Back in Tsukuba we went for a bit of cycle, and I booked myself a hair appointment – on the wrong day as it happens. Why am I telling you about booking a hair appointment? Because it was hard! And so I had been putting it off.
The conversation went something like:
Me: sumimasen! Eigoga wakarimasuka?
You know it is a bad start when the question, do you speak English is answered in Japanese. Anyway, I managed to make a booking for the wrong day. Very confidently I might add. He totally booked the day in that I asked for, I just forgot the day I wanted it for…
Nicole and I had a ride around. I just want to state publically that I am a better bike rider than that trip made me appear! We went out for dinner which ended up being so late! And I struggled our way through the ordering. Seriously, they were really busy, and did not seem to want to deal with non-japanese speakers, which I understand. But I am glad we went
The next day we were going to head to lights festival and Nabano no Sato. Unfortunately I made this decision based on wanting to see it, not really accounting for the fact that it would take us about 5 hours each way. Also, we had a slow morning. But we were on holidays dammit. I think my favourite moment (and this just personifies Nicole for me!) was when Nicole walked through the kitchen to the lounge, where she says in passing “your toast is on fire”. I leant back from the desk to look and so it was. Alas, that piece of toast had no hope of redemption.
So taking all this into account, we decided to go to Hakkone. What I will say about Hakkone is I would go back. Winter is not the best time to see it, not unless you are staying at an onsen or something. We got the shinkansen to Odawara, and from there got the Hakkone Free Pass. It is good for 2 days, and gets you the round trip on the trains, cable cars, and a boat. It paid for itself for 1 day, and I think it would be incredible value for two.
Anway! First we got the train. And it was steep! And crowded too. I must admit I was a little over crowds at this point, but Nicole and I jumped on and got seats. The train zigzagged along – pulling into one station, and then the driver had to switch the tracks so that he would go up rather than down. That was kind nice. It was lovely scenery, but my strongest thoughts were this would be Fabulous in autumn (for the leaves) or spring (for the wildflowers). In winter it was a bit meh. But I could see the potential!
The cable car (or ropeway, the names of things were different to what I expected) was great! In a weird way it reminded me of the Jetsons, as we floated out over sulfur springs. There was dirty white snow on the ground, but c’mon! we had just come from Hokkaido, such snow wasn’t going to impress me!
After a series of ropeways we made it to the next part of the journey, which involved a trip across the lake in a Disney pirate ship. On our way down we heard drumming… and in lounge near the food parts there were maybe 20-30 people all doing taiko drumming. The sound is just so joyful! We waited on the steps, watching as much as we could before we hotfooted it to the ship. Made it on board, and as is par for the course with most Japanese things, there were not enough seats.
I am going to say it: I like sitting down. I don’t like standing for 45min to get somewhere. I do it when I have to (I am looking at you trips to and from Tokyo) but for a leisure cruise?? Upshot was we stood. And we ended up chatting to an American girl all the way over. It was nice. She was chatty, we were chatty. It was chatty all round.
A bite of lunch (English menu ftw!) then we waiting in line to get a bus to get back. Now, I normally wouldn’t mention a bus ride, but goodness Japan is Bad With Buses. There are never enough buses. They never have enough seats. We managed to get on this one, and we had to stand. Fine, fine, I don’t mind, only 40min. But you know what? 40min when there actually isn’t enough room to put your feet is Hell. Pure Hell. Nicole lucked out and was reasonably comfortable. I was unhappy. But we got the other end, booked our seats back home on the train, and it worked.
Take home message? It goes on my list of places to go back to. But given how long my ‘places to go’ list is, I don’t know how that will go.