Sunday, October 23, 2016

Exploring Laki Ashi of Kanagawa Prefecture

Last night was a blast. I was awake for almost 24 hours, but that didn't stop me from enjoying our first day in Japan. I can vividly still remember my first meal (a tonkatsu ramen), my first subway experience in Tokyo (which is, by the way, the most efficient and the most expensive mass transportation system I have ever ridden), and my first time crossing the most photographed intersection in the world. It felt surreal. Japan already gave me a very nice impression, and I can't wait to explore more of it!

On our second day, we explored the neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture to see Mount Fuji in person.

I finally woke up at almost 10 in the morning. The sun was partly covered by clouds, but it was even colder than yesterday. As we walked to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station, I couldn't help but notice our neighborhood - clean and quiet. It was not deafening, but it gave me a peace of mind.

We changed two train lines before arriving at Tokyo Station. Doms and I bought Shinkansen tickets to Odawara, our jump-off point to Lake Ashi.  We don't have bullet trains in the Philippines, so I guess this is going to be a fun experience. The one-way ticket of the Shinkansen costs JPY 3,500, and that's double the price from their local train. There are only four stops in this Shinkansen train ride, Nagoya being the last stop.

Photo by Dominick Galauran.

While waiting for our train, we bought lunch at a nearby bento restaurant inside the station. I bought Chicken Teriyaki because that's the safest thing to eat at the time. I totally forgot to bring my anti-histamines, and should I bring my meds I could've ordered the tempura bento meal instead!

The Shinkansen train was sleek from both inside and outside, not to mention most passengers inside wore suit and tie! We were the only ones who wore basic attire. The ride was surprisingly smooth, and I didn't realize that we were zooming at high speed until I started taking pictures of the Japanese rural landscape. The objects that were near to us appeared bent. A simple Google research stated that we were clocking at a maximum speed of 320 kph! If only we had this kind of train in the Philippines, Clark will only be approximately 20-30 minutes away from Manila!

Chicken Teriyaki bento meal!

Japanese rural landscape.

Inside the Shinkansen train.

Upon arrival at Odawara Station, we went to the ticketing office and bought roundtrip tickets to Hakone for JPY 1700. Here, tourists can choose whether to ride a bus to Lake Ashi, or a combination of bus and train. In our case, we rode a train to Lake Ashi, then a bus back to Odawara Station.

The view from the train was stunning! There were houses built only a few meters away from the railway, and we passed through several tunnels covered with moss and wild ferns. One can only marvel the surrounding verdant landscapes of Kanagawa Prefecture. It felt like it was a scene directly taken out from the movie Norwegian Wood.


After one train and one bus ride, we have finally arrived at our destination! Lake Ashi is a lake which lies on the southwest wall of the caldera of Mount Hakone. This lake is famous for its views of Mount Fuji, numerous hot springs, historical sites, and ryokan. From there, we bought tickets to the boat cruise for JPY 1800.

The boat was not an ordinary one. It was a colossal and a multi-level vessel capable of ferrying hundreds of passengers at the same time. The interiors of the cabin were intricately designed, most of them were wood carvings. It felt like I was inside Captain Jack Sparrow's boat, sans the pirates. The upper-most deck offers a stunning view of the lake and its surroundings.

Waiting to cross. Photo by Dominick Galauran.

Favorite season: Autumn. Isn't it obvious? Photo by Dominick Galauran.

At an elevation of 2,200ft above sea level, it was colder here than in downtown Tokyo. The forest encompassing the entire lake has just started to change its colors. There were traces of orange and red hues in the sea of green. I was still shivering even if I was wearing three layers of clothes. But who am I to complain? I was longing for this kind of weather. Back to where I came from, it is perpetually hot and humid.

Emoji got real!

All hail Fuji!

The tour lasted for almost an hour. Since we were a bit hungry and still had plenty of time to kill, we ate grilled squid. I attempted to buy another one, but as soon as I finished my first stick, my upper lip started to swell. Good thing, there was a vending machine nearby, and I immediately drank a bottle of coke. Sugar saved my day! I even ate a cone of matcha soft ice cream just to be sure (you can't say no to a LEGIT MATCHA ICE CREAM).

The grilled squid vendor. Each stick costs JPY 500.

We left the town of Hakone by bus at almost 4:30 in the afternoon. It took us an hour before we reached Odawara Station. From there, we decided to take the local train because it's cheaper. Besides, we were already satisfied with our Shinkansen experience earlier. LOL

A trip to Japan would not be complete without visiting Mount Fuji and its surrounding towns and landscapes. I am so glad that I saw the famed volcano in person. I have finally ticked that item off on my bucket list.

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