Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Flag of Japan  ,
Monday, March 20, 2006

Today would be my first time out of Tokyo since arriving as I headed to Hakone National Park where Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san as it is known in Japan, is located.

The train from Tokyo was oddly called 'Romance Car', and I had to convince myself it was just a translation thing before boarding to see what I found. It was in fact just a more luxurious train with funky seats that you could turn to make a set of 4 but would then automatically re-orient themselves to their original position on the train reaching it's destination (gotta love Japan). As with all things over here there was great service on board and a high level of respect showing even by the conductor who would give a little bow on exiting the carriage each time.

Unfortunately today the weather was not the best which did not ease my earlier transit through Tokyo's metro system at rush hour with my pack back but it looked like things might clear up enough to see Fuji-san. After checking into the guest house I was staying at I took a long winded route to the start of what can best be described as Japans main tourist trap with cable cars, and trams ushering people along a fairly linear route around the area. Luckily on the way there one of the bus drivers radioed another bus passing the opposite way (I was not actually going the wrong way but the other bus was taking a quicker route, honest!) and then stopped right next to it for me to quickly jump between the two.

During the ride up to the top of one of the cable car stations there was a strong pungent smell which I first though meant that the height of the cable car had got the better of one of the other passengers but at the top we found a whole area of volcanic hot springs and steam vents. For some reason they were selling eggs cooked in them which had turned there shells black, as if the area did not already have enough of an eggy whiff about it.

Mount Fuji was unfortunately obscured by low cloud with only the very base of the snow surrounding the summit being visible so I continued on the tourist trail to a waiting ship to carry you across Lake Ashi. Of course an ordinary ship would just be too normal for Japan so instead a replica pirate ship sat waiting which was a surreal sight moored beneath the surrounding mountains.

The weather soon turned worse however and started snowing on the Lake crossing (bet the Pirates of the Caribbean never had that problem) so on reaching the other side I took another erm...unintentionally indirect route back to the guest house.

Heading out for some food the choices were limited but I did find a great little restaurant down the road even if I was the only customer in the place for the while. The owner spoke little English but did at least understand where I was from and so managed to find a little UK flag to put on my table with him comically standing to attention and saluting every time I spoke to me. After a good feast I told the chef by way of "gochisosama deshita" which must have been right as he bowed repeatedly with a huge smile thanking me and gave me a little origami geisha on leaving.

With the mountain cold really kicking in down at night I hurried back home to enjoy the best thing to counteract the mountainous chill, an onsen. This is a traditional Japanese hot spring using hot water from geothermally-heated hot springs although in this case it was not a true onsen since it was enclosed rather than outdoors but that didn't stop it almost sending me to sleep. Need to get me one of these when I return home.
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