Tokyo (5) – Hakone

Friday 03/11

By Ludivine:

Aujourd’hui, on n’a pas travaillé et on est directement parti à Hakone. On a d’abord pris le métro, puis deux heures de train, puis encore trente minutes, pour y arriver. La première chose qu’on a fait est d’aller à une parade traditionnelle où il y avait plein de différentes choses traditionnelles, des femmes en kimonos, un orchestre, des hommes de guerre, et plein d’autres choses. La partie la plus impressionnante était quand ils ont tiré avec leurs fusils et cela a fait un bruit terriblement fort. Après la parade, on a pris un petit train de trente minute pour aller voir un musée dehors avec plein de différentes pièces d’art de Moore, Rodin, Niki de St. Phalle, et Picasso! Le musée était très bien fait avec des beaux morceaux d’art. Mais même pour les enfants, il y a deux endroits faits pour les enfants où ils peuvent s’amuser et se défouler. Après, on a été dans un onsen très relaxant et puis on est finalement rentré. Après les deux heures de trajet, on a mangé une bonne pizza italienne et puis au lit!


By me:

Since we both woke up before 8am and the weather is sunny, we change our mind and decide to go and spend the day in Hakone anyway.

Quick breakfast (cereals) and we are gone by 9am.

We want to try to arrive in Hakone as early as possible. The annual festival (procession) takes place from 9:30am to 2:30pm. It’s difficult to know exactly how and where it takes place. I could get little info on the web (and nothing in the guidebooks…).

The trip is not straightforward: metro to Shibuya, then metro to Shinjuku, then train to Odawara, then train to Hakone-Yumoto.

We arrive in Hakone at noon. Not bad!

We go to the 7 Eleven to buy our lunch. We walk to a place where the participants take their lunch. We sit on the road and eat our lunch while waiting for the procession to restart. After lunch, they indeed perform some performance (dances, shoots) at this place before starting their return journey. The procession is a faithful reproduction of the journeys made by feudal lords and their retainers. 170 local men (samurai warriors) and women (princesses) parade in ancient costumes, joined by dancing geisha girls.

The second highlight of the day is the visit to the Hakone Open-Air Museum. We go there with a train going uphill (500m). Hakone Open-Air Museum is an outdoor unique space in a beautiful environment of mountains and verdant lawns, which provide dramatic and beautiful backdrop for the abstract art. Arguably the best sculpture park in the world, this outdoor space is a “safari” for art lovers. It hosts an impressive selection of 19th– and 20th-century Japanese and Western sculptures, including a collection of Henry Moore’s massive bronzes, colourful creations by Fernand Léger, Miró and Niki de St. Phalle, and classics by Rodin (‘Balzac’). The most unmissable artwork is the ‘Reclining Figure: Arch Leg’ Moore’s sculpture. Moore’s instantly recognisable style, not to mention the sheer scale of this 4m-long reclining figure, make it the pick of Hakone’s main collection. There is also an entire (educational) exhibition hall dedicated solely to Picasso’s work, with more than 300 works ranging from paintings and glass art to… tapestry. Kids also enjoy this museum, with 2 dedicated nice ‘playgrounds’ for them, including a giant crochet artwork with its Jenga-like exterior walls.

The third highlight of the day is the onsen. An onsen is Japanese hot springs and the bathing facilities situated around them. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands. Onsens come in many types and shapes, including outdoor and indoor baths. Hakone is known for its hot springs. From the museum, we take the train back to Hakone but we stop one station before and then walk for 5′ on a creepy path, where the kids are a bit scared. We go to Hakone Yurgo, an idyllic onsen complex ensconced in the forest. We spend a very relaxing hour in this calm environment. After washing carefully (sitting on a small stool), we can enjoy different basins: one inside basin with bubbles, and 2 other spacious ones outside with water temperatures of 40 and 41C. We even go both of us (Jules and I) in a large outside bathtub where we can see the moon. So peaceful… Two additional notes on these Japanese onsens: everybody is fully naked and no tattoos are allowed.

We finish around 7:30pm. We take a shuttle to the Yumoto station from where we start our journey back to Tokyo. We are quite lucky with the timings of our train: we never have more than 10′ between our trains.

But we don’t find much to eat in the stations. We reach Shinjuku station around 10pm. We try to find something to eat. We go to ‘800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria’, located just outside the station. Good concept: there is a long counter where you order the base of your pizza (Margherita, Marinara…) and then choose the toppings (some usual ones but some more Japanese…). We stick to the basic ones… Pizzas are good.

It’s late but it was a great day. We all enjoyed! And tomorrow it’s a day off for the kids.


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