DAY 5 - HAKONE
Goodbye Tokyo! We packed our bags and boarded the Shinkansen: the Japanese bullet train system. The interior feels like an airplane, but more spacious and less of an ordeal to find your seats.
This video isn’t sped up. The trains move faster than any land vehicle I’ve been on.
Ali snapped this flattering picture of me. The train stations in Japan have coin lockers, so we stowed our luggage so we could be unencumbered as we explored Hakone.
After a long train ride up a mountain, we made it to the town of Hakone. It’s a small mountain town that’s a tourist destination for both international travelers and Japanese day trippers.
We first stopped at a small restaurant, where we were enthusiastically greeted by the owner Hiroshi. The meal was simple: chicken and egg over rice and flavored with soy sauce, but it was hearty and delicious in the way of home cooked food.
From the station, we boarded one of my favorite transportation inventions: a funicular! It’s a cable car with two trains. The trains are connected with a single cable, so they act as counterweights for each other, which minimizes the amount of energy required to move them up and down the hill. The track temporarily splits into two lanes halfway up the mountain so the trains can pass each other.
At the top of the hill we boarded the Hakone Ropeway.
We were treated with an unusually crisp view of Mount Fuji! Apparently it’s uncommon to get such a good view. Unfortunately our photos just couldn’t capture how massive and awe-inspiring the mountain is.
The ropeway took us over sulfuric gas vents. The gases were borderline noxious at times, so the attendants handed out damp cloths to hold over our mouths. Ali was clever enough to use one of our masks to hold the cloth in place.
It was very surreal to float over the gas vents. At the next stop, we could step outside of the ropeway to get a better view of the vents. When we did, it sounded like a jet engine was erupting from the mountain.
We enjoyed one final view of the mountain as we headed back to Hakone, and then down to the Shinkansen station.
The Shinkansen is startlingly fast. We never got used to the feeling of having one rush by us.
Surprise! While riding the bullet train we enjoyed one final view of Mount Fuji in the early evening sun. A perfect way to end our day as we travelled to Kyoto.