Tag Archives: hakone

Open-Air Museum, Japan’s Ithaca, Fujiyama Hotel, Naraya Cafe – Hakone

IMG_1716 (1).JPGWe found the Hakone that lived up to the hype today.  After a haphazard journey that involved a bus (the wrong one, apparently) and then a train (which turned out to be the famous narrow gauge train through the mountains), we arrived at the Hakone Open-Air Museum in a downpour. Fortunately there were several closed air (indoor) galleries and several fantastic museum shops to explore until the rain finally became mist and then fog and then a few hopeful patches of blue sky that never really panned out.

But we were able to explore the famous sculpture garden for hours. So spectacular, especially with the atmospherics from the fog and mist drifting across the forested mountains and into the valleys.  We ended up staying almost four hours there and could have stayed longer. The combination of dramatic contemporary sculpture and gorgeous gardens was stunning. Everywhere we walked, we’d find sculpture and nature complimenting each other. Female bronze nudes popping out of a sea of tall grasses.  A bright red circular sculpture in a rock garden pond with orange and white koi swimming around. A grassy hillside dotted with bold sculptures. And this being a hot springs area, there was a long narrow outdoor foot bath for strollers to soak in while admiring some sculpture.

IMG_1711 (1).JPGIndoors was a really interesting exhibit of work by a contemporary Japanese artist (Tadanori Yokoo), another interesting permanent Picasso exhibit and a way cool exploratory exhibit on sculpture that included two podiums where you could stand and move around and a sculpture on a video screen would duplicate your position. Amazing.

We left reluctantly and took the train a few stops to Miyanoshita station, which turned out to be another highlight.  Wet and hungry (we delayed lunch so we could stay at the Museum), we found an ideal spot – the Naraya Cafe, a charming place that served not only great pizza but we ate it while sitting at a table with our feet in a foot bath underneath the table.  That was a first. We sat at an outdoor wooden table on the side of a mountain, with a tarp draped above us to keep out the pouring rain, eating delicious pizza and soaking our feet.  Oh happy day! The cafe was all wood and bonsai plants and gorgeous crafts. Reminded me of a place you’d maybe find in Big Sur.image

Miyanoshita  is the home of the famous old Fujiyama Hotel, where we peeked into the gorgeous wood carved dining room, wandered around the gardens and the old-fashioned swimming pool, and stocked up on some breakfast food at the hotel’s bakery. We also did a little walk on a narrow path in the woods, high above waterfalls and a ravine that reminded me of my beloved Ithaca.

imageTonight, we had a good Japanese meal at a little place near our guest house called Hanasai and ended up chatting with a mom and her two teenage kids from the Netherlands.  Also chatted with people today from Seoul and Kobe. Great day.

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Back to the futon at a Japanese guesthouse – Hakone

IMG_1744 (1).JPGWe’re not in Tokyo anymore….The Fuji Hakone Guesthouse is in a lovely secluded spot in dense woods on the side of a mountain in the hot springs resort area of Hakone, about a 2.5 hour trip from the frenetic Tokyo Station this morning, by various forms of public transportation including a subway, train and bus.

Now if I could just find a comfortable place to sit. Our room is traditional Japanese-style with two futons on tatami mats and a low wood table with pillows as seats. So I’ve doubled up the pillows and wedged myself against the wall for back support. Our sliding wood and paper screen window is open to a view of the woods and a mountain in the distance. We can hear wind or is it rushing water? And birds, frogs and crickets. (I’m guessing here.)

I’ve had onsen bath #1 – the small private indoor bath.  Dirck and I booked the private outdoor bath fo,a half hour this evening. ( When in Rome…) I’ve never taken so many baths in my life and have grown to look forward to them after long days as a tourist trudging around in the heat and sometimes rain. The small bath here was very hot and the water was cloudy, I’m assuming with sulfur but it didn’t smell bad.

We went to a small Japanese restaurant nearby for a bowl of udon with tofu for me and soba and tempura for Dirck. Then we took the cable car. Unfortunately the ropeway (which we are guessing is a chairlift or gondola )  was closed but will be open tomorrow. We’ll  take the area’s famous narrow gauge train part of the way home back to Tokyo on Saturday.

I am glad we opted to get the Hakone free pass at Shinjuko station in Tokyo which covers all our transportation to and from Tokyo and while we are here. It’s great not to have to pay for all the bits and bobs of public transportation we are using.



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Mt Fuji View – Yamanashi Prefecture




Today, a very different hotel and view: a smaller, less flashy hotel, the Highland Resort, in Yamanashi Prefecture with a stunning view of Mt. Fuji which was cloaked in clouds when we arrived but not any more.

We drove about two hours to Hakone, for a quick ride on a cruise boat across Lake Ashi. Very refreshing to be out in the countryside after Tokyo. Narrow roads winding around densely vegetated low mountains lined with purple hydrangea.  Then we drove another hour to Yamanashi (I don’t know what town this is). Directly in front of me as I type in my room is the dark conical shaped Fuji, with a thin line of fluffy clouds near its base and below, dense green forest, mostly pine trees. To our left ( but out of view from where I sit)  is a four-lane highway strip with among other things a Big Boy restaurant and in the back of the hotel is an amusement park, complete with a roller coaster. There’s an onsen here too which I hope to use. (My body is aching after my massage yesterday.)

p.s. Morning after: Did use the onsen. Becoming a fan. It’s a relaxing way to end the day. The governor of Yamanashi welcomed us at a banquet last night, followed by a rousing performance by about a dozen traditional drummers and then a young guy playing a traditional guitar that sounded a bit like a cross between a sitar and a banjo.


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