Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Day in Hakone

On the morning of September 11th, Miwa chan and I took a train from her house to Machida Station and then caught the Romance Car to Hakone Station. We were lucky to board their brand new trains, which looked impressive with its aerodynamic design.
 The ride from Machida to Hakone was less than an hour so we were able to see the sights, drink some coffee and chat along the way.
 There's always something more fun about traveling by train.
 The skies were blue and we left the city to the hillsides of Japan, towards Mt. Fuji.
 Upon arrival at Hakone Station, we took a tram to Gora station and met Katsue san for lunch at Grain.
 Grain is a charming French bistro with a painting that Miwa's father drew of a fisherman right on the wall.
 The three of us shared lunch and decided to walk to the nearby Botanical Garden, which was actually adjacent to the restaurant.
 The Botanical Garden is visited by many, even Princess Masako as displayed below on one of the pillars.
 I've never actually seen a venus flytrap, but they were arranged neatly on an entrance table, with their traps baring like teeth.
 The gardens were quite expansive with lots of plants and not as many flowers this season.
 The sun was high in the sky and it was a hot day.
 Hakone was definitely cooler than Tokyo with its elevation, but what impressed me more was its natural beauty. Gone were the millions of people in suits busy going from one place to another. Hakone's pace was relaxed, gentle and soothing, perfect for a getaway!
 I captured a cute butterfly on a purple flower.
 Of course the three varieties of grapes were delicious, each bursting with its distinct sweetness.

 Prior to closing, we took the gondola up the mountain for a better view of the Hakone area and lake.
 The clouds covered Mt. Fuji but it was still a majestic sight.
 We reached Owakudani, the top of the Gondola where they have the sulfur springs and boil black eggs.
 The sulfur steam looks like smoke from the mountain.
 The temperatures grew cooler at the top of the mountain but Miwa chan bought some eggs and we tried one.  It was tasty!
 Just prior to sunset, we drove around town and saw many of the torii gates.
 Sunset was brilliant as the pink and purple hues lit up the evening sky, just past the mountain range.
 For dinner, we went to an old fashioned izakaya called Daichi.
 It's a simple restaurant with a basic menu but the food is very good.
 We sat at a table that had iron hooks hanging. I guess they use the table as a stove for hot pots.
 We started off with a ume covered scallion salad.
This was a nikomi hot pot with konyaku and other vegetables.
The eggplant was covered in shaved daikon, scallions, bonito flakes and a sweet sake soy sauce.
The agedashi tofu was great as well!
After dinner, we listened to music, rested and then had a nice, relaxing onsen.

The following morning, we took a short walk to a nearby restaurant which had a nice flower garden.
Then, we visited Miwa chan's father to say hello.
His house overlooks the river in the back and his garden is terraced into two levels with lots of plants, herbs, vegetables and trees. It's a serene, verdant place.
There's Miwa chan's Dad! He's doing great and it was wonderful to see him again.
My time in Hakone was so relaxing! Thank you very much Miwa chan and Katsue san!

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