Mount Fuji and Hakone
Trip Start Aug 05, 2007
9Trip End Aug 20, 2007
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Tokyo-Mount Fuji - Hakone First leg of a four day tour.
We were met in our hotel lobby by a staff member of Sunrise Tours. We had to leave our 2 larger pieces of luggage in the hotel, to be picked up by a shipping company and forwarded to our hotel in Kyoto. We took one small rolling suitcase a small bag on the bus. Each of us was presented with a plastic fan (from Sunrise Tours), and an orange pin to put on our clothes, so we would be recognized as part of this particular tour group.
We started out with a four hour bus tour to Mount Fuji and Hakone. Normally, it takes less time to get there, but it was the Japanese national holiday of Obon and the streets were fairly packed. The biggest holiday in Japan is New Years Day. Obon is the second biggest. Everywhere, people are going back to their former homes to visit the graves of their ancestorshttp://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/festivals/gozan.html
O bon is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at home altars and temples.
At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region. Large bonfires are lit on various mountains as well. Obon is celebrated in mid August in most regions of Japan, while it is celebrated in mid July in other regions. The Obon week in mid August is one of Japan's three major holidays with many of its citizens traveling on the roads and on the trains.
The plan was to drive to Mount Fuji and ascend by bus to the 5th station, take a trip on the Kachikachi cable Ropeway, and take a boat ride On Lake Kawaguchi, one of five lakes at the bottom of Mt. Fuji.
We first stopped at the hotel Fujiya Highland Resort to have a Japanese box lunch
We ascended by bus to the 5th station of Mount Fuji. 2000 feet high. That is usually the starting point for climbers and there were hundreds of them-dressed inshorts or long pants and boots and all were carrying long sticks and backpacks. Mt Fuji is 12,388 feet high. It is a fairly easy climp from the 5th station. Mount Fuji lost its designation of "World heritage" because the many climbers left a lot of debris at the top. Loads of volunteers go each year to clean up the mountain.
On Mount Fuji can be found lava trees, lava caves, the Aokigahara jukai (sea of trees)at the base, and the Narusawa ice cave formed during an earlier eruption
There is actually a sign at the base of mountain telling people that it is illegal to commit suicide at the sea of trees. They have found many bodies there.
See this article:
We wandered around, took pictures, and sent postcards home, before going back to the tour bus. There is a post office at the 5th station-for the many tourists who send postcards with a Mt Fuji postmark. After Mount Fuji, we continued with our tour bus on the way to Hakone. Unfortunately the mountain road was extremely narrow and there had been a very serious car accident in front of us. It took us an extra hour to arrive at Hotel Kawai-en, our hotel in the mountains. The hotel is know for its hot springs and many of the guests were wandering around in yukatas. We were very hungry, after a long bus ride, and checked out the hotel's restaurant. We decided to go to the hotel across the street to eat as there was more variety of restaurants at better prices. That hotel was really huge. There were gaming rooms with slots, several restaurants, and a huge gift shop. After dinner we browsed in the gift shop, where I found a tiny glass canine playing the violin maybe ¾ inch high, which I couldn't resist, then walked back to our hotel
Our destination now was Kyoto, which was the former capital city. Kyoto means city where the emperor lives. Kyoto is definitely the cultural capital of Japan with more shrines, museums, handicrafts than anywhere else in Japan.