Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mount Fuji & Hakone


Now that Disney was officially over we turned our sights to the majestic Mt. Fuji! On Wednesday morning we took a tour with Sunrise Tours up to the fifth station of Mount Fuji for the day. This was the most popular tour that they offered but was still a bit pricey in my opinion. (About $140) I guess the cost of the transportation and activities were necessary but I could have done without the second half of the tour really...and the lunch. It wasn't something that I was looking forward to doing in Japan but the tour company included the gondola ride to fill up the rest of their "day tour" and the rest of my group actually seemed excited about doing. So on we went.

We left our hostel in a hurry so we could stop at Family Mart to pick up some snacks since we wouldn't have access to food until the lunch that the tour included. We took the rail to the tour bus office. It was crowded with everyone waiting on their different tour buses. We checked in and took seats while we waited for our bus to come and for all of our tour group to check in. I scarfed down my go-to egg sandwich from Family Mart and the purple sweet potato chips that I found in the small snack shop in the station. (It was hilarious to us because we saw that flavor everywhere! For almost every type of food too!)

Our tour guide was cute and obviously very informative. She gave us some history and tips of the city before we headed into the countryside and on towards the mountain. There was plenty of room in the bus so I lounged in two seats with my snacks and chatted until we accidentally attracted the unwanted attention of a solo passenger that we could not shake! It was pretty hilarious and we laughed about it the whole rest of the day.

I was pretty stoked that we were able to get a slightly closer look at Tokyo Tower. It actually works as a communication tower but doubles as an observation tower that tourists can pay to ride up to. We didn't get to visit since it was not something near anything that we were visiting and not worth the admission price. But it was a very well-known landmark and I was so happy to get a good glimpse of it as we drove on.

 Finally after a couple hours of driving, we caught our first glimpse of the iconic mountain. We were traveling in October so fall had set in full force. The leaves had fall colors and they were beautiful! (This is not something that really occurs in Southern California so I was in awe.)

We drove through the base forest, the most infamous forest in Japan: Aokigahara. The Aokigahara Forest is known for being haunted by angry spirits as well as the high rate of suicides that occur deep in the sea of trees. It wasn't something our tour guide really went in to as the Japanese do not really like to speak on the matter. It was the basis for a movie that came out at the beginning of this year titled: The Forest and starred Natalie Dormer. (It wasn't the best movie but it was fun to see all the sights we had been to!) We rode up to the 5th Station of the mountain and had about 30 minutes to explore as much as we could, as fast as we could.

We knew we were running out of time quickly and ran down to the little shopping area to get as many cute Japanese things and snacks as we could.

We said our goodbyes to the gorgeous mountain and set off towards the second half of our day on Lake Ashi and in Hakone. We had a questionable lunch in a very fancy (but empty!) restaurant. I picked as hard at my food since I really didn't know what I was eating! None of us did actually and we took bites of everything and swapped food around based on our preferences. So it kind of worked out. Also, we ate a lot of rice. Rice is always safe.

We boarded a ship that cruised down the scenic lake. I was nervous because I get motion sickness very easily and it was freezing! Thankfully the ride was short and I didn't feel sick and I survived the freezing temps. It sure was beautiful though. And on the bright side, we had lost that unwelcome and intrusive friend from the bus since he had chosen a different tour for the second part of the day, yay!

Our cruise ended at the entrance of the Hakone Ropeway which was to take us up Mount Komagatake. This was a terrifying idea that actually then came to life. This was something that I was glad to experience and then glad to know I would never have to experience again.

The views from the top of Mount Komagatake were breathtaking. Ashley was far braver than I and walked right up to the small, gated edge of the mountain. The fact that we had to take these large machines to get up the mountain was more than enough to know that if you fell they probably would never find all the pieces. It was a big NOPE from me.

 This was as far as I would get towards the edge on the insistence of Ashley. Yes, I am holding on to that sign for balance because my legs were as stable as cooked noodles.

And I have no idea what she is pointing at here. It's not like I would have been able to look at it anyway since I wasn't going near that shoddy rope/fence again.

 I was able to convince her to come down early with me while the rest of our group stayed up on the mountain. I needed to get my feet off of a mountain and on actual ground I couldn't fall down from.  I almost kissed it when we landed. The only thing worse than riding that ropeway was...riding it twice.

Since we landed a bit earlier than our friends we got to souvenir shop a few minutes more than they did. I was obsessed with shopping for trinkets and treasures and wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on anything. (I literally had to buy another large duffle-bag just to take home everything I ended up buying). 

Wanted to share this snap from our bus ride back to Shinjuku. There was this girl that was continuously coughing. She also happened to be sitting behind Shonna. I kept turning around and found Shonna like this before our ride was over. I don't blame her.

 Once we got back our group split up again for one reason or another. Ashley and I were hungry so we wandered the neighborhood around our hostel and found this McDonalds. It is always a must to try McDonalds when I travel anywhere outside the US. I just always have...since my first international trip (to Poland when I was 21).

There were some questionable items on the menu but since I was beat and starving I decided to play it safe with a quarter pounder. It was filling and tasted like home.

Oh! You'll never guess who we spotted through the window of the McDonalds! Intrusive fellow tour bus rider and wannabe friend! He happened to be walking past with another friend which at the time really creeped us out since we all had to tell the tour guide where we were staying. I almost thought he came looking for us! That would have been way scary! He even spotted us through the window and waved! How in the world did this even happen? How could he have been walking and then spotted us inside a McDonalds and recognized us? I can't even think about it too much because it was too weird and I can't handle it.

Thankfully he was with a friend (or we hope it was his friend) and they continued walking and we never saw him again. So glad we weren't stalked and murdered and we are now home safely in a state far away! The end. 

Until next time,