|Arrival at Narita Airport, Tokyo|
As I've mentioned previously, there is no going straight to the hotel upon touchdown at Tokyo. So we were all mentally prepared to be whisked straight to Hakone without the chance to shower after our flight, all sleepy & raggedy-assed. But breakfast was in order before going to Hakone. It poured this day & I donned on my hooded winter coat & gloves because of the cold & to stay dry. I was exhilarated when I went out the airport & got enveloped by the natural cold outside.
Gosh, despite the rain, it's good to be back. According to our tour guide who is a Taiwanese, the whole of Tokyo snowed the week before our arrival. Throughout our stay, new snow didn't come falling down from the sky. We could only play with fallen snow already on the ground. Bummer.
|Where we had lunch|
So breakfast took place at some food court-like place along some highway. Our tour guide took pains to recommend to us which dishes to go for as well as unravelling the deep esoteric mysteries of the food ordering systems typical of some Japanese eateries. He did inform us not to expect to be floored by the food here though, since according to his experience, the food here is only so-so.
|My Ramen lunch|
So I ordered Ramen & yeah, the tour guide turned out to be right about the taste of the food here. It ain't bad, but I was still standing after finishing my lunch since I wasn't floored. We just had to come here to fill our stomachs & gain strength for the rest of the day after an 8 hours flight. And boy, were we hungry.
(Angela, Me, Jacelyn, Ken, Jason)
So we arrived at Hakone where Lake Ashi is located. I asked our guide about it and discovered that Lake Ashi is actually the water-filled crater of a dormant volcano. Jeez.. what we've got is a firestorm under the water just right in front of us. How thrilling.
|Me at Lake Ashi|
Adorably, there were several cats hanging around the lake & apparently, the locals must be taking good care of them since they look like round little balls with enough air in them prancing about. In human language, they appeared well-fed. If I recall correctly, I didn't see any feline the last time I was in Tokyo but Hakone is situated at the outskirts of Tokyo & I suppose a bustling city has no place for cats.
|Here comes our ride|
Up next, we took a cruise around the lake which lasted for as long as one can say "ItsOverSoFreakingSoon?". It was thrilling to cruise around right on top of a dormant volvano's crater though.
The thought of being at the right place but not at the wrong time was quite a shuddering one.. I couldn't help but entertain the thought that when the volcano blows up, the only thing that saves me from getting killed by it is that I was there right on top of it in a different time frame.
For Lake Ashi, the fog which is prevalent in the area and which swirls around this mountainous region like slow moving cotton wool gives this place a magical vibe which reminded me about the song 'Misty Mountain Hop' by Led Zeppelin. Too bad we didn't get to see how this place looked at night. I'm sure it would remind one of Silent Hill Jap-style.
We headed for lunch next. When one is traveling in a cold country, one gets hungry easily, what with the cold that eats up the body fats to maintain warmth & all the leg-work that expenses energy. So I'm always looking forward to the meals.
Japanese food is non-greasy & seriously healthy it's not even funny. That ought to be a contributing factor to the supposed long life-span of the Japanese and most of them are gorgeously slim.
(Me, Clarissa, Angela, Lily,
Jacelyn, Jason, Ken, Luke)
Right after lunch, we went to Owakudani on Mount Hakone where Mount Fuji can be seen in the distance. Boy, did I mention we had to come here straight after lunch? To get to Owakudani, we had to climb up so many steps the whole process was a major pain in the butt & tummy. And the fact that the whole place is enshrouded with volcanic sulfuric fumes didn't help either as we panted for breath every step of the way up. Folks with asthma would do well to heed extra caution here.
|First-Person Shooter view of my hard-boiled egg|
Besides checking out the glorious mountainous view which includes Mount Fuji in the distance, we came here also for the eggs boiled in the natural hot spring waters of the volcano which is about 80℃. So I was careful not to wash my face or take a dip in the hot spring waters here despite the rather flimsy rope & thin chain-barriers.
Ok, so those eggs are touted to supposedly increase one's longevity but erm, just check out the signage below which has been put up right there:
|A WTF moment|
|View from the cable car|
Oh well, one man's desired food is poison to another man on the other pasture and I'm sure there are times when the Japs have enough of their cold.
The final place we went to before calling it a day was Gotemba shopping district; the factory outlet for the premium brands. Well, I didn't buy anything here except for cans of hot coffee since the only thing that caught my eye was this really well-made hat which I liked but it was too grotesquely expensive for a hat. Too bad, so sad. Live & fight another day, buy more coffee cans.
|Yukata - A common feature in Japanese hotels|
After Gotemba, we headed to our hotel located in the Fujihokuroku forest where we had a Yukata cosplay dinner. The hotel has a long name: Jiragonno Fuji No Yakata. Boy, that's quite a mouthful for a hotel name.
Since I only had a t-shirt, jeans & hotel slippers on, I decided to step outside the hotel after dinner to see if I could endure the natural cold for as long as it took for a smoke or two to burn out. Jacelyn joined me shortly while I was outside and we survived. And it was freaking cold out there.
We were all beat having gone through everything mentioned above immediately after touching down in Tokyo. So after a beer, I decided to settle down for the night. Us guys have a room for our own each and that night was the very first time I've had to stay in a hotel room all by myself.
My worry was that I might not wake up in time the next morning and delay the time of my colleagues.. or worse, not have enough time for me to dress up. Even more worse, we would be heading towards Tokyo City proper the next day and were supposed to load up our luggage first thing in the morning and proceed straight to other destinations without coming back to the hotel anymore. So I couldn't afford to fuck things up for myself & my colleagues here since if I woke up late, it would mean that the time to enjoy the places the next day would be jeopardized.
For all of my overseas trips before this one, I've always had my Lioness next to me to wake me up in the mornings. So the feeling of loneliness was quite despairing at the thought of the only person who could wake me up during the mornings for this trip was me myself & I. Jace did tell me she would give me a morning call but I knew that she was just as tired as I was, so I didn't hold my breath for that. So I played back all the pointers as told to me by my Lioness through my head as I settled down for the night. I missed her terribly.
The next morning, I surprised myself that I could actually wake up in time and even had enough time to pack up my luggage & dress up followed by breakfast. One has to dress up when heading towards the heart of Tokyo City since the city itself indulges in vanity.
- De Lion Speaks