It is a cloudy morning in Tokyo and we are off to Hakone National Park and Mt Fuji. Fortunately for us, our tour departs from Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku where we are staying so we go to the meeting point at the appointed time. This tour company has several buses going to Mt Fuji today and so we stand for Bus 5 where ze guide has told us to stand but there are also signs for the various bus numbers and one American guy who is, I think, a graduate of the Trump Academy of Zero Diplomacy (and is on our blimmin bus) appoints himself the tour leader and yells out to everyone on bus 5 to “come overrr herre bus 5 people”. Heaven forbid – we prefer the lovely Japanese Yuki who we have just met! Anyway, Yuki has done this before and she steps up to the mark and, besides, his seat is in the back of the bus and thank heavens for that!
We leave Shinjuku on what would be a very busy Monday morning but it is Golden Week here in Japan which is the second most important holiday (New Year being the most important). Golden Week is the last few days of April and first few of May where there are four bank holidays. We travel with relatively little traffic through the spiderweb of expressways. Yuki tells us that 14 million people live in Tokyo and that one third of the population of Japan (129m) live in Tokyo and the surrounding areas. We pass many stadiums and Government owned and run horse racing tracks – the Government controls all the horse racing in Japan. We also pass large breweries of Asahi, Santori and Sapporo. Yuki is excited because this is the first time she is revisiting Mt Fuji in three years. She managed to get a job in the Vaccination Call Centre during Covid but is so very happy that life is almost normal again. On we go through a mountainous area of dense bush in vibrant shades of green, through long tunnels and over long viaducts looking down on vast valleys where there are small settlements. We pass Lake Sagami, an artificial lake. There are many paddy fields on arable land – planting is just taking place in some and others are already flooded. There are huge plastic hot houses and many people are tending their gardens as we pass neighborhoods where there are lots of vegetables growing in garden plots.
Yesterday it was snowing on Mt Fuji but today we are in luck because the sun is shining and the bus winds its way up the switchbacks of the mountain road to the fifth station beside the glorious Mt Fuji which is 3,776 meters high or 12,365 feet. Mt Fuji has erupted nine times in 400 years and our ears are popping as we go up the mountain. Amazingly we see many cyclists riding the mountain today and the one in charge of the B’s (including bikes) sits reminiscing about the big mountains of Ventoux, col d’Abesque, col de Madeleine and others he rode in France and in Germany when he went to compete in the ITU Age Group World Champs and when we went to the Tour de France a few times. I think he would like to be riding Mt Fuji but those days are over and he is stuck in the bus with me!
The fifth station where we get off the bus is 2,300 m and it is rather chilly so those who donned sunfrocks today are shivering a tad. Luckily we packed layers so we are fine and enjoy the closeup view of the mountain as the cloud lifts and we are right there to enjoy it. There is also a little shrine we visit, make our offering, bow twice, clap twice and hope our wish comes true. We are all given a little bell at the souvenir shop which comes with a message that says they have been purified at the shrine on the summit of Mt Fuji and “you can also live for more than a hundred years in peace and happiness”. Thank goodness for that.
We all hop back on ze bus and wind our way back down ze mountain and drive on to a hotel where we have lunch in an enormous hall which is set up beautifully with tables ready for the tour groups coming in. Here we enjoy another delicious lunch with some entertainment.
Next stop is Hakone National Park which is a huge area of land with mountains and lakes and is enjoyed by many who come to go fishing, boating, tramping, skiing, playing golf and to enjoy the outdoors.
We get to Lake Ashinoko and we are going on a cable car to the top of Hakone Komagatake which is 1,327 m high. Now the one in charge of the B’s does not really like heights and I wonder about this but he is all good and ready to go. We are loaded into ze cable car which is going to take us to the summit and there is a sign that says the temperature at the top is 10 degrees Celsius. (There is no mention of the wind and cloud which is blowing a tad at this point and thank goodness for the Kathmandu jackets). Now, this is interesting because someone has decided to bring their poodle on this trip in the cable car and someone else arrives with what I thought was a cat in a cat cage but turns out to be a miniature dog in the pink carry-on and I am hoping that the cage is well insulated or this little critter is going to freeze to death! We get to the top and decide to do a loop walk on a nice track overlooking a golf course down the valley and the lake. The day finishes with a boat trip on the Lake Ashi to a stop further down the lake where the bus is waiting and there is even a cherry tree in full bloom waiting beside the bus – our lucky day! This was our final excursion on this amazing trip – a ten-hour day and we loved every minute of it.
Amazingly we got through this trip without too much trouble adjusting to the plumbing systems of this country which is just as well because we didn’t pack the “Bathrooms for Dummies” manual. Only two things happened – I tried to use the shower at ze hotel in Tokyo but had water coming out of every spout except the one I wanted so ze boss was called and eventually ze water came out of ze spout I needed so all good. And then today I went to use a bathroom but nowhere to put ze bag so I wiped the basin and popped ze bag in it. But everything in these bathrooms works automatically and to my horror ze tapped turned on and filled the side pocket of my bag with water! All minor compared to what has happened on other trips I can tell you for sure!
We are almost ready to come home but have some memories still to write – one last post will probably be written while we are waiting to board ze plane!
One thought on “Hakone National Park and Mt Fuji”
A fitting way to finish your Japanese odyssey under the glorious Prunus Shirotae or Mt Fuji Cherry Blossom Tree over looking the famous snowcapped Mt Fuji itself. What a blessing🙏
Best love & smiles to you both. Wishing you a safe & comfortable flight back home.