Sunday, 13 September 2015

28-07-2015 ~ Mount Fuji Day Trip

We woke up at 07:00 and got ready for our day trip to Mt Fuji (¥13000 each booked through Japanican online from the UK); unfortunately it looked to be a cloudy day but we were hopeful. We caught the Chuo Line from Iidabashi to Shinjuku Station to get to the meeting point at Keio Plaza Hotel. We seriously underestimated how big Shinjuku Station was going to be and so it took us at least 15 minutes just to get from the platform to the hotel exit which meant we arrived at the meeting point at 09:08 when we supposed to arrive at 08:50. Luckily the tour guides were doing a final call as we arrived so we were able to get on the tour bus at 09:10. Phew! 

Our tour guide Ito-san talked the group through aspects of Japanese Culture, History and Mt Fuji. The bus drove for an hour to the Mt Fuji Visitor Information Centre for a comfort break, then carried on for another 30-40 minutes to 5th station. We were surprised how crowded 5th station was; absolutely crammed with hikers, tour buses etc. and also how much cooler it was up there - at least 10-15C colder than ground level and not so humid (which made it about 25C but it was still a temperature shock) - I was very glad I'd bought a cardigan with me. The clouds were hanging low over the main courtyard and surrounded us so visibility was very poor.

We were given 40 minutes to look around 5th station so we exchanged the voucher we were given as we got off the bus for a 'lucky bell' at the back of the first shop on the left. We then looked at the shrine behind the shops which was our first look at an authentic Japanese shrine.

We were unable to see Mt Fuji from the viewing platform due to the clouds but we were still hopeful to see Fuji on the way down. After this we crossed the courtyard to the shop on the far side where I bought some origami earrings, then it was time to get back on the bus. 

On the way down the clouds started to clear an were able to partially see Mt Fuji. The driver stopped at the last car park before leaving Mt Fuji so we could get photos. Hello Mt Fuji!

The bus then drove for 45 minutes to the restaurant for lunch which was great and much needed! The meal included ebi katsu and veggie katsu, cold chicken, tofu, miso soup, rice, and ramen with hot green tea to drink. The restaurant overlooked Lake Kawaguchi and was beautifully sunny - a complete contrast to Mt Fuji!

After lunch we were due to go up the Hakone Ropeway but it was too cloudy so Ito-san arranged for us to go up Mt Kachikachi via cable car instead (30 minutes drive away from the restaurant). The views on the way up & down were stunning! Even with the cloud you could see for miles across the lake and mountains. On a clearer day you could've seen Mt Fuji too but unfortunately Fuji had become shy again. We spent 30 minutes at the top of Mt Kachikachi then back down the ropeway to head to Hakone on the bus.

This was a 70 minute journey so after teaching us how to make an origami Mt Fuji, Ito-san left us to nap or watch out the window. We drove straight to the Kojiri pier to catch the 16:30 catamaran across Lake Ashi to Hakone-en. Beautiful views, very serene 10-15 minute ride with recorded narration giving information about the lake and buildings along the bank. Upon disembarking we were ushered to a handicrafts shop of marquetry specific to Hakone. I was thrilled as this was one of the crafts I was dying to see. There were every sort of goods with marquetry on and even ceramic plates & tea-towels with printed marquetry designs on. I was thrilled with the 2 pieces of beautiful marquetry I bought as I have been dying to see it 'in real-life' since I saw a video 10 years ago of how it was constructed.


The bus ride back took 2.5 hours due to traffic congestion, but Ito-san talked about the Onsens of Hakone and played us traditional Japanese music (beautiful) so it wasn't a bad journey.

We arrived back at Shinjuku and took the train to Akihabara (Electric Town) to look at electronics/games/¥100 shops and dinner. We walked around Akihabara looking for specific shops like 'Book-Off' and 'Trader' (M's interest in games) then it was time to look for food. As we didn't have a lot of time here we decided to come back at the end of the trip.

For dinner we went to NinoNino which was amazing! We sat at a 2-person table which had a semi-divider between the table and walkway so there was a degree of privacy. We had no clue what to order but luckily between our server's medium-level English and our pigeon Japanese (& J-Sho app) we managed to order beef and pork 'Shabu Shabu'. This was another DIY dinner but very different to the first one we had... First arrived a split metal dish on a gas hob, then arrived plates of raw meat, beansprouts and a pink paste in a bamboo tube. After asking the server what to do we started putting the meat in the brown liquid (we assumed it to be Dashi) and the pink (chicken) paste in the water side. 

The whole meal cost around £43 (!) This was with 6 plates of meat, 1 plate of veg, 1 chicken katsu kare side dish, 4 beers & 3 glasses of wine. Very reasonable price!
Slightly worse for wear we got the subway back to the hotel quickly as the subway stops at 00:00...

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