Pirate Ships and Shinto Shrines

What does one do with a few hours to spare between meals in Hakone? Play tourist, of course!  With only one day to explore the area and some road blockages due to the recent snow, we decided to focus on visiting Hakone Shrine and catching a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. But before we could start the day, my father had to have his adzuki bean fix, so we found a little shop that served soba-shiruko (そば汁粉), a sweet adzuki bean soup with buckwheat dumplings.

Soba-shiruko served with pickles to offset the sweetness.

Soba-shiruko served with pickles to offset the sweetness.

soba shiruko

Soba dumplings have an ‘interesting’ texture…

Hakone Shrine,  a Japanese Shinto shrine, is situated at the top of a hill and may be difficult for some to access.  There is a beautiful tree-covered footpath that leads to the bottom of some rather steep steps. We made the trek up to the shrine and donated 100yen each to receive our fortunes.  Unfortunately, the path to the torii (鳥居) was covered in snow so we couldn’t see it but it’s similar to the one that Monks is posing in front of, except that it’s set in water.

Hakone Shrine

We overheard a tour guide explaining the chances of selecting a good omikuji (various fortunes written on small slips of white paper, which you choose at random from a box) was rather slim, something like a 10% chance of getting a good fortune, but we were lucky to each choose rather good fortunes!

The fortunes we chose were of "small blessing" and "blessing", with "small blessing" ranking slightly better than just "blessing".

The fortunes we chose were ‘small blessing’ and ‘blessing’, with ‘small blessing’ ranking slightly better than ‘blessing’.

We had to make an obligatory stop in the shrine’s ‘cafe’ so my father could try some of their delicious mochi before heading back to Lake Ashi (芦ノ湖).

Red bean, kinako, and black sesame flavoured mochi.

Red bean, kinako, and black sesame flavoured mochi.

In order to get a good view of Mr. Fuji, you have to take a pirate ship across Lake Ashi and ride the gondola up to Togendai.

Lake Ashi Pirate Ship

Lake Ashi Pirate Ship

The gondola ride was pretty, but nothing spectacular and we were starting to give up hope on seeing Mt. Fuji as the weather went from clear to cloudy.

Photo 15-03-2014 20 13 44

At the top of Togendai there is a viewing station, several gift shops and buses that take you back into Hakone.  There is also a little stand that sells one of the special foods of the region, Owakudani black eggs (大涌谷の黒たまご), eggs boiled in the hot springs of the volcano, which causes the shells of the eggs to turn black and smell of sulfur (as if eggs don’t already have a sulfuric odour).

kurotamago

It is believed eating these eggs will promote long life and a good year.  Apparently each egg adds seven years to your life, and they are sold only in packs of five for 500yen – thus eating all of them adds an additional 35 years!

kurotamago

The eggs were very hot to the touch, and the combination of sulfur and eggs further emphasised the ‘egginess’ of the eggs (Boris Johnson and G would love this).  We were expecting the cooked eggs to be black but once shelled they looked and tasted like regular boiled eggs. It would seem Hello Kitty is fond of these eggs, too, but don’t cats already have nine lives?

Hello Kitty Kurotamago

If you’re still hungry after eating all those eggs, you can also get some delicious hot baked sweet potatoes.

Photo 24-02-2014 21 17 41And wash it all down with some Mt. Fuji spring water.

Photo 24-02-2014 21 14 46

We were queuing to board the bus to take us back into Hakone town centre when suddenly, the hubs pointed out a mountainous shape in the distance.  Several seconds later the Japanese people in the queue finally noticed, as well, and there was a sudden rush to take photos before getting on the bus. I was completely mesmerised by the magnificent mountain standing right before us — was also sad to leave it all behind, but happy that my Mt. Fuji dream was now complete.

Mt. Fuji

Back in town, we decided to check out the shops and I couldn’t help but notice the iconic tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog) that seem to be everywhere in Japan.  I was tempted to purchase this little fellow.

Tanuki

We were feeling rather peckish as not had a proper lunch so I was also delighted to find some Moomin’s Soup in the local Family Mart.  But of course, dear hubs, there is no escaping Moomins, not even in Hakone!  Ufufu…

Moomin's Salmon Milk Soup sighting at the local Family Mart

Moomin’s Salmon Milk Soup sighting at the local Family Mart.

Photo 25-02-2014 00 38 55

What are some of your favourite spots in Hakone? What would you suggest for visitors that only have one day to explore the area?

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2 thoughts on “Pirate Ships and Shinto Shrines

  1. I loved all the pics! Especially, the tray of mochis! My pre-lunch mouth is watering. So the black egg didn’t taste any different from ordinary kinds? The best thing about tourist spots in Japan is their local foods, don’t you agree? Why don’t we have anything like that in UK. It’s so boring… 😦

    • Cheers! Yes, the black egg, tasted just like a regular boiled egg. The only interesting thing was the black shell. Haha. But perhaps we will all live longer now! 😛 I miss all the regional food varieties in Japan — UK definitely doesn’t have as much variety, or the US for that matter! 😦

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