13 months
Jan 16:
where did i put that building?
Jan 21:
winter wonderland
Jan 22:
too-tall charlie
Jan 22:
meat & greet
Jan 28:
roley poley fish market
Jan 30:
spot me a yen?
Jan 30:
the low down
japan gallery
all galleries
next location

Doraemon unjustly trapped in a claw vending maching
Tokyo (Ueno neighborhood), Japan; Jan 27, 2005

black eggs & boiled octopus (hakone)

We got up relatively early to catch a train out to Fujisawa to meet our new-found friends, Fujiwara, Dote, and Yonekubo (for details about how we met, see japan: meat & greet). Fujiwara and Yonekubo were waiting at the Fujisawa Station exit (yes, it’s confusing that one of their names is almost the same as the station, but you’re just going to have to deal with that). But Dote was nowhere to be found. After numerous cell phone calls, we decided that he probably favored sleeping in to a day at the baths with strangers in Hakone, so we gave up and left without him.

5 years each

We hopped in Yonekubo’s car and drove on crowded roads for about 90 minutes. We stopped for a tasty tempura lunch (at a restaurant located by Yonekubo’s navigation system, which obviously handled a lot more than simple directions), then headed into Hakone. First, they took us to Hakone Ropeway, an enormous cable gondola up Mount Komagatake – at the top we had a wonderful view of Mount Fuji and a nose full of some sulfur-smelling vents spewing hot steam from the vast network of underground hot springs. Yonekubo disappeared for a moment and returned with a handful of boiled eggs, black on the outside from the sulfur. The eggs are boiled in the hot springs and tradition states that eating one will add 5 years to your life. Needless to say, everyone in the vicinity was eating an egg. We were tempted to eat a whole dozen, but maybe that would have been pushing our luck.

view of Mt. Fuji

Then it was off to a public hot-spring bath, or onsen. There are dozens to choose from in Hakone, but fortunately Fujiwara and Yonekubo had already picked one out. The one we went to was quite large; there was an enormous "family" area and large single-sex areas, too. We split up, since the men’s and women’s baths are separate, and as culture mandates, stripped naked.

The bath itself was amazing. There are somewhere around 12 or 14 different pools (in each of the single-sex areas). Some are inside, and some are outside in the snow. Some are a bit hotter, and some are a bit… well, not cooler, but less hot. Some have little streams of water falling into them from high up so that you can massage your back muscles by sitting under the streams. Some have places to lay down with your neck on a curved rock. And there are smaller hot-tub-like things with bamboo walls dotting the outer rim for people that prefer a private bath. All in all, a very nice experience - we happily attained the state the Japanese call "boiled octopus."

We could’ve stayed all day, but unfortunately, we had to get back to Tokyo before it was too late. We bade a sad farewell to the onsen, to Hakone, and then to Fujiware and Yonekubo as we got on our train. What a great day! We feel very lucky to have spent the day with our new friends – they were most excellent hosts and we’ll always remember their kindness.

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved