If you haven’t checked out my first post on my recent travels in Japan, check it out here. Otherwise, we’re moving on to the next part!
After an overnight stay in Atami, we left the hotel the next morning after breakfast, boarding the tour bus to our next destination: the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It is the most-visited park in Japan, and it is humongous, covering over 1200 square kilometers of land. We pretty much spent the majority of our day touring the different sites within the park, starting with a *lackluster* twenty-minute boat ride over; I say “lackluster,” because it was an overcast day- super cloudy and foggy such that, unfortunately, we couldn’t see Mt. Fuji from the distance. A huge bummer, because who doesn’t not see Mt. Fuji when in Japan? Definitely was a sad moment. 😦
Any case, we spent the morning at the Hakone Sekisho, one of the most important checkpoints used by shoguns during the Edo Era in the seventeenth century in order to protect the area from enemies. The broad-roofed structures displayed statue reenactments of what the people did “back in the day,” whether cooking, working, and otherwise trying to keep the place safe. There was also a pretty nice view of Lake Ashi on top of the hill, accessible by a semi-long flight of dusty steps. Not too shabby!
Before exiting the Hakone Sekisho, we visited a secret box-making shop in the touristy area, where we watched the box maker demonstrate the secret to opening wooden, secret boxes through a series of Rubrics cube-like twists and turns. It was fascinating; I would’ve loved to purchase one of the boxes in the store, but they were quite pricey and who knows if I could open them?! Alas, one can dream…
Had an average, European-Japanese fusion buffet lunch at a nearby hotel (not where we stayed) before heading out to another part of the massive park. We visited the Onshi Hakone Koen Park, an area once an imperial villa for the emperor to relax and enjoy himself. The villa was destroyed twice in two earthquakes, and so today’s “villa” (at least, from the building that I saw) is a new one. Nevertheless, it offered a nice view of the lake and mountains, although again, we were unable to make out Mt. Fuji in the distance (darn!). Still a lovely sight, though.
We then took a stroll around the park’s area, going down 200-plus steps of mossy (and slippery!) steps and arriving at a spot with views of the lake around us: boats on one side, lush green mountains on the other. There was also a long, pretty wooden bridge along the lake, which we crossed to return to the tour bus.
We left the entire park in the afternoon, taking about a one-and-a-half-hour drive to the capital of Tokyo where once arriving, we checked into our hotel and headed out again for a walking tour of Shinjuku, one of the most popular municipalities of Tokyo, as it offers lots of food and shopping opportunities and contains the busiest train station worldwide (eponymously-named Shinjuku as well). Definitely a representation of the busy city life, full of colorful flashing lights, rising high towers, and a huge Godzilla statue in the heart of the municipal (yes, Godzilla himself!).
We were given time on our own to explore the area, and so my family and I wandered around the Shinjuku station where it contained a crowded underground shopping area (selling both food and non-food items) and lots of clothing shops (I was introduced to UNIQLO, and it was a life changer). We also peeked into the narrow alleys of the Golden Gai, known for housing plenty of small eateries and bars for that nightlife experience.
Another thing we did was shop around at the stationary stores, since my sister wanted to buy some *cheaper* Dr. Grip pens, as they apparently work really well and are three times the price overseas. Afterwards, we got dinner at a place serving omurice, or omelettes containing rice in its center- it’s a Western-influenced Japanese dish, and although it was a tad pricey, my mochi-cheese flavored one was hearty and delicious! 😛
Before heading back to our hotel, we decided to check out the view of Tokyo from the top of one of the towers at night; unfortunately, it was still light out (19h00) when we went to the top, so we didn’t get that nighttime, skyline experience. But the views were still beautiful; I can’t believe Tokyo is that huge!
We finally returned to our hotel around 20h00, exhausted, but happy that we got to see a lot for the day. After a nice shower, some down time in the room, we turned in for the night.
More on Tokyo in the next post; stay for Part Two!
— The Finicky Cynic
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