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Across and Above Lake Ashinoko

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We had enjoyed a deeply restful night of sleep at the Mount View Hakone ryokan hotel in Sengokuhara, and awoke eager to tackle our second day in the mountainous Hakone region southwest of Tokyo. After an early breakfast, we were at the northern shore of Ashinoko, a picturesque crater lake nestled in the shadow of Mount Fuji.

Lake Ashinoko

Scenic tours leave frequently from one end of the lake to the other, and we joined the earliest departure, at 9am. Lake Ashi (as it’s normally referred to) is known for its views of Mount Fuji, but sadly it was a hazy day and we could barely make out the flat, snow-covered top of the famous mountain. And as the day progressed, clouds would roll in, obscuring it completely.

But the boat ride was still beautiful, and within no time we had reached the southern shore. We relaxed at a cafe with an outdoor foot bath, and then rented a swan boat in order to get a better view of a huge orange torii along the lakeside. After climbing a hill to the Hakone Temple, where a wedding was underway, we walked almost a mile to the Hakone-en Park, to board a gondola that would take us to the summit of Mt. Komagatake. It’s a good thing we had slept so well, because this was turning out to be a busier day than we’d anticipated.

From the top of the mountain, we had a tremendous view of the lake, but still couldn’t see Mount Fuji. In fact, the clouds were turning a distressing shade of black. While we walked around, a speaker from the retro-looking gondola station blared out something in Japanese. Fifteen minutes later, after the lightning and thunder had started, we realized what the loudspeaker message must have been: due to the storm, the gondola service was suspended. Everyone else had naturally heeded the last call, leaving us alone at the top of the mountain with the staff and a couple other non-Japanese-speaking stragglers.

This could easily have turned into a disaster, but the storm was brief and within an hour we were able to descend. The wait even turned out to be rather fun… we were never rained on, and were able to enjoy an impressive lightning show over the lake.

We took a bus back to Odawara, where we boarded the train to Tokyo. This had been a short two-day vacation, but our escape from the capital was just what we needed. After three months in Tokyo, you start to forget what a forest looks like, or how beautiful a lake like Ashinoko can be.

Locations on our Map: Scenic Boat Departure | Hakone-en Torii | Mount Komagatake

Great Gifts And Toys From Japan

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July 11, 2014 at 3:41 pm Comments (0)

The Mount View Hakone Ryokan Hotel

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The forests, lakes, mountains and sheer natural beauty of the Hakone region are all great, but to tell the truth, we were most excited about the hotel which had invited us to stay for the night. The Mount View Hakone is a traditional Japanese ryokan in Sengokuhara, and we planned on taking full advantage of its baths, food, and relaxing atmosphere.

After checking in, we were shown to our suite. This was exactly what I imagined a ryokan to look like: the floor covered with tatami mats, the decoration minimalist, the furniture comfortable, and the futon bed large and inviting. We were each provided a yukata, or Japanese robe, which we were meant to wear throughout the extent of our stay in the ryokan.

We had scheduled both a private bath and a full kaiseki dinner in the evening, but now had a few hours to stretch out and relax in our suite. After three months in Tokyo, it was wonderful to be somewhere spacious and so blessedly quiet. For perhaps the first time since we had arrived in Japan, we had no urgent plans driving us forward, no work to be done, no special sight that had to be visited. We were able to enjoy simply existing for awhile. I got into my yukata, stretched out on the tatami floor and fell asleep.

Soon enough, dinner time rolled around and, after shuffling downstairs in our robes and slippers, we were shown to our private dining room. Our meal had already been laid out onto the table, and I nearly burst out laughing at the sight of it. So much food! This was going to be a struggle, but one I’d enjoy every bite of. Sushi, soba, miso soup, a beef hot pot, marinated octopus, rice and much more, the meal was like a Greatest Hits collection of all our Japanese favorites. (Well, the Greatest Hits… plus a giant, slimy black snail).

When we finally stood up from the table, our stomachs were bursting, and it was an effort to waddle down the hall to our next appointment: a nigori-yu, or private bath, in the cool evening air. We stripped down, and stepped outside to reach a bath that looked out on a garden of bamboo. The bath was already filled to the brim with revitalizing volcanic water straight from the hot springs of the surrounding mountain. The water is apparently good for muscle tension and the endocrine system.

We fell asleep early, and awoke the next morning fresh as newborn babies, ready for another big day. First, though: breakfast. Western options are available, but we chose the Japanese set, and were served another massive meal of delicious cuisine.

As we removed our yukatas and put back on our boring Western-style clothes, I felt nothing but contentment. Our stay in the Mount View Hakone had been exactly what we needed. Ryokans are normally expensive, but the prices for rooms and baths in this hotel are down-to-earth. So if you’re planning a trip to the Hakone region and want to experience a traditional Japanese lodging, this is a great choice.

Location on our Map
Mount View Hakone – Website

Japense Cookbooks

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July 11, 2014 at 2:37 pm Comments (2)
Across and Above Lake Ashinoko We had enjoyed a deeply restful night of sleep at the Mount View Hakone ryokan hotel in Sengokuhara, and awoke eager to tackle our second day in the mountainous Hakone region southwest of Tokyo. After an early breakfast, we were at the northern shore of Ashinoko, a picturesque crater lake nestled in the shadow of Mount Fuji.
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