Woke up in Hakone to a splendid mountain view in our window.
Dressed in the provided Japanese robes, tied them with black sashes, put on black jackets and wooden flip-flops. Instead of a purse, took the provided pouch of the same patten as the robes. Dressed as such, went to the restaurant for breakfast.
In the restaurant, about half of the people were dressed as us. It felt like we were members of team Japan. Ate breakfast on beautiful china made in Japan. Incidentally, everything we use here is made in Japan, nothing I touched was made in China!
Today we did what all first-time visitors to Hakone do: we followed the well-travelled path of taking a cable car up the mountain, switching to the ropeway higher up the mountain, getting the best unobstructed view of Mount Fuji, oohing and aahing, switching to another ropeway to go down to the mountain lake Ashi, taking a gaudily decorating boat across the lake. This was a well-oiled machine. I don’t know how Japanese fare traveling abroad – where schedules are disrupted, people are impolite, streets are littered with trash, toilets are dirty, and toilet seats are not heated.
We disembarked at the first stop and walked along a wooden path next to the lake to the next town. Along the way, in the middle of nowhere, we passed an art museum!. Unfortunately, it was closed, but a peek in the window revealed a beautiful space with a stained glass panel.
In the next town, we went to a cafe recommended by our hotel, Bakery and Table. Here, you can trust hotel recommendations – they are not trying to get kickbacks or tips. We had coffee and pastry on the second floor with a stunning view of the lake through a picture window.
Then we took a bus to Hakone Open Air Museum.
Move over Storm King; Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden is child’s play.
This was the most beautiful outdoor sculpture garden I’ve ever seen! Set against rolling hills, landscaped with a carpet of greenery, this museum houses 100+ sculptures by modern and contemporary artists, a Picasso Museum, and a hot spring foot bath for tired feet. We spent 3 hours of rushed sightseeing and it wasn’t enough. This is one of the most delightful museums I’ve been to (and I have been around!)
And I was also hoping to visit Pola Museum which features impressionists and is now holding a Modigliani exhibit! Not to mention five other lesser museums in this small Japanese resort town nobody heard of!
So with museums closed, we had to go back to our hotel – not so bad, because it has an onsen (hot spring tamed into a bathtub). We took a red choo-choo train (cable car) that could, up the hill to our hotel, donned our Japanese costumes, went to the lobby “living room” for the free happy hour drinks (Champagne with creme de cassis for us), and then on to the onsen. Well, an onsen is a cross between the Russian banya and a hot tub. Men and women bathe separately here. You show, undress, and get into a huge communal bath. The water was 65C, PH 2.9, but it was clear, didn’t smell of hydrogen sulfide, and didn’t sting. All and all, the whole experience was a bit disappointing.


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