We woke up to take the Odakyu Romance Train to Hakone/Gora this morning. The ride takes 1.5 hours. It started to drizzle on the way up the steep mountainside. The landscape is lush and green. Bamboo forests, various mosses, and a stream blanket the terrain. The higher our train climbed, the more the clouds rolled in. The sky turned dark quickly and it wasn’t even noon.
By the time we got to our final destination in Gora, the sky opened up and it was pouring rain. It took us a while to find our hotel as the map that was given to Tony was wrong. We finally found it, but check in wasn’t until 3pm. The desk agent asked us what we wanted for dinner. The options were “interesting”. We left our backpacks with hotel, and went in search of a diversion for three hours. We had to buy cheap umbrellas from a little shop around the corner as we didn’t plan on it raining.
The streets were very narrow, and most tourists were hiding from the nasty weather. We wondered up a very steep road, and came across a restaurant that was connected to a house. The proprietors lived/worked in the same building. The great thing about most restaurants here in Japan, is that many have windows with plastic foods mimicking the dishes they serve. A tourist may speak a different language, but can still order something by pointing at the window. It sounds funny, but this REALLY helps those that are “Japanese language impaired”.
Tony had the fried pork over rice. I had the curry rice, and Dakota had an omelette filled with rice & topped with ketchup (sounds gross but he said it was great). We had hot sake to warm us after walking in the rain. When we paid and went to leave, the proprietor woman gave us 3 nice pair of wooden chop sticks rapped in a napkin. I was touched by the gesture, and gave Tony a look to say: “We should tip her for these”. Tony got my message and left a stack of change before we walked out. The proprietor RAN after us and gave Tony back his money. Oops! No tipping allowed, buddy!
When we got back to our hotel, we were told to pick out a formal japanese robe and belt. We assumed that they were to wear to the hot springs. I chose one in pink/purple/red with cherry blossoms, Tony chose one that looked like a hawaiian shirt print, and Dakota went for a standard blue stripe.
Our room was sparce in decoration as it was in a modern japanese style. There were two mattresses (one for Tony & one for me). There was a 20″ table with three seat backs w/cushions around them. It is a traditional table for eating/having your tea ceremony, etc. Dakota’s bed was a mat (which he said was comfortable to sleep on). There was a front entrance where you took off your shoes. Sandals were provided. The toilet room had a warmed seat (very nice on winter/spring days), and a sink mounted on top an efficient use of space. The whole room was covered in mats. There was an attached washroom with a transition shower that led to the balcony. On the balcony was a personal hot spring tub. Bamboo blinds could be rolled down to give the nude bather privacy.
We set the tub up for Dakota, and Tony and I decided to chance getting into a
private hut on the grounds. We put on the provided robes and headed over. Unfortunately, the private ones were all in use. Neither one of us felt like going to the public, segregated bath. Call me shy, but I don’t miss the days of showering with a large population. Junior high & high school showers broke me from that.
We headed back to the room, and waited for Dakota to get done with his bath. Before taking a hot spring bath, the bather is required to thoroughly wash. We took a hot shower, and then got into the 2-person cedar tub. The air temperature was very cold & rainy, but the tub was at 104 degrees.
We played our travel Settlers of Catan to pass the time until our dinner reservation at 8pm. We went down to the hotel restaurant only to find that our american clothing were not allowed at dinner. This is where our fancy japanese robes came in. We ran back up to our room and changed.
When we got downstairs, we were taken to a small room where another family of 4 were just starting their meal. We were seated at our table which already had our first course waiting – sushi. There were three decorative plates that had the craziest sushi we had ever seen on them. One plate had a mustard sauce with a WHOLE squid (all parts intact minus the eyes) on it. Another plate had what looked like a typical sushi roll, but with a dried whole fish on it.
The meal went on and on with 7 courses. The main meal for Tony was eel & egg. *gag* Dakota and I had beef stew (2 tiny pieces of beet, a chunk of carrot, a chuck of potato in broth). The waitress lit up three burners on our table and brought our meals in metal bowls. Tony said that his eel/egg dish would’ve tasted better if they hadn’t put a big cube of seaweed tofu in it. Those were the only cooked items in our 7 course meal. Both of the guys said that all of the sushi rice was made with a strange fish broth that completely overtook the fresh fish. It ruined the flavor of the food.
As so many of the courses were raw, I didn’t eat much for dinner. I did splurge with a glass of plum wine (Yum!). Both of the guys were disappointed with the food. The presentation was amazing, but everything was VERY fishy to the point of not tasting right. Tony figured that the meal was at least $100/person. Thankfully, that was included with cost of our stay.
After dinner, Tony and I went back out for another bath on the balcony. All I can say is: We NEED one of these! It is very relaxing. We wound down the night by playing more games and listening to it pour rain (still) outside. Maybe tomorrow’s weather will be clear to see Mount Fuji? I sure hope so.