Monday, December 2, 2013

Cycling Japan 2013 Day 6 - From Tokyo To Hakone

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Cycling Japan Day 6 : From Tokyo To Hakone
Hakone, Japan : 12th November 2013
Distance : 121.06 km. (train & bus ride and some bike ride)
Time : 9:30am to 4:00pm (from K's House to Fujimien Ryokan)
Duration : 6-1/2 hours (including changing trains, bus and lunch)

Route map of our Cycling Japan Day 6 Ride: Tokyo to Hakone (click here for map link)
Another day of bike-packing, this time from K's House all the way by train and bus (and some cycling) to Fujimien Lodge in Hakone. It was a long journey that took us more than six hours but a worthwhile journey that will take us from a cityscape through suburban Japan to the mountainous region of Hakone.

We checked out from K's House at about 9:30am, left a majority of our luggage with them for safe keeping (there's a charge of 100Y per piece per day). Riding out for a quick breakfast, we then continued along Edo Dori to the street level entry of the Higashi-nihonbashi Station. Here we quickly bagged our bikes and descended by lift to the station level. From here we will be taking the Toei Shinjuku Line to Shinjuku Station at a fare of 210Y.

Kim pushing her Birdy (ingeniously wrapped in garbage bags) along the underground connection corridors of the railway stations.
Cyclists please take note, Japan's railway station can be quite large and cover several levels. They serve different train lines and boarding trains of different lines could be at different levels or platforms; it's prudent to check which level and platform to take the train from.
Also when changing trains, there could be a walk of some distance to different levels and platforms, a bike that can be pushed and folded will ease a lot of burden on your backs.

At the Shinjuku Station, at the street level quite near the entrance, Odakyu Travel has a counter to cater for tourists (that's what we are bike-tourists) who wishes to go to Hakone.

Here can be purchased the "Hakone Fee Pass" which covers for train/bus rides from Shinjuku Station up till one's hotel in Hakone. It also includes free unlimited bus rides within Hakone area, free unlimited cruises at Lake Ashinoko, cable car rides, discounted entry into several tourist sites in Hakone, etc.
As we will be staying one night, we got the 2-day Pass for 5000Y. A 3-Day pass cost and additional 500Y only.
At Odawara we changed trains, the train that came looked much cooler than the usual train. Red in colour, it reminded me of the train that I took from Kyoto to Arashiyama (... see Kyoto blog).

For those who are here with their loved ones, try taking the "Romance Car" for an additional 870Y. It goes direct from Shinjuku to Hakone-yumoto, no change of trains required; and there is the extra of more comfy seating with better view plus sales of food, drinks & souvenirs on board.

Tip: If you like a good view of the scenery (of nice forest and trickling streams) for the Shinjuku-Odawara train sit on the right side; for the Odawara-Hakoneyumoto train sit on the left side.

At Hakone-yumoto, the scene is of nice forest hill with a rural quiet ambiance; the hustle & bustle of metropolitan life is left far away. A rickshaw puller poses on a red bridge over a rocky stream signifies this all.

Upstream, water was cascading downward, rushing down and rivuletting with a melody. This place is really getting to me.

After some simple lunch at Hakone-yumoto, we boarded the bus that will take us to our hotel which is further up in the mountains of Hakone. It was a tight squeeze as we managed to get our bikes in, with some of our bikes in between seats and others put at the steps of the second door. The bus journey will take us about an hour.

As we got higher up the hills, we passed vales filled with the famed silver grass. Close up they don't look silverish and was more whitish-brown. Still it was a nice view and later I will get a better view of these from afar, with their silver shimmering in to the horizon.

This is our hotel, the Fujimien Lodge. Nice isn't it, with beautiful tree all a round and it has a great view of Mount Fuji!
I had travelled light, very light indeed. All my clothing for this overnight trip was in my mini-O bag, i.e. pyjamas and a spare jersey with space left to put the Brompton bag! My biking buddies were puzzled by how I did this - let you in on my secret. It was super cold here, I wore two sets of thermal tops and bottoms. The tops were followed by my jersey than a sweater. The following day I just used the outer thermal as the inner one, and vice versa.

Fujimien Lodge, is in fact a ryokan, an inn based on Japanese traditional style and standards. Our rooms were cozy, with the girls taking one room and us guys another one. It was laid out with tatami mats, a low tea-table sits at the centre. Come bedtime, this was moved to one side and we laid out the mattresses next to each other.
Nash was rather cheeky in the sleeping arrangements; knowing that he and I were quite loud in our sleep, he had the other two sleep in between us - to give them some stereophonic effects!

The ryokan knew how to set the mood right. Green tea and cookies with sprinklings of sea-weed were provided. We brewed the tea, taking it with the cookies, warmed ourselves to the place.

We changed into the robes provide. Hah! I could have travelled even lighter, no need for pyjamas.
Time for some fun now. Andrew emulating a hara-kiri stance, doesn't his face realistically show the agony and pain?

This classic photo of us posing a Yakuza chiefs at a tea-ceremony meeting had many of our other cycling buddies laughing in tears. Andrew posed as the big boss of the Yakuza, looking arrogant with a girlfriend in his arms; the other two girls posed as Geisha girls serving us tea humbly.

The Japanese are very punctual, dinner was scheduled at six. By the time we went to the restaurant on time, our meals were all laid out and waiting for us; any later and the food would have gotten cold. If you are staying at a ryokan here, don't miss this dinner as it is very worth it at 1,500Y.
Dinner was a traditional Kaiseki full course dinner, starting with a sweet plum wine. On the menu were an array of dishes from starters, to sashimi, soup, etc. and also a hot stove for the hot pot dish. More food like tempura were served as the meal proceeded. At 
We were really living like samurai warlords here!

When at a traditional ryokan, one should not miss the Onsen (traditional Japanese hot bath). This one at Fujimien Lodge was the real thing, with water piped down from the sulphur hot springs much further uphill (we will see these springs tomorrow).
There are however certain strict etiquette to be followed when taking these baths, and the hotel had these pamphlets in our rooms to advise us accordingly. It states that one should only take these hot baths at least two hours after meals; this probably to avoid any gassy issues (pun intended)!

We got impatient; after an hour or so, we went in to take our baths (there are no bathrooms in our rooms, only w.c.s for number 1 and number 2 business).
In these spas, baths are taken naked; and we went in happily in our birthday suits promising each other not to tell any inappropriate stories or jokes - seriously!
In the style of olden days movies, I post this photo of a pot to represent the enjoyment we had - one of traditional but disciplined fun; one of pleasure, controlled but satisfying.

The bath relaxed us; soon we were on our mattresses, lying comfortably warm under the blankets and comforters.

Good Night....
tomorrow will be a busy day for us going around Hakone.

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