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Unforgettable Hakone

Hakone is a quite a popular destination with tourists in Japan due to its vicinity to Mt. Fuji and its lakes. In fact, the place we stayed in is a typical onsen ryokan that faces a lake and the mountain. But before we got to the ryokan, we made a few stops at typical touristy attractions along the way.

Lake Ashi, or Ashinoko (芦ノ湖) is one of the lakes around Mt. Fuji and a scenic cruise was part of the itinerary. The “cruise” was barely ten minutes long but the view was breathtaking.

We had bento lunch with chicken and udon around Lake Ashi. Tender chicken with stir fried cabbage and carrots was a good accompaniment to the fluffy rice. I have always loved the Japanese short grain rice. The fried fish was a tad cold but the hot udon warmed me up.

Another stop that we made was at Owakudani, which is famous for its kuro-tamago, or black eggs. Word has it that eating one can prolong one’s life by 7 years! Apart from the black coloured shell (due to the sulphur from the soil), it tasted no different than your regular hard boiled egg. You can get 5 of them at ¥500. Apart from the eggs, there are other snacks such as buns, fried fish cake etc being sold here.

We arrived at the ryokan in the evening and settled down in our rooms. During the day, the mattresses are rolled and kept away and at night, spread out for the guests. I love how the rooms were almost like a studio suite by itself, with a small seating area, complete with fridge and washing basin, and the room had tatami mats, dining table and chairs, telly etc.

Another must-do in Hakone is of course to try the onsen. In fact most ryokans here will have their own hot spring facilities. Ours was located indoors on the top floor, with a gorgeous view of Mt.Fuji during the day.

Usually dinner is served in your room at the ryokan. However we were a bigger group so we got a function room to ourselves. Dinner was also in the bento form, with many small dishes. We had a small hot pot with flat noodles and some vegetables, grilled fish, seaweed salad, squid, chawanmushi, tempura and sweets in the form of jelly and melon slice.

What’s a trip to Japan without having sashimi right? But as it was not included in our meal, it was an additional ¥11,000, which sounded a tad expensive initially. However our sashimi boat was fairly big and could feed 4pax, and had 12 types of fresh, raw seafood such as lobster, salmon, tuna, scallop, sea urchin, sweet prawn, prawn, squid, octopus etc. Very fresh and sweet, sashimi’s indeed not to be missed in Japan.

After our good meal, some telly, a dip into the hot spring, we had a good night’s sleep and awoke to…

this view of Mt.Fuji from our room window the next morning. It was particularly refreshing walking by the lake in the crisp morning air.

We had another simple Japanese breakfast before we set off. Rice with miso soup, grilled salmon, tamago, yasai salad and another green salad.

It was quite lovely taking this break at Hakone as one can experience all the Japanese culture we’ve come to know with the tatami sleeping arrangements, hot spring and food.

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