I had an awesome birthday! It was one of the most relaxing birthdays that I’ve ever had. I can’t say it was the best birthday because back home I remember having a couple of small get-togethers with family and friends that were quite cool. But this one definitely ranks up there somewhere, but for different reasons. When some of my friends asked what I was doing for my birthday, I joked and told them I was going to the mountains to do some much needed ninja training. In a way I wasn’t kidding, I did kinda go to the mountains. I took a small two-day trip to Hakone, and all I can really say about it was that Hakone was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. So amazing in fact that I’m going to devote most of this week’s post to Hakone. It’s one of the places that I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time, and because I had a little time off, I jumped at the opportunity.
Hakone is located in eastern Japan in the Kanto region (in the Kanagawa prefecture).
Of course it depends on where you’re coming from. Coming from Tsukuba, using the regular East Japan Rail it’s about a two-and-a-half hour train ride to the area of Hakone that I was in. That’s not too shabby considering that in extreme cases summer traffic (a heck of a lot of kids being out of school) the ride can take as long as five hours. YIKES!!
You could also use the Shinkansen, Japan’s fast as hell train, to speed things up a bit. Is everything better with the Shinkansen?
Now, if you’re in Tokyo, though, Hakone is closer to you and you could get there in under an hour-and-a-half (with no Shinkansen!). It’s a pretty sweet deal.
After being here in Japan though, I realize that I may have become just a little bit “road-trip spoiled.” Five hours isn’t that bad. Because the United States is a freakin’ ginormous country by comparison, a four to five-hour trip was pretty standard from what I recall. But here in Japan, not being the largest of countries, you can really get to someplace cool with a four to five-hour drive.
I was lucky enough to take the car route (about four hours I think), which gave me chances to stop and enjoy some of the things around me (a huge thank you to the mystery crew…I told them I wouldn’t plaster them all over my site, but I have to say thanks). Yes, the drive was much longer than the train ride would have been. But I am so glad I went by car. Here’s exactly why:
The train would have been faster, but you can’t press the emergency stop button anytime you want to stop and explore a bit or hit the back roads and take pictures of something.
This was that kind of setting that you see in pictures, the kind that you dream about: sweeping quilts of deep green grass as far as your eyes could see (the kind that makes the kid in you want to go trampling & tromping around in), wistful wisps of white clouds stroked into the sky’s light blue canvas, the natural serenade of songbirds, a quaint peaceful town in the background.
My words and pictures can only describe so much. I wish that anybody reading this could have just been in my body for just that short period of time, to see what I saw for that that brief moment. I think I stood out there for like twenty minutes…awestruck. It was like Mother Nature was showing me her cleavage, sending me into a speechless trance. The weather was absolutely perfect, I don’t know if it was because of the typhoon that had passed several days prior or if it was because of the elevation, but it was a warm summer day with almost no humidity…sigh… “Did something happen to me in my sleep last night? Is this heaven?”
“Beep! Beep!” A car horn, snapped me back into reality, and it was on to the first ryokan that I have ever been to.