Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday 2/11/08 Hakone Trip, Day 1

On February 11th and February 12th I had a mini vacation! I went to the popular tourist resort town Hakone and stayed the night on a school-sponsored and organized trip. We hit some cool places like Hakone Open Air Museum and Saijo Temple.

One of my first views of Mt. Fuji on the way to Hakone. It was a perfectly clear and beautiful day. I snapped this photo from the bus on the highway.

Milk at the rest stop, such odd containers. I guess it's for large bottles to stay cold on the road?

The town was pretty small, most of it was situated around a lake. It had snowed recently, so there was lots on the ground, as you can see, but the weather itself was pretty nice, probably mid 40's to 50's.

Swan-shaped pedal boats. There's an ad on the train for these things, I don't know what the ad is for really, but it features these boats.

Some plants in the snow. We were told how there's these great big fields of golden-colored tall grass plants in Hakone but they burn them down every August and replant them again.

Fuji-san from where we stopped to look at sulfur springs.
Mt. Fuji is actually a dormant volcano, and all of Japan is on a fault line, so the steam coming out of the ground is created by the hot magma which is created by the friction between the Teutonic plates below the surface of the Earth. The whole area around here smelled like rotten eggs, because there was a lot of sulfur in the water.
Steam, snow, and sunshine.

It was surprising how beautiful and huge Mt. Fuji was. This is as close as we got, I wish we could've gotten closer, but that wasn't in this trip.

All the kids who went to Hakone! I know most of the names. Back row: Mike, Brendon, Jack, ?, Me, Lauren. Middle: Brittany, Sam, ?, ?, Peter, Lauren. Front row: Mya, Lisa, Danielle, and Jamie.
I think all mountains are beautiful, but that's probably because I never see them at home.

Where we stopped they sold eggs that were cooked in the hot sulfur water. A chemical reaction between the sulfur water and the eggshell made the eggshell turn black. The inside was normal and it tasted just like a plain old hard boiled egg.

Me and Fuji!
It is too beautiful to stop taking pictures of.

This is Kanji for "big." Every year they clear the area by burning out the inside, where the white is. It's a big festival and it's very popular.

The Hakone Open Air Museum was probably the most fun museum I've ever been too. It featured many interactive exhibits, one of them was this maze. 

Another was this fish feeding pond with a sculpture in it.

And this bridge. If you notice there are black footprints on the right of the bridge, they went all throughout the museum and gave you a nice tour of the place.

Another was these sculptures that looked like sunny-side up eggs, and you could jump on the yolks! So much fun. This is Lauren jumping, and Jen getting ready to jump.

Me and Jack jumping on the egg.

This museum would've been amazing if you were a child, they had two separate exhibits for kids to climb around in, my favorite was this rope sculpture that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

And then there was a hot foot bath for you to relax in.

And a stained-glass tower. If you climbed to the top you could see nearly all of the museum grounds.

After the museum we went to a shrine in the woods. At the shrine they had a hiking trail in the back. It was really hard to traverse in normal walking shoes because the snow was very slippery.

Shrine-side snowball fight!! Harish is in the back and Lauren is in the front.

The shrine itself.

As the stories go the god who is enshrined here was once a man and he fought and killed a bear with an axe.

The Hakone Kogen Hotel was a traditional ryokan hotel with tatami mat floors, futon beds, and a table for kneeling at.

Our group was too big to be fed in our rooms, so we took our dinner in the banquet hall. It was quite large. We had to cook the meat, and it also came with fugu (better known as blowfish), octopus, sashimi, stew, rice, soup, salad and dessert.

The hotel gave us "kimonos" to lounge in. We went down to the onsen in these. An onesen is a hot bath where you go to relax and to "gain health benefits." It's a hot spring where you relax naked for a while, and then you wash off. Ryokans usually don't have private showers, so you have to bathe in the onsen area. It's not so bad being nude around people, once you get over the American squeamishness.

Left to Right: Lauren, Lisa, Jen, Me, Jamie

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