragged my sorry butt out of bed, grabbed the cameras, (yes, I have two, and no I’m not some kind of weirdo show-off: I have one for wide angle and one for narrow and distant; changing lenses on a camera to get the right shot is not optimal, especially when one shot might be a landscape, and the next instant an eagle is soaring above your head – so there.)
We took our trusty Hakone Free Pass (a misnomer, since you pay for it) and went on down with the H bus to the western side of Lake Ashi, whence our plan was to take the boat across and see if we could get to the other side of Mt Fuji, the five lakes area and see from a different angle… All the best laid plans…..
We arrived at the ferry port with time to spare, and lo and behold, the sun was shining, Fuji-san was out there in all its magnificent glory, and a giant red Torii gate provided a colourful counterpoint in the foreground. I am happy…..
We then boarded the ferry to take us across the lake again and onward on our journey to the other end of the line; Lake Motosu.
What I don’t realise at the time is that it’s 79 km away, and even in our own car it would take at least two hours…. By the time we arrived at the other side, clouds were already moving in and Fuji-san had a pretty frock of billowing clouds.
Bus number two: the link to Gotemba, where the Fuji part of our pass kicks in. 20 minutes later, we board bus No 3, to take us from Gora to Gotemba. 40 minutes, and we pass the Gotemba Premium Outlet, the most popular shopping destination in Japan: want some Hilfiger? Gucci? Versace? All here…
We finally arrive at Gotemba, an unprepossessing place, whose only claim to fame seems to be the Outlet Stores… Traverse station, get bus on the east side. By now, it’s cold and grey.
Bus number 4: Gotemba to Kawaguchiko station, where we need to take bus No 5 to take us around the rest of the lakes.
So off we go, 1 hour in the bus, and we skirt Lake Yamanaka, pretty in summer I am sure, but at this time of the year, and with heavy cloud cover, it’s not photogenic enough for W to want to flirt with frost bite in order to let me find some good shots.
We arrive at the station, after more meandering through leaf-less forests, highway construction areas, and pockets of scenery, passing Fuji Q Highland, a most bizarre enterprise where you can be scared to death in an upside down position on the roller coaster with views of Mt Fuji – which by this time is entirely obscured by cloud. When the bus doors open, we can hear the screams of terrifyingly excited tourists on the ride – sorry, but I don’t want to be hanging upside down at great speed waiting for my stomach to erupt.
So, Kawaguchico station is another of those unprepossessing places which provides a stepping stone for the beautiful scenery to come.
And it’s decision time: 13.30 pm. Do we continue on, taking another two hours on two further buses to get to the northern side of Mt Fuji, by now invisible behind the cloak of dense grey clouds, or grab a bit to eat, and return whence we came?
W opts for returning, the photographer has no complaints. So we repair across the road where there is a restaurant, decorated in a profusion of colourful artificial plants, where four harassed septuagenarians are fielding orders from the mass of tourists who suddenly all had the same thought – FOOD.
We squeeze in next to a Chinese couple and child, and have a good meal of Wiener schnitzel Japan-style (the pork is 8mm thick instead of 2) and chicken McJapnuggets, real chicken, thank you very much. A hot sake to warm our fingers, and we’re done.
Just for something totally different, we decide to take the Shinkansen train for two stops and exit before it takes off to Tokyo. Now for bus No 5, back to Gotemba. Traverse the station to the east, and catch bus No 6 – to Gotemba Premium Outlet, in order to catch bus No 7 to Gora.
Bus No 7 takes us to the hotel: it’s now 12 hours since we got up to see Mt Fuji sparkling in the sun. And despite the fact that we have spent most of the day on our butts, we’ve managed to rack up 6,458 steps – or was it 2,345 steps, and the rest bumps on the road? Who cares, we stop in at Fuyama Hotel and enjoy a couple of happy hour cocktails to toast our big day out in the very old fashioned (warm) bar. And then? Hot onsen, and a meal in the room, warm up and fall into bed, having passed the Hakone Glass Museum, various golf courses and driving ranges, and the Kintoki shrine.