Saturday, February 16, 2013

Japan #3- Nikko, Hakone, Kyoto

One of our days in Tokyo we took a day trip on the train to Nikko, which was so beautiful.  It was mostly wandering around and viewing the beautiful scenery.  There was a lake and a waterfall that we visited.  We also took a short hike, which if we had known how beautiful it was we would have given ourselves more time to do it.  It was our last stop of the day and we had to catch the last train so we didn't have a lot of time.
Joel in front of the lake.

Us at the waterfall.

Joel on our hike.

Jenny being a buddha!
The hiking trail was lined with old statues, mostly of buddhas and different small shrines.  The path followed along a river and what they called an abyss which was a sort of waterfall rocky area.  It was so peaceful, we only saw 2 other people the whole time we were on the path.

After our walk we got back into the main part of Nikko and had time for a quick lunch while we were waiting for the train.  We of course had soup, and Joel picked one with tempura that was so good!

Our favorite part of our trip to Japan was hands down Hakone.  It is a smaller mountain town close to Mt. Fuji.  We took the train and had a great view of the mountain.  It really is spectacular!  We spent one night there but wish we had spent more!

Mt. Fuji
Once we arrived in Hakone and checked into our hotel we had a few hours to kill in the afternoon.  It is a small town so everything closed early, including the restaurants so we ate at our hotel.  To get around town there was a funicular, a tram that has two cars going up and down, so when one goes up the other goes down.  It was on a steep incline and a very enjoyable way to get from the main part of town (which was at the bottom of the hill) to our hotel (which was at the top).  Our first stop for the afternoon was the Picasso Open Air Museum.  It was great, tons of sculptures in a beautiful park.  We stayed until closing and then went back to the main part of town to do little souvenir shopping before heading back to the hotel.   

Waiting for the funicular.

Joel's favorite sculpture was the buffalo!

Our hotel was beautiful.  They had free happy hour every evening from 4 until 7 with snacks and champagne and beer.  We sat in front of the giant fire and had champagne before we sat down for our dinner reservations at the sushi restaurant.


At the sushi bar.

We didn't know at the time but the hotel had given us robes to wear and everyone wore them around the hotel, even to dinner!  We put them on after dinner for some pics and lounging in our room.


The next day we set out to explore the rest of Hakone and the surrounding area.  We took the tram up past the hot springs to a place where you go to eat blackened eggs.  The Japanese believe that each blackened egg you eat adds 7 years to your life, but you can only eat 3.  Not sure why the limit.  The eggs are normal hardboiled eggs but they are boiled in the sulfur hot spring.  They turn black on the outside but stay white on the inside.  I think that they are believed to be good for you because the sulfur adds nutrients to the eggs.  Joel ended up eating two and I had one.  Not too bad!

Jenny on the tram.

Tram over the sulfur springs.

Us in front of the springs.

Jenny in front of Mt Fuji, can you spot it above the clouds??

Joel with his black egg.

The eggs were so hot, it was hard to peel them! 
After extending our lives with hardboiled eggs we headed back down the mountain to do a sightseeing cruise across the lake.  It was so beautiful   We were on a pirate ship and had a lot of fun playing around and seeing all the scenery.  

Boarding the pirate ship.

Ahh!  We were over run by pirates!
The boat cruise was about an hour and then we spent time wandering around the town.  One of the things that we loved was the cedar avenue.  It was a small trail lined with giant cedars that created a canopy.

Cedar Avenue.

The last thing we did on our day there was to visit the Venetian Glass Museum.  The museum itself wasn't very exciting but the grounds were awesome.  I wish our pics showed it better but throughout the gardens were installments of sparkly glass.  There was a bridge covered in it and branches of glass stuck into the bushes and flowers.  There were also trees with hanging branches made of glass.  It was beautiful with the sun shining on it.  

Glass Bridge

In the gardens.
After saying a sad goodbye to Hakone, we set off for our next destination, which was Kyoto.  We only had one full day there (we took a day trip the next day outside the city) but we definitely made the most of it.  Kyoto is a big city with a small town feel. It really has a lot of aspects that make it feel like you have stepped back in time.  The first thing we did was head to the bamboo forest for a nice walk.  It was a bamboo lined path that was nice and serene and led to a big botanical gardens.

Bamboo forest

Botanical Gardens

Garden Path
With our entry ticket to the gardens we got to sit down for a traditional snack and tea.  The green tea was delish, the snack was interesting.  It was a green tea cake that was soft and spongy.

At the tea house.
After we walked through the gardens we wandered aimlessly around the city.  It was a nice day, blue skies and warm temps.

Out and about in Kyoto.
We ended up at the Golden Pagoda.  It was very cool, totally covered in gold set in a beautiful garden.  

Golden Pagoda.

We also walked through the old district that has narrow streets and old buildings.  It was more of a night time place, with bars and restaurants.  So it was very quiet and empty when we walked through.

Old district.

We also made it to the market, it was a long covered hallway with stores and food.  We bought a few souvenirs and stopped for lunch.  The food part of the market was interesting.  There were barrels of indistinguishable foods, a lot of them preserved in salt and tons of dried meats and seafoods.   

Food market.

After going back to the hotel for a rest and to clean up we headed out on the town for dinner.  Joel had read about the conveyer belt sushi and was dying to try it.  I can't say that I wasn't skeptical, but so far all the food we had eaten was amazing so I went along with it.  Joel had looked up a famous restaurant that was supposed to be the best.  It was really good.  We sat upstairs at a private table instead of at the bar.  The sushi goes by on a conveyer belt next to the table and you just grab whatever looks good as it goes by!  You then stack your plates next to you and when you are finished the waitress comes by to count them and then you pay by how many you had.  They also had a spout at the table so you could make your own green tea.  It was such a fun experience.  I think it may have been our favorite dinner.  

Joel making his green tea.

With our stacks of plates in front of the conveyer belt.
After our huge sushi meal we took a walk back to the hotel with a stop at the Geisha District.  If you read Memoirs of a Geisha you know all about the tea houses.  The area still looks like it did years ago.  Old wood buildings and women dressed in traditional kimonos.  They still offer the traditional tea ceremonies but mostly the area has turned into a high end restaurant street.  As Joel and I were strolling through we saw several ladies dressed in their kimonos on their way to dinner.


Geisha District.

That's it for this post, one more and then we are done with Japan!  Hope you enjoyed the long post! : )

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